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Daring Or Dangerous? Crime-Tracking Apps Could Be Putting People In Harm’s Way

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – High-tech tools can help you track violent crimes.

From robberies to rapes, a handful of new apps log criminal activity and alert you in real time. But as CBS2’s Maurice DuBois reports, there are concerns whether the information could make you daring or dangerous.

When evil lurks, Gary Goldenstein knows exactly where to find it. He’s no superhero, but he uses an app any caped crusader would covet.

It’s called Citizen and it alerts users to crimes and emergencies as they’re unfolding.

“Citizen employs a team of highly trained dispatchers who are monitoring emergency and 911 communications around the clock,” explains Lea Artz, the head of the company’s newsroom.

It’s just one of several new apps, with names like Spot Crime, Citizen Cop and Red Zone, that track and map crimes.

“Anywhere from shootings, to a sexual assault, to regular assault, to car thefts. Everything we have on there is verified, so we have a police report,” says Ted Farnsworth, who came up with the concept behind the Red Zone app after dodging mortars in Israel.

“Then I started thinking about why doesn’t somebody give you a safe route and a risky route and a map to show you where the crime is?” he says.

But while the goal of most of these apps is situational awareness so you can avoid danger, the fear is that some will actually be more attracted to it.

“From the police standpoint, I think this seems like another obstacle,” says retired NYPD Sgt. Joe Giacalone. “When we’re talking about violent crimes. You’re walking in on a robbery – guns, knives, whatever it may be – the general public isn’t prepared for this.”

“I get downstairs and there’s a bunch of kids going wild. The police are putting them in cuffs. The newsstand guy on the corner is bleeding,” Goldenstein says.

He said he will use the app to rubberneck, but he plans to choose the crimes wisely.

“You don’t want to put yourself in a bad situation. You know curiosity killed the cat,” he says.

“We hear the concerns of people getting involved or putting themselves in harm’s way,” Artz says. “That is not what we’re encouraging. And if we see it, we will forbid you from using the app.”

Many of the apps also allow users to upload videos of an unfolding crime scene.

Since Citizen launched six months ago, the company says it has 120,000 users – none of them harmed.

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