If you haven't heard about crime and neighborhood watch app Citizen, you are probably going to soon. Leaked emails have recently revealed that the app wants to take its services up a notch and deploy private security workers to the scene of disturbances at the request of app users.
Now, it's unclear whether this is legal for the app to do but according to Motherboard, those plans are definitely underway.
"The broad master plan was to create a privatized secondary emergency response network," one former Citizen employee told the media outlet.
"It's been something discussed for a while but I personally never expected it to make it this far," another Citizen source told Motherboard.
The employees have remained anonymous to protect them from retaliation by the firm. According to leaked emails, the product is described as "security response" and would see Citizen work with security agencies such as Securitas and Los Angeles Professional Security to provide quick response times to security incidents.
The question becomes: Are these private entities trying to replace law enforcement? A Citizen spokesperson told Motherboard that "LAPS offers a personal rapid response service that we are testing internally with employees as a small test. For example, if someone would like an escort to walk them home late at night, they can request this service. We have spoken with various partners in designing this pilot project."
Will it be accessible to anyone and everyone?
The leaked emails however state that Citizen is conducting more than a small test and has even been in touch with the Los Angeles Police Department. This is particularly intriguing because it would imply that services that should be equally accessible to all such as law enforcement might become privatized and then become more focused on whoever would be willing to pay more.
This would result in further discrepancies between the rich and the poor and may even see those poorest not given any law enforcement services at all. In addition, a private entity does not have the authority to make arrests. What does Citizen plan to do with the culprits it does capture when conducting its security responses?
Do private security guards have the skills to handle highly volatile situations that police officers have been expertly trained to tackle? Could criminals go free because their attempts at a crime were thwarted by private security rather than stopped by a police officer? How will a judge and jury view these private vigilantes? Likely, the business model still needs to go through a fair amount of revisions before it is able to hit the market.