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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Can I get a witness? Smartphone app crime prevention

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iwitness is the latest smartphone application promising a technological solution to crime.

There has been a recent surge in the development of really useful smartphone apps.

@reasondigital collated four life-saving examples last week.

@Uturntraining has developed an app that helps prevent deaths by heroin overdose.

Last week, I blogged about a new app developed by the New York Civil Liberties Union to monitor the use of “Stop-and-Frisk”. It uses smartphones video and audio recording functions to ensure that police actions are legal and appropriate.

How it works

The iwitness app uses a similar approach with the intention of preventing crimes.

The app, which is currently available for iPhone with an Android version pending, costs $3.99 per month.

If a person feels threatened, they activate the app and video the potential assailant. The video is uploaded every three seconds to a secure data centre where a copy is kept which can only be accessed by law enforcement agencies.

The app simultaneously calls emergency services and alerts families and friends that the user feels threatened.

For all its ingenuity, I do question the validity of this app:

Is it practicable to use in real life?

What happens if 911/999 services are inundated with prank calls?

But more than this, I dislike the way that the app aggressively preys on people’s fear of crime.

Here’s their promotional video (click play when it opens in another browser tab)

 

I’d be very interested in your views as to whether this app is likely to:

Reassure parents and partners that a loved-one has a form of protection?
Make the app users feel more confident and less afraid?
Prove practical to use in real life situations?
Makes users more or less afraid of crime?

 

Please comment below – there’s no need to log in.

 

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3 Responses

  1. I for one will not be recommending this APP

    As a form of re-assurance it is a poor one. It will encourage victims to stand and try and video someone with a smart phone instead of shouting for help and running away.

    The app users may feel more confident and less afraid but in reality, it is recording evidence but not preventing crime. A large sign over the persons head worn at all times might prevent the attack , it is very unlikely that an attacker will be prevented from the attack because they won’t know what the system is doing and feel they can just steal the phone at the end of the attack and take any evidence with them

    This is in my opinion of little use in real life situations?

    The advertising may add to the fear of crime, and certainly the areas shown on the video are likely to be outside of mobile phone coverage making the App useless at the point of attack. A screech alarm is a cheaper and more effective option.

    Retire Police Officer.

  2. If I were feeling threatened I doubt if it would occur to me that I had the app. It goes against my natural instinct to talk my way our of trouble. And you might as well hang out a flag for the putative assailant saying ‘ You’re scaring me.’

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