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 citizenâ€™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.
Protest against Sicilian mafia â€" Photo: Valentina Mignano
ALBANIA: CITIZEN POLICE
Kosovo-based tech blog Digjitale reports that the Albanian police have gone digital, unveiling an Android app called â€œDigital Police Station.â€ 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.
Albanian police â€" 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 â€œUber for Armed Response,â€ 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.
Pretoria cityscape â€" 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 quarterâ€™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 â€œscoresâ€ up to 5 to areas based on information provided by users, is available in a number of Indiaâ€™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.
Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.
SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.
The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.
It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.
Seoul housing prices top London and New York
In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.
According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.
Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.
One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.
According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.
Playing the stock market
At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.
A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."
In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.
42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s
Game of survival
In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.
But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.
This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.
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