What can victims of a crime do when
they don´t trust the authorities? The perception that local authorities are
corrupt or that bureaucracy takes too long to produce unsatisfactory results
creates a separation between citizens and the authorities, and this leads many
crimes to go unreported – more than 60% in Latin America, according to the
United Nations Development Program´s citizen security report.
Nadim Curi believes that delinquents take advantage of this situation to commit crimes with impunity, and he is committed to doing something about it. With this objective in mind, this young Uruguayan developed CityCop, a civic surveillance app where citizens alert the community to dangerous situations. This initiative has earned Curi a spot among MIT Technology Review, Spanish edition´s Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2017.
"Waze has already demonstrated that this approach works with traffic," the visionary innovator points out. Thanks to the information provided by users of the app about accidents and traffic jams, Waze is able to calculate the fastest route. Curi´s idea is for CityCop to calculate the safest route. "If you are asking a GPS navigator for directions it´s because you are not familiar with your surroundings," Curi explains. "Not even Google gathers safety information."
According to its creator, the primary use case for the app is for the user to define favorite locations, like home and work, and receive alerts about events in those areas. The app can also employ user´s current geolocation data to send alerts related to events at a particular location while en route.
Latin America is perceived as the most unsafe region in the world, according to the aforementioned United Nations report, so CityCop´s success should come as no great surprise. According to information supplied by Curi, as of May CityCop boasted over 220,000 users, with an average monthly growth of more than 6,000. CityCop´s founder is well aware that there are other apps on the market which aim to meet this need, but he is convinced that this "is a winner-takes-all market." As such, his current priority consists of attracting new users and positioning the app as the global reference for citizen safety.
Curi does not seem concerned about the money the development of CityCop is costing him, nor is he thinking yet about monetizing the information that the app is gathering. "The idea is to follow in the footsteps of Facebook or Waze; it will be years before investors see returns, but those [returns] will be very high," he says, with the confidence of one who believes he has the next tech unicorn on his hands. The support received from Startup Chile and, more recently, TechStars certainly suggest he is on the right track.
Another source of pride for the young Uruguayan is the fact that local authorities themselves refer to his app to analyze citizen report patterns like, for example, reports related to drug trafficking. To respect user privacy, CityCop allows users to make reports anonymously or using a fictitious avatar. This way, neither criminals nor their accomplices can retaliate against the users for having alerted the public to their deleterious activities.
According to the CEO and founder at HAG Consulting & Ventures and jury member for the Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2017 competition, Rodrigo de Alvarenga, CityCop "is tackling an enormous problem by building communities around security related issues", adding that this app "has the potential to disrupt society as a result."