"Warning: Stay alert. Do not get hurt."
That's what the iPhone said to me, in a very masculine voice, when I tried out the new application "Are You Safe? Sacramento." I had typed in an address recommended to me -- I don't live in Sacramento, otherwise the phone would have used GPS to identify my current location -- and discovered that, in that immediate vicinity, my "personal defcon" threat level was 2 (or orange, which is high), and that there had been 4 homicides, 27 assaults, 4 robberies, and 19 car thefts in this immediate vicinity in 2008. Additionally, I learned that a car had been stolen "about 0 ft. from here, on 05-22-2008. It occurred at 17:15, according to the record. If you are parking your vehicle you might want to think about finding a garage. You might be able to glean more context by examining the offense description: 10851(A)VC TAKE VEH W/O OWNER."
This, fine readers, is what is available to you if you live in Sacramento, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Milwaukee, or Indianapolis; you own an iPhone; and you are willing to pay $0.99. It is the union of publicly available crime data, GPS mapping, fancy application graphics (behold, the "threat meter"), and the long-standing human obsession with personal safety.
Its uses, according to the application makers, include:
- "Visiting and unfamiliar with the city?"
- "Debating whether to walk or take a cab?"
- "Headed to an area you haven't been to before?"
- "Not sure if you should park your car on the street?"
What are your thoughts about this kind of technology? Please comment!