Interrupters using app’s real-time shooting reports to break the cycle of violence

Chicago News
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CHICAGO — “Citizen” is a public safety app that sends crime alerts and other real-time information straight to the smart phones of users who are nearby or subscribe to the affected area. 

“You see a helicopter in the sky over Chicago and the first thing in your mind: what’s happening, what are they looking for?” said Prince Mapp, Citizen. “Now you have that information in your hand.”

Mapp said Citizen is currently operating in 20 U.S. cities, and already has over 200,000 users since launching in Chicago this summer. 

Using GPS, the app takes user-submitted information, 911 calls and other data, and sends alerts to nearby users. This includes everything from fires to crashes to protests and even shootings.

“Our mission is to empower the public with knowledge that makes informed decisions to stay out of harm’s way,” Mapp said.

One group started using Citizen to do more than just detect crime; they’re hoping to intervene and prevent gang violence. 

Citizen partnered with the violence interrupters from “Cure Violence” (formerly Ceasefire) two weeks ago, and now when reports of gunfire pop up, they run to the violence rather than from it.

Cure Violence thinks of street violence as a health issue, and interrupters like Demeatreas Whatley work hard to stop it from transferring from person to person by mediating conflicts wherever he and the rest of the staff can.

“We can deal with the transmission of it by dealing with those at risk, those most vulnerable, those involved with these street activities, those likely to be shot up, those likely to do some shooting,” Whatley said.

Whatley and his team of six watch for reports from hot spots, like the area from 75th to 80th streets and Martin Luther King Drive to Greenwood Avenue also known as CPD Beat 624.

They’re attempting all this during a pandemic. Recently, two of his staff members had to quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. But the app keeps them connected to their work as violence interrupters.

“They can just sit at home and monitor the app and call out when they see something and stay right in tune with what’s going on in the community,” Whatley said.

Whatley said since Cure Violence adopted the app, they are all working harder and smarter because they are getting the information faster.

“These are men and women who have no gun, no badge, no vest, risk their lives in the streets everyday,” Citizen’s Mapp said. “To be able to give them the tech they need to enhance their work, it was a no brainer to me.”

Another incident showing the app’s potential for addressing crime occurred in New York, where a 4-year-old boy who got separated from his mom as they boarded a train.

“We sent a notification out to nyc, members looked for him. a member seen him, called 911 and he was reunited with his mother in less than 2 hours,” Mapp said.

The child was found 90 minutes later and 20 miles away, Mapp said, after they were kidnapped by a registered sex offender.

Citizen claims it doesn’t sell any user information now and will not down the road, and all user data is stored for only 30 days before it is deleted from the system. It is available for free, on both Apple and Android devices.

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