An app that alerts users whenever nearby crimes have been reported to 911 has been pulled from the App store. Apple had “concerns” about the content of the Vigilante application, and removed it 48 hours after launch.
Vigilante is the work of mobile app company Sp0n. It came out of closed beta and was released publicly in New York last week. The idea is that once a user is notified of a nearby crime, they can either avoid the area or get involved by filming the incident.
The company asks people not to interfere with the crime and to keep a safe distance. CEO Andrew Frame told Gizmodo it uses a “combination of technology and people, police scanners and a network of antennas.”
"This information shows up on a map, so everyone can choose to avoid potential danger, or broadcast the incident live when it's safe to do so," the company wrote in a Medium blog post.
Apple’s concerns are well-founded. While the app asks users to stay well back and not interfere with any crimes in progress, there are those who will doubtlessly ignore this advice, potentially putting themselves in danger. Maybe Sp0n should have realized it’s sending mixed signals by using the name “Vigilante.”
The New York Police Department isn’t too happy about the app. “Crimes in progress should be handled by the NYPD and not a vigilante with a cell phone,” a spokesperson told Venture Beat.
The app creators claim Vigilante could repair the damaged trust between police and communities. “Transparency is the single most powerful tool against crime and injustice, and we believe it will rebuild cooperation towards a shared vision. Cooperation, in turn, will lead to safer communities, better cities, and a stronger nation.”
After Apple had removed the app, Sp0n's website stated that the company was working to “resolve their concerns,” adding that the app will continue to operate for anyone who has already downloaded it. Even if Apple doesn’t allow Vigilante back on the store, there’s always the Android version that Sp0n is working on.