When it comes to reporting crime or complaining about municipal issues, many people are hesitant to do so because they are not sure who to approach and how. But that need not be the case anymore. An app, developed by an Indore-based engineer, is helping people across the country turn into citizen cops.
Have you ever been in a situation where someone broke a traffic rule while you stood watching? Or snatched a person’s mobile phone and ran away while everyone stood still, unsure about the next step? Many of us choose to walk away when we come across such situations – either because registering a complaint is a tedious process or because we are not sure who to approach and where exactly to find such a person. But what if you could become a citizen cop and complain about the issue at hand with just a few taps on your mobile phone?
CitizenCOP, a mobile app meant to bridge the gap between citizens and the police, can now help you register a complaint without revealing your identity.
“Take traffic rules for example. It is a known fact that when there is a surveillance camera or a policeman at a signal or crossroad, there are fewer chances of people breaking rules. Otherwise, there are many who don’t pay heed to the regulations and create problems. In situations like these, why can’t the common man become a cop and click a picture of someone breaking the rules? He or she can then forward it to the concerned authorities,” says Rakesh Jain, the brains behind CitizenCOP.
A free mobile application, CitizenCOP has been developed as a CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative of INFOCRATS Web Solutions, an IT company founded by Rakesh about 20 years ago. The full version of the app is currently being used in 25 Indian cities – including Noida, Navi Mumbai, Indore, Bhopal, Jabalpur, Raipur, and Varanasi. In these cities, police officials are working in collaboration with CitizenCOP.
“The police have access to a secured control panel connected to our backend in the cities where we work in association with them. The data goes to the police control room directly. We don’t intervene in the day-to-day regulations in these cities. The police officials take action through different departments, as and when required,” says Rakesh.
A ‘lite’ version of the app is also available in many other cities across India as well. This version does not have the option to contact the police or send complaints directly.
All reported issues are checked at the call centres set up by CitizenCOP, from where the team members pass the information on to the concerned authorities or other NGOs they collaborate with. For instance, in a recent case of domestic violence reported from Jaipur, CitizenCOP was able to provide immediate help through an NGO operating in the area.
The CitizenCOP NGO, formed under the CSR wing of INFOCRATS, has a team of 10 people (and some volunteers) who keep an eye on all the serious issues that are reported and share them with the concerned authorities. The best thing about the app is that it maintains anonymity. Users don’t have to register themselves to begin using the app, and their names and numbers are not included in the complaint unless they want to share them. This eliminates the fear of identity disclosure that many people experience when complaining about issues, especially to the police.
The features of the app include:
• Reporting an incident:
If you spot something amiss, be it a crime or someone throwing garbage in the wrong place, all you have to do is click on the correct option from among the different categories that include crime, traffic, municipal issues, harassment, corruption, etc. There are options to click pictures, record videos or audios, and select pictures from the phone gallery, to describe the case better. The complainant can share his/her contact details, but this is optional.
To use this option, a user has to add four emergency contacts to whom messages can be forwarded. Details of the user also reach the police control room in the 25 cities that have the complete version of the app.
• Travel Safe:
With this feature, users can let their emergency contacts know that they are commuting by entering their source and destination addresses, along with the vehicle number. This helps in keeping a record of the journey, which can be retrieved in case of an emergency.
• My Safe Zone:
This is a personal security feature of the app that allows users to create a geo-fence around the areas they regularly visit for work or other activities. When someone goes out of these areas, an alert message reaches the emergency contacts. This can be useful for parents whose kids go out for tuitions, for example, or in addressing kidnapping cases.
Additionally, there are the ‘call police’ or ‘call administrative officers’ options in some cities, where directories of the concerned authorities are made available in the app. Some cities have the option of locating the nearest police station as well.
CitizenCOP was launched in 2013 and has some 1,60,000 downloads till now. Rakesh, who is 45 years old, is a post graduate engineer. He is currently using his own money for the operations of the NGO, as well as for the development and improvement of the app.
In a recent case, somebody in Indore was trying to molest a girl of Class 10 in the Shakti Nagar area. When the girl shouted for help, another student of Class 7 and his mother spotted her. They raised an alarm and instantly sent an SOS signal to the police using the app. The officials reached the spot in no time and the offender was arrested.
“I am the kind of person who wants to have a positive approach instead of blaming the system all the time. That’s why I thought of developing this app, which bridges the gap between the enforcement agencies and the common man. Why can’t common citizens understand their responsibilities and work as cops and task force multipliers?” asks Rakesh.