Citizen app allows students in Phoenix to see and avoid crime

The app, which was recently launched in Phoenix, has many similar functions to LiveSafe app but works off campus

Citizen, a safety app, has offered students on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus the unique opportunity to see where, when and how the latest crimes are happening.

The app launched in Phoenix in October and is looking to expand elsewhere, according to an official from the company.  

When a crime occurs, the screen lights up in several colors indicating the severity of the event. Red is dangerous, yellow moderate and all the blips are laid out on a grid in relation to where you are in Phoenix.

Autrey Veitel, a senior studying nursing, said she has found the app to be useful when navigating the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus at night. During her first few years at ASU, Veitel said she had many late classes and often found being alone at night daunting.

“My first two years I rode the light rail, and the station was pretty scary,” Veitel said. “I would always call my mom and talk to her.”

Lily Gordon, communications manager of Citizen, said the app launched in 2017 after some modifications and improvements to an existing app, which was formerly known as Vigilante. 

A relatively small startup branch funded by venture capitalists and other investors, they have had the opportunity to expand to several different cities, including Phoenix. 

Gordon said their No. 1 priority throughout the entire expansion has been to oversee safety in every community they are part of.

“We are currently focused on getting the app into the hands of as many people as possible so we can keep as many people safe and informed as we possibly can,” Gordon said.

The app may remind some students of the LiveSafe app currently utilized on ASU campuses. Gordon said the difference is that Citizen actually takes 911 calls and radio calls that are happening and put them directly on to the app.

Citizen also provides a public forum to add further details to situations that may be occurring.  The actual reports cannot be altered by users of the app, but individuals are welcome to add further comments below the incidents.

“It's the only app that is using technology to make the world a safer place by building a network of people and providing that critical information in real time,” Gordon said.

However, while the Citizen app may allow users to view crime, it doesn’t allow students to report incidents, unlike LiveSafe. 

Dan Verton, the content leader and strategist for the LiveSafe app, said their app allows students to play an active role in the community by providing students the resources to stay safe. 

Some of these resources include letting students know the location of blue lights on campus or offering students the option to have officers accompany them to their vehicles to ensure safety.

“This is a tool that they can use to help keep the community safe,” Verton said.

While LiveSafe is only in relation to ASU, Citizen is capable of being utilized anywhere in downtown Phoenix, as the app reports all crimes within the Phoenix area.

“Regarding just strictly ASU campuses, I've always felt safe — it was just going outside of ASU,” Veitel said. 

Another difference between the LiveSafe app and Citizen is the immediacy of the reports. Citizen allows students to see the crimes in relation to where it happened, when it happened and how it happened.

According to the 2019 Annual Crime and Clery Report, 79 crimes overall occurred on the Downtown Phoenix campus in 2018 and an additional 12 crimes occurred off campus. 

“Our mission is to keep people safe and informed,” Gordon said.

While the app isn’t a surefire way for students to guarantee their safety while navigating on and off campus, Veitel said knowing what to avoid is definitely a step in the right direction. 

“I think it's just the uncertainty of knowing what could happen,” Veitel said.

It’s uncertain whether ASU's other campuses will be able to utilize this app in the near future. 

However, Gordon said the company’s priority is to ensure the app is in as many hands as possible. 

“We're really just focused on speeding up the expansion process right now,” Gordon said.

Editor's Note: Stacy Brinson is also an opinion columnist for The State Press, but this article is not reflective of her personal views.


Reach the reporter at slbrinso@asu.edu or follow @Stacy_L_Anders on Twitter.

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