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“Crime fighting” apps may promote racism and fear

| Jun 10, 2019 | Criminal Defense

A number of apps are widely touted as increasing neighborhood awareness and preventing crime in Virginia and across the country. However, critics note that the apps have shown little to no evidence that they actually have any impact on crime rates. On the other hand, they argue that these apps are more likely to promote racial stereotyping, vigilantism and unsupported fears about the surrounding world. Crime statistics have dropped precipitously in the past 25 years, and violent crimes are far less common than they were in the past. Still, many people believe that their neighborhoods are more dangerous despite statistical evidence.

Some critics have highlighted sensationalized media coverage about crime as well as the lingering effects of racism and stereotypes as underlying reasons for these beliefs. Others note that apps like Nextdoor, Citizen or even Ring Doorbells may help to stoke fear rather than reassuring people that all is well at their homes. These types of apps offer different features but generally promote themselves as supporting community vigilance that can decrease crime. For example, Citizen, previously known as Vigilante, prompts people to livestream videos and discuss potential threats.

While Nextdoor is not exclusively a crime prevention app, some of the most frequent discussions among neighborhood users involve alerts about potential indications of crime. However, researchers note that these rarely involve actual crimes and frequently highlight the presence of people who are considered suspicious. In many cases, the targets are people of color who may then be exposed to police or community violence.

Unfortunately, racism remains a reality for people across the country, a reality that can be exacerbated for people in the criminal justice system. People who are being accused of a crime may work with a criminal law attorney to challenge police assertions and present a strong defense.