CrimeSpotter, a community crime reporting and alert app in South Africa, aims to give locals the ability to report and warn others about crime in their area.
The app was developed by In-Detail Advertising, a Johannesburg-based design agency, in consultation with community policing forums and neighbourhood watches.
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“CrimeSpotter is ideal for Community Policing Forums (CPFs), neighbourhood watches, townships, estates, road closures, security companies, and active citizens,” the app’s launch announcement said.
“The aim of the app is to reduce crime through improved communication and information. The app is aimed at protection and safety,” the announcement says.
While the app does not connect directly to police services (like the Namola app), it does help CPFs, neighbourhood watches, and security companies keep in contact.
Residents can also alert security companies and local groups of crimes in the area. Meanwhile, security can keep communities updated on crimes.
How the CrimeSpotter app works
CrimeSpotter uses location-based reporting to map incidents, notifying users in a 10km radius.
As the app developers note, CrimeSpotter may be a preferred form of communication for neighbourhood groups over Whatsapp.
After all, people cannot send irrelevant messages or content — the app solely focuses on incident reports.
The app maps these incidents with pins, allowing residents to keep track of hotspots and crime trends in the area. Users can also view a timeline of incidents.
You can choose to report a crime under your user profile or anonymously.
You can also turn off alerts if they become too frequent.
In addition to real-time reporting, users can report crimes retroactively to simply raise awareness.
App data policy and privacy
Memeburn reached out to In-Detail Advertising to find out more about user data policies and app security.
According to Gerald Yapp, Creative Director at In-Detail Advertising, the company hosts the app core and database on secure AWS services.
“The only data gathered from users if the information they use to login. Any further information they provide on their public profile is voluntary,” Yapp says.
“Very little personal data is requested from users. This was done purposely to encourage participation. Users can also report crimes anonymously,” he says.
Publicly available information includes the crime data reported through the app. The app emphasises the public nature of the crime data, since communities can use it to track trends and areas in need of extra policing.
CrimeSpotter app policies to prevent crime reporting abuse
Yapp also detailed the features in the app that prevent abuse of the platform.
Users can flag crime reports that are incorrect or harmful. The app removed any report with three flags.
“And if a user has three flagged reports, they are removed,” Yapp says.
This can help prevent racial profiling or false reports from users that may abuse the app. The app also has filters to prevent abusive language, including racial slurs.
As the app’s creators and the CrimeSpotter website emphasise, the app is for actual crimes — not reporting gripes or non-criminal activities.
“As in any social media platform, misuse is a risk and this will be policed by admins and the users at large as they flag anything they find inappropriate,” Yapp says.
He adds that the app will ban users that display anti-social or abusive behaviour.
Feature image: CrimeSpotter