Citizens Step In: Crowdsourced Security

photo by megadem via flickr
photo by megadem via flickr

Over the past few days, US cities and towns have taken time to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Each one celebrated the holiday in unique fashion, showcasing their city and their citizens. The goal is always the same- get everyone out to celebrate, and bring the community together. Citizens play the role of participant in the parades,community activities and events. Those who enjoy the events rarely find out just how much work goes into staging something on such a large scale – from the planning, to the events themselves, to the security surrounding it all. Newport, Rhode Island realized how much of a lost opportunity this is, and this year, they asked their citizens for a little help.

Enter VizSAFE, a Rhode Island based software company that uses crowdsourcing to foster safer communities. Use of their website is free, as is the VizSAFE app for iPad, iPhone, and Android. Users tell VizSAFE’s map the ‘area’ they are interested in. This area could be as small as a neighborhood, or as big as a few states- the choice is the user’s. Once their area is determined, users choose which ‘channels’ to receive alerts from. When someone posts to a channel (such as crime or medical) that a user is subscribed to, the user receives a notification. The notes, images, and videos from users are posted in real time, encoded with the precise location the data was taken at.

Newport, RI has partnered with VizSAFE in maintaining local channels on crime, safety, and municipal to better help law enforcement, emergency responders, and the city itself. In preparation for their Saturday St. Patrick’s Day Parade, local law enforcement asked the citizens of Newport to download the app, and get ready to use it.

The recent holiday was meant as a trial run with the app. As Newport’s VizSAFE user crowd grows, the city will see more benefits. Just as with all crowdsourcing, the more the group participates, the bigger the payoff will be.

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