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Crime watch app filters racial bias and enables anonymous text chat


iWatch enables US army members to report suspicious activity on or near their base, and uses algorithms to filter tip-offs that may have a racial bias.

Taking from the viral nature of terror and crime stories, the US Army is hoping to use people’s desire to report suspicious activity on social media through its new crime reporting app. The iWatch system brings the principle of a neighborhood watch to the smartphone age.

The app has been designed for use by US military personnel and their families following several high-profile lone shooter incidents on army bases, and has been rolled out to 20 domestic bases so far. The app processes crime tip-offs using its algorithm within eight seconds, far quicker than a 911 caller.

The app’s algorithm also helps to filter out reports that are baseless or feature a racial bias, putting the emphasis on behavior and not appearance. Tips can also be accessed by any authorized crime agency — who can add extra information — and officers can respond to anonymous tips using text chat.

The army hopes the app will encourage positive reporting — what they call “see something, say something” — and developers have also used the system in schools to encourage the anonymous reporting of bullying.

Last year, we saw police in the UK using video chat to speak to witnesses remotely. How else can security services embrace social media and messaging apps to encourage crime reporting?



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