Public Safety App Usage Grows, But So Does Skepticism | Chicago News

More and more residents are turning to local public safety apps to report neighborhood crime. 

Public safety apps like Citizen and Nextdoor allow users to report incidents and crime in the area. But some skeptics say these apps have fueled fear.

“If you’re seeking information about crime from other sources, that’s going to fuel fear of crime,” said Arthur Lurigio, professor of criminal justice and psychology at Loyola University Chicago. “It’s going to increase anxiety and anger. It can propel people to think about different ways to go after perpetrators.”

These apps allow for immediate and widespread sharing of information on crimes that have been committed and crimes that are ongoing, through emergency police scanners and crowdsourcing.

Lurigio says the matter of sharing information of dangers and threats “is as old as America.”

Still, he says it’s too soon to know how effective they can be at preventing or solving crime.

“There’s been no controlled studies as there were 30 years ago on neighborhood watching which was face-to-face meetings of community members,” Lurigio said. “Simply sharing information about crime is not actionable information, especially for private citizens.”

Some say Citizen has veered toward vigilantism – offering bounties for alleged offenders, according to former Citizen employers.   

Lurigio says that the information community members receive is “simply too raw to act on even if you had the authority to do so.”

“Fear of crime causes people to isolate,” Lurigio said. “It makes it less likely that they will be the eyes and ears of the community because they’re indoors… You can be made anxious just from hearing about a crime. Being afraid limits your activity and your interaction with others in the neighborhood, which makes it less likely that in the community there will be a sense of collective efficacy.”

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