A new citizen-created security app has been introduced in Rio de Janeiro to help alert citizens about where shootings and crimes are occurring, raising questions about how apps like this can be used to help keep citizens safe.
The social networking application, Where There Is a Shootout (Onde Tem Tiroteio - OTT), was created by a group of Brazilian citizens to warn Rio de Janeiro's citizens in real time where shootings are occurring in the city in order to reduce their risk of being caught in the crossfire, Estadão reported.
Today, the alerts, which have extended to other social networks like Twitter and Instagram, reach about 3 million people, nearly half of Rio de Janeiro's population, EFE reported.
In order to avoid false alarms, the group has "strict operating standards" and a network of highly trusted "informants" that are divided throughout different areas of the city, according to EFE.
The app's creator, Benito Quintanilha, told EFE that the app has already become an important public service.
Amnesty International launched a similar app, Crossfire (Fogo Cruzado), ahead of the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro amid mounting security concerns.
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Violence in Rio de Janeiro has spiralled out of control in 2017. Some experts are saying that the city is experiencing its "worst security crisis in more than a decade." However, the fact that half of the city's population is using OTT suggests that locals feel the application may have the capacity to improve citizen security.
Cecília Olliveira, who worked as a data manager on the Crossfire app, told InSight Crime in an email that these security apps allow people the ability to "guide their way more safely through the city, and interested parties can also use the data produced to develop better public security policies for the city."
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While the general public has picked up on using these new security apps, Olliveira told InSight Crime that the government has yet to publicly take a position on the new technology. Nevertheless, the Crossfire app will be relaunched this year with widened coverage for Brazilian metropolitan regions, and Olliveira hopes increased usage by the public will spark official interest.
"The aim is the same: to generate quality data, in a collaborative way, that can aggregate the debate about armed violence and supplement the press coverage in other little-covered areas," Olliveira told InSight Crime.