Red Handed app crowd-sources crime reporting

iPhone app Red Handed provides a platform where you can film and post live videos of any crime you see occurring around you.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
3 min read

iPhone app Red Handed provides a platform where you can film and post live videos of any crime you see occurring around you.

(Credit: Red Handed)

Head over to LiveLeak and you'll find a cornucopia of user-uploaded videos — many of which, filmed on smartphones, depict someone behaving in a less-than-legal fashion.

It is this aspect of the smartphone age that Sydney-based Red Handed wants to tap into with its new app. Using a built-in camera function, it allows you to upload videos live to its platform so that other users can see where crime is occurring — and appropriate, hopefully police, action can be taken.

The developer refers to Red Handed as, rather than social network, "social awareness", and it has several functions to this end. First, anyone can film and upload videos, either with a log-in or anonymously. Before you start shooting, you can choose the type of crime from a wheel, and add comments when you are done to provide a more full description of the incident. Videos are also automatically geo-tagged and populated on the app's map so that users can search for videos by location.

You can also set up the app so that you receive alerts when a video is uploaded, whether it be all reports, reports in your area (as defined by your phone's GPS), or an area defined by you (called your "Hood"). You can also set it so that you only receive notices of reports of apps that have been voted on.

Voting is one method the app uses to help discourage misuse. When a user uploads a video, other users can view the video and "vote" on whether it is criminal activity or not. It's making a gamble — presupposing that most users will be using the app as intended — but the developer feels the issue is important enough that most users will take it seriously.

(Credit: Red Handed)

Red Handed marketing director Dave Malcolm told us that the potential for misuse was pretty low. When most people see a crime taking place, their instinct is not to get involved; and if anyone tries filing false reports, the app's admins can remove the videos.

But anonymous reporting is kind of a necessity, he said. Many people don't feel comfortable being contactable as a witness, or potentially found out by the people they report. Also, it allows people on tight schedules — who might witness a crime on a bus, but not want to spend an hour making a police report — flag the incident with a service that can escalate it to the authorities and carry on their day.

Red Handed has yet to confirm a partnership with the police — this is one aspect of the app that is still in progress — but other users, or even the Red Handed team, can make a call if they see anything that requires intervention.

The app also has a supporting web app that lets you view, comment and vote on videos, as well as view a Google map that shows at-a-glance crime statistics for the area based on the number of video uploads the app has received. This part, admittedly, still requires a kink or two to be ironed out (for example, multiple people filming the same incident will be filed as separate crime reports), but the developers are planning an update in the next few weeks that adds functionality and sorts out a few bugs.

What will be really interesting to see is if the app comes to be used in a quis custodiet ipsos custodes sort of fashion, with the watched becoming the watchmen when it comes to incidents of potential police brutality.

You can check out more info on the Red Handed website, and download the app for free from the iTunes app store. Android users should keep their eyes open in the coming weeks — a version is on the way.