‘Citizen’ app gives 10 million users ‘tools to protect themselves’, says CEO Andrew Frame


It was around 6:30 p.m. on a freezing Friday night when news of a police shooting in New York City began to spread.

Two New York Police Department officers had been shot, along with the shooter, during a domestic violence call in Harlem on January 21. One of the officers’ widows, like many in the city, had watched the terror unfold in her cell on the phone’s Citizen app.

Dominique Luzuriaga Rivera’s “nightmare,” she said, began with a notification app, a news app that notifies users in real time when crimes or police activity are reported nearby.


Dominique Luzuriaga, wife of the deceased officer, holds the folded NYPD flag during St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the funeral of police officer Jason Rivera, January 28, 2022. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images/Getty Images)

“I saw that two police officers were shot in Harlem. My heart sank,” she recalls, sometimes in tears, during her husband’s funeral.

Her husband, Jason Rivera, 22, and his partner, Wilbert Mora, who were posthumously promoted to detective freshman, were shot dead by a domestic abuse suspect named Lashawn McNeil. Rivera died that night, while Mora succumbed to her injuries days later at a nearby hospital.

Use of the app, albeit sometimes in tragic cases such as the Jan. 21 shooting, highlights a system of accessibility and police information that tech founder and CEO Andrew Frame said. that he had hoped to create when launching the system about six years ago. years ago.

A New York police officer holds a photo of Officer Jason Rivera during a gathering for Rivera’s funeral, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura/AP Newsroom)

There are two things that scare people: knowing exactly what’s going on and not knowing what’s going on,” Frame told FOX Business. people need tools to protect themselves.”

Frame spoke to Fox News Digital from the company’s secret location in New York, where he and two of his colleagues sat around a conference table as he spoke comfortably and, at times, hyperbolically, of the app. Frame is no stranger to technology and entrepreneurship, but said its goal is to make the platform its “latest venture”, which is “big, bold, ambitious”.

“Security was a very underserved space,” he said. “The thesis was, why wouldn’t anyone have this app? And it kind of materialized.”


Citizen started in New York, where Frame lived at the time, under a different name in 2016 as a free app service that provided its users with real-time updates on crimes and police activity. in their area using 911 data. Nearby users could also choose to receive cellphone notifications, Frame said.

The Citizen app is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone in an arranged photograph taken in New York, U.S. Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images/Getty Images)

He said the company leverages the resources and access offered by the mobile platform, which he called “the greatest degree of potential energy the world has ever seen.”

At the time, he said, he saw it as “this huge opportunity to connect my desire to create a mission-oriented product with something that everyone desperately needs.”

Frame and his team “cold-started this security net” by focusing on the use of police radios and the roughly 10,000 911 calls made in New York City at the time, he said. declared.

“What allowed this app to be created wasn’t necessarily the police permission or the city permission. It was really just the fact that the radios had been open for 20 years,” continued Frame. “And so, I don’t think they would have ever expected an app developer to come in and turn this into a public safety platform.”

First, he said, the company built hardware devices “to capture all radio signals at once” and installed them throughout the Big Apple.

Andrew Frame, CEO and Founder of Citizen App (Photo courtesy of Citizen)

Frame added: “In the beginning, the team and I were literally like climbing buildings, trying to track down owners who would let us put our gear on their roof.”

But what was then a new app known as “Vigilante” was initially met with skepticism by some, including the New York Police Department (NYPD).

“Ongoing crimes should be handled by the NYPD and not by a vigilante with a cellphone,” an NYPD spokesperson said at the time, according to The New York Times. The app was reportedly temporarily removed from Apple’s App Store before being reintroduced under its new name.

Frame acknowledged that the company initially faced “tremendous resistance”, but also the “inevitability of technological change”.

“You can fight it or you can work with it. And we sort of see it the same way. We’re not trying to have enemies or adversaries,” he continued.

He later added, “People didn’t understand what it was. But now that people are recognizing the benefits of community safety, community engagement…I think it’s starting to get adopted a lot more widely.”

Officers gather for crowd control near a massive police presence outside a home as they investigate a shooting in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

In the years since the app’s launch, it has expanded to include more than 60 cities across the country, and has 10 million users and around 100,000 paying subscribers for its proprietary service, “ProtectOS.” And thinking back to where the company was born, 1 in 3 people in New York City now use the app, Frame said.

A New York University study published last year examined the use of Citizen App by medical and hospital emergency personnel and found that the app alerts that, from 911 dispatch records, when ‘they are dispatched immediately,’ app users informed, more than a median half-hour earlier than ‘traditional emergency medical services systems and before ambulances arrive at the hospital.

“If the app’s patient alerts had been directed to members of the trauma team, they might have provided more advanced notice of an impending need for specialist trauma care,” the study said. .

Frame said fire personnel, hospital medical staff and paramedics are among the groups that have started using the app “for situational awareness, to prepare for their decision-making.”

“So there’s just been this huge by-product that comes out of this relatively simple and pure mission to just keep our users safe,” Frame said. “But it surprises us every day how people use it to stay safe.”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 19: Citizen Founder and CEO Andrew Frame speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017 at Pier 48 on September 19, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch/Getty Images)

And the business is still growing.

Citizen announced its first acquisition on Jan. 26, revealing that the company would buy a “disaster preparedness technology company” called Harbour. Frame called it “a great combination of forces”.

But the successes are not without hitches.

In one instance, a former Citizen employee told Mother Jones that a staff member was sent to document the Jan. 6 riots at the United States Capitol by “claiming he was one of them. “. The staff member allegedly recorded videos of the sometimes violent events and sent them to be used on the app, Mother Jones reported.

Frame insisted there was ‘no prior discussion’ and added: ‘I wasn’t even aware of it long after the fact.

“I think someone was around, and they went live. I don’t even know how close they were. I didn’t even see the video,” he said. “So it definitely wasn’t something that was coordinated or anything like that.”

Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the West Wall of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)


The company also came under fire after it shared an image of a person it identified as an arson suspect involved in the May 2021 fire in California, and offered a $30,000 reward for information, the Los Angeles Times reported. But he was the wrong guy, reports say.

“Once we realized this error, we immediately removed the photo and the reward offer,” Citizen said in a statement provided to the LA Times. “We are actively working to improve our internal processes to ensure this does not happen again. This is a mistake we take very seriously,” the company said.

Frame told FOX Business that the company is “constantly changing its policies.”


“So if there’s an incident that can give us huge growth at the expense of a victim or someone it would be indecent to cover up, we don’t do it because the growth isn’t there. main objective here,” he said. noted.


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