Crime alert app Citizen is reportedly testing on-demand security feature

Controversy still surrounds the app after it sparked a manhunt for an innocent person misidentified as a suspected arsonist earlier this month.

Dale Smith Former Associate Writer
Dale Smith is a former Associate Writer on the How-To team at CNET.
Dale Smith
2 min read

Crime-reporting app Citizen has reportedly partnered with private security firms to test a new on-demand security service feature -- like Uber, but for security details.

Graphic by Pixabay/Illustration by CNET

Civilian crime-watching app Citizen is testing out a new on-demand security service that would work something like ride-hailing app Uber, but instead of a driver, the app summons a security detail. The product would, for example, let you request a security guard to escort you while walking late at night, according to a Citizen spokesperson, who described the test as a "pilot project." The test was reported earlier Friday by Motherboard, which cited leaked internal documents. 

Such a feature would represent a significant expansion of the company's current services, which let users of its app report "incidents" that can trigger localized safety alerts in the form of notifications pushed to other nearby users. 

Citizen confirmed in an emailed statement to CNET that it has partnered with private security firm Los Angeles Professional Security, or LAPS, which is providing security staff for the limited test program.

"LAPS offers a rapid response service that we are trialing internally with employees as a small test with one vehicle in Los Angeles," according to the company spokesperson. The company added that Citizen has "spoken with various partners" but declined naming them.

According to Motherboard, Citizen also contacted the Los Angeles Police Department, which reportedly responded in an email that such a service could be a "game-changer" in addressing the LAPD's mounting backlog of property crime. 

Confirmation of Citizen's new on-demand security service comes just days after Citizen faced criticism for an incident in which the name and photo of a person was posted on the app and incorrectly said to be a suspect accused of starting a wildfire in California. 

The company has since apologized, saying it failed to follow its own "strict validation protocols" while operating the OnAir alert service, which sent out the false information.

"In the 15 instances [OnAir] has been used before, those protocols were followed," Citizen told CNET. "Unfortunately, in this instance, an on-the-ground tip from an LAPD sergeant was used in place of official confirmation from public safety agencies."