Thursday, November 21, 2013

How crowd-sourcing can help us fight crime in India

A colleague, recently, became a victim of phone snatching in Noida by masked men who were on a numberless motorbike. Feeling angered at his misfortune, he wrote an application of theft and submitted it to the nearest police station. However, the Police refused to register a case of theft and offered only to register a case of 'Mobile Lost'. Why did they do this? They did it because they were certain the phone was irretrievable and a failed case would not add up well in their performance report. Welcome to Noida!  

This is one of the many cases that affect all of us everyday. I am certain this happens in many other places in the country. More than the frustration of being a victim of a crime is the anger of feeling helpless when our voice falls on deaf ears. We forget about the offenders and our anger is channelized towards the very people that swore to protect us. Now what do we do? We bite the bullet and most we do is caution our friends and family members lest something similar happens to them. We are busy citizens and we can only do so much. Even if locals know about sensitive areas in their town, what about travelers and tourists? We can caution our friends and family but who cautions them? Journalists, activists, and reporters bring many criminal cases to us through popular media. But is that the whole story? What about the many crimes that go unreported because either the authorities will not listen to us or we think twice before taking any action?

With these thoughts in our mind, we felt there was a need for a common platform where everybody could share their unfortunate incidents and everybody could exercise safety irrespective of their location, a platform which paints the real picture of crime in our cities and towns, and a platform where citizens come together to fight crime by keeping a check not only on criminal activity around them but also on the responsiveness of law enforcement agencies.

With these thoughts in mind, we started the social intiative - Zerocrime

Zerocrime leverages an online application to map criminal activity around us through crowd-sourcing. If you have been a victim or a witness to a crime incident, you can easily file an unofficial report on by providing simple details such as location, time, date, crime, description, and a short advice for others. A marker of your incident will be placed on the map and residents/travelers can see the details. Over time, Zerocrime will aggregate these reports to create a crime rating index of neighborhoods and areas will be color-coded as per their crime rating. We will also conduct advanced analytics and longitudinal studies to generate meaningful insights for law enforcement agencies and media houses. We also plan to develop crime prevention tools such as prediction of crime through data analysis. 

Users will be able to benefit directly by downloading the Zerocrime mobile application, which will act as a safety guide for them. They will be able to choose crimes that worry them the most (e.g., eve-teasing/molestation in the case of women living in Delhi) and the application will push alerts on their screen based on their GPS location. It will guide them to the nearest police station or send an SOS call/message to close ones in case of an emergency. Users will also be able to report crimes with Zerocrime using the application.


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