Fighting crime with new app

Concerned about the escalating crime rate, two Midlands men have developed what they’ve called the Facecrime app.

It’s free, and initially will be targeting the greater Pietermaritzburg area, said Darryl Hardman of Howick. He and his brother-in-law, Patrick Erasmus, both have regular day jobs, but “we feel so strongly about the crime situation in SA that we wanted to do something tangible about it”.

They put their heads together and commissioned a technical team to develop the Facecrime app, which they launched recently.

“It’s a crime-fighting smartphone app available on the Google Playstore in Android format, and in Apple format on the App Store. The Windows version will also be launched in the coming days. The Facecrime app is free to download and use, and is a community initiative aimed at taking back our lives from criminals and enhancing the safety of our families, friends, and neighbourhoods,” said Hardman.

The basic premise is that a user can create various emergency alerts from their phone, which any other Facecrime user within a 3km radius will receive in real time, and will immediately be able to see on a Google map where the security event is relative to their current location. The receiver of the alert (e.g. intruder/hijack/fire/breakdown

etc) can then decide on their own response to the alert, to actively assist, or perhaps just to take precautions. The app is also ideal for use by neighbourhood watches.

Facecrime’s motto is the hornet – “symbolic of the fact that on our own, we are weak, but when we ‘swarm’ together, criminals look out!”

Hardman said they would like to get Facecrime members up to a critical

mass:  “To the point where we can make a meaningful difference in tackling crime. Initially we would like a minimum of 1,000 active members in the greater Maritzburg area,”

He said Facecrime had some similarities with SA CAN but there were some key differences.

“We are looking to work in tandem with such organisations, not compete with them. Facecrime is different from SA CAN in several respects:

first, it’s free. Second, it’s a warning mechanism, with real-time, crime-related information being disseminated to members within 3km of an alert, with the aim of either warning anyone who may potentially be in harm’s way, or if some Facecrime members so choose, to actively support anyone in distress by being a physical presence in the alert area until the police or other professional services arrive.  Third, Facecrime interaction occurs on a peer-to-peer basis with all other members located within any 5km radius,” he said.He added that the app was not limited to a pre-determined list of responders which should reduce response time and increase the number of respondents.

“It’s logical that it would typically be quicker for several of your neighbours to respond to an alert than a roaming security patrol car.”

Hardman said Facecrime had a strong crime prevention motive. “Being a form of digital neighbourhood watch, and having Facecrime emblems on our homes and cars, should provide a strong deterrent to thieves, and dissuade them from disturbing the proverbial hornet’s nest,” he said.

Urging residents not to discard any other security layer, Hardman said records were kept of all alerts sent and the sender’s phone number and location.

“Anyone abusing the system can be blocked and can be subjected to legal action,” said Hardman.

* Details are available on their web page, or on their Facebook page.

Peta Lee

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