Violent Crime Is The Lowest In Decades But These Popular Crime Apps Don’t Get Paid Unless You’re Afraid
Some of the most downloaded social and news apps in the U.S. let users view local crime in real time and discuss it with people in their neighborhoods, according to rankings on App Store and Google Play.
Violent crime in the U.S. is at its lowest rate in decades, Recode reported, “but you wouldn’t know it from a crop of increasingly popular social media apps that are forming around crime.”
Apps like Citizen, Amazon Ring’s Neighbors and Nextdoor can fuel a vicious cycle of fear and violence, according to Recode.
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Citizen was the seventh most-downloaded news app on iOS at the end of April, Amazon Ring’s Neighbors was the 36th most-downloaded social app and Nextdoor was the ninth most-downloaded lifestyle app in the U.S. on iPhones at the end of April.
Citizen seems to thrive on fear. Once called Vigilante in a previous incarnation, the app appeared to encourage users to stop crimes in action, Recode reported. It sends users 9-1-1 alerts about crimes happening nearby and lets them live stream footage they record of a so-called crime scene. They can chat with other users as situations develop and are encouraged to recruit family and friends “to create your own personal safety network, and receive alerts whenever they’re close to danger,” according to Recode.
Amazon’s video doorbell, Ring, captures videos of “’suspicious’ brown people on porches'” and people stealing packages. Its social media app, Neighbors, lets users post those videos and others to local crime news from unconfirmed sources.
These apps create a false sense that danger is on the rise when in fact, crime has dropped sharply in the last 25 years, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI. Yet Americans wrongly think crime is getting worse, according to Pew Research Center and Gallup.
So why are these apps so popular?
Fear is persuasive and it sells things, according to a blog on Crazy Egg,
a website optimization site. People are willing to take action to avoid a threat. Those who feel they have no control will take no action. “It’s the action (purchase, donate, subscribe) that the marketer is after,” according to Crazy Egg.
The marketing people at Citizen, Amazon Ring’s Neighbors and Nextdoor may have taken a cue from Donald Trump.
The commander in the chief is a master of this type of marketing. That’s probably why a book about his presidency was titled, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” written by Watergate journalist Bob Woodward.
“Fear pervades Americans’ lives—and American politics,” Molly Ball wrote in a September 2016 Atlantic article, two months before Trump was elected. “Trump is a master of fear, invoking it in concrete and abstract ways, summoning and validating it. More than most politicians, he grasps and channels the fear coursing through the electorate. And if Trump still stands a chance to win in November, fear could be the key.”