To many people, augmented reality (AR) is still a science fiction-like concept; Something they´ve seen in the movies. Objects can be conjured out of thin air, while overlapping and interacting with the reality that is recognized by a portable device’s camera or GPS-system. Google’s wearable augmented reality glasses can be used for instant navigation, while some smartphone apps could be of great importance while fighting crime. What would superheroes use?
Fighting crime is something every superhero needs to occupy himself with every once in a while. But in order to do so, crime must first be spotted. That’s where you come in. The app SpotCrime, launched by the creators of SpotCrime.com, displays the specific crimes that have occurred in your immediate region. Making use of your phone’s GPS system, SpotCrime shows a map with different colors and icons for different kinds of crime. The clenched fist icon means assault, the rifle scope tells you there has been a shooting. Some updates are pretty specific (“SEATTLE – Caller Saw a Man On Their Apartment Floor Who Had a Bloody Lip and Said It Was a Result of a Domestic Dispute That Involved a Knife”) while others only contain a few keywords (“BALTIMORE –Theft”).
Currently, SpotCrime is comprised of approximately 8 million crime records of the United States, Canada and the UK. “The more people are aware of what’s occurring in their communities, the higher the chance that community will be proactive in the fight against crime,” says founder Colin Drane. “SpotCrime is a strong proponent of open data and government transparency. Our goal in making crime data available to anyone who wants it is to improve community safety by promoting mutual trust between law enforcement and the public. Ultimately, we believe this will help to lower crime rates and increase the public’s peace of mind.”
What about the violation of privacy? According to this study, SpotCrime acknowledges the sensitivity in the reporting of crimes by partially redacting address information, and does not offer search categories such as “rape” or “child abuse”. However, because the app uses Google Streetview, it isn’t very difficult to check where a reported crime has taken place – something the developers should take into consideration when improving their app in the future.