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Fighting crime from one's pocket
Fighting crime from one's pocket
Giacomo Tognini

It gives new meaning to the concept "community policing." The explosion of smartphones is allowing people to fight crime from their pocket, wherever they may be. We take a look at five crime-fighting apps from around the world:

ITALY: STANDING UP TO THE MAFIA

Addiopizzo, a citizen's organization founded a decade ago on the Italian island of Sicily to combat Mafia extortion, recently launched two apps to carry its mission against organized crime into the digital age, the Italian regional newspaper Giornale di Sicilia reports. The organization certifies businesses that refuse to pay the pizzo, the protection money demanded by the Mafia. Mostly active in the Sicilian capital of Palermo and Catania, the island's second-largest city, one of Addiopizzo's new apps help users locate certified restaurants, cafes and other businesses in the area, while the other is a travel app geared towards tourists who want to book a Mafia-free holiday.

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Protest against Sicilian mafia — Photo: Valentina Mignano


ALBANIA: CITIZEN POLICE

Kosovo-based tech blog Digjitale reports that the Albanian police have gone digital, unveiling an Android app called "Digital Police Station." The app acts as a virtual police station, where citizens can report crimes anonymously and access a public list of ongoing police investigations to receive updates. The app was developed in partnership with the telecommunications company Vodafone, and will provide a 24/7 service for citizens seeking to contact the police. It is part of a wider series of police reforms recently instituted by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, elected in 2013.

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Albanian police — Photo: Flogert Dollani


SOUTH AFRICA: UBER FOR ARMED HELP

Residents of Tshwane, a neighborhood in the South African capital of Pretoria, recently had the opportunity to participate in the pilot program for an app called Project Namola, dubbed the "Uber for Armed Response," writes South African finance website Fin24. Whenever a citizen feels in danger, at the press of a button the app locates the nearest police officer who can assist. Much like Uber, participating police officers must keep a smartphone on their dashboard to receive requests. The app is now undergoing further development before a full launch scheduled for next month.

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Pretoria cityscape — Photo: Chris Eason


U.S: CROWD-SOURCED SECURITY

In the historic French Quarter of New Orleans, citizens and businessmen are uniting to crowd-source security for their crime-prone neighborhood, reports the New Orleans-based daily the Times-Picayune. A new app, called the French Quarter Task Force, allows users to quickly notify the police of any criminal activity, with the ability to easily send photos and location. It was initially funded by a local businessman, and a proposed quarter-cent rise in the local sales tax could maintain funding and keep more police officers on the quarter's historic streets. Launched in March, crime in the area is already falling and residents agree the app is a huge success.


INDIA: FIGHTING RAPE

In India, where rape is a major menace, women concerned about their safety can use an app called SafetiPin to identify which areas of their cities are the safest. The Hindu newspaper reports that the app, which gives safety "scores" up to 5 to areas based on information provided by users, is available in a number of India's largest cities. The scores are judged on nine parameters, including lighting and gender diversity, and suggests safe routes to a destination. A built-in GPS feature allows users to track the journeys of their loves ones to ensure their safety. The app also provides a list of useful places nearby such as pharmacies, hospitals and banks.

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