Violent crime in the US is at its lowest rate in decades. But you wouldn’t know that from a crop of increasingly popular social media apps that are forming around crime.
Apps like Nextdoor, Citizen, and Amazon Ring’s Neighbors — all of which allow users to view local crime in real time and discuss it with people nearby — are some of the most downloaded social and news apps in the US, according to rankings from the App Store and Google Play.
Nextdoor bills itself as the “world’s largest social network for the neighborhood,” where you can ask for nearby restaurant recommendations, buy used furniture, or report a stolen bike. In practice, its “crime and safety” section has been a hotbed for racial stereotyping that’s forced the company to rewrite its software and policies.
Citizen — whose previous form was called Vigilante and which appeared to encourage users to stop crimes in action — sends users 9-1-1 alerts for crimes happening nearby. It also allows users to livestream footage they record of the crime scene, “chat with other Citizen users as situations develop” and “build out your Inner Circle of family and friends to create your own personal safety network, and receive alerts whenever they’re close to danger.”
Now Amazon has thrown its hat in the ring — with Ring. It recently advertised an editorial position that would coordinate news coverage on crime, specifically based around its Ring video doorbell and Neighbors, its attendant social media app. Neighbors alerts users to local crime news from “unconfirmed sources” and is full of Amazon Ring videos of people stealing Amazon packages and “suspicious” brown people on porches. “Neighbors is more than an app, it’s the power of your community coming together to keep you safe and informed,” it boasts.