In recent years India has been marred by multiple high profile rape cases that have generated international backlash. The brutal 2012 rape and murder of a 23 year old medical student on a bus in Delhi sparked protests across India, and became a rallying cry for reform. The five men and one juvenile (17 ½ at the time) who perpetrated the attack had their arrests and convictions fast tracked. Additionally, India passed legislation which broadened the definition of rape and implemented harsher punishments. Unfortunately, little changed. Government figures from 2013 indicate that the reported incidences of sexual assault in Delhi more than doubled from the year before. This figure is not unique to Delhi. Nationwide, one Indian woman is raped every 20 minutes.
In the state of Madhya Pradesh, Home Minister Babul Gaur recently said of rape “Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong.” Yet in this environment a tech company called Infocrats Web Solutions is working to directly improve the safety of citizens of Madhya Pradesh via their Citizen COP smart phone app. The basic premise of Citizen COP is that it facilitates communication between citizens and police, allowing for quicker and more accurate reporting of crime, as well as eliminating barriers when requesting emergency assistance. The local government and police forces of Madhya Pradesh need all the help they can get in promoting public safety, as Madhya Pradesh has the second worst crime rate in India.
Citizen COP boasts a variety of features, all of which promote public safety in a unique way.
Citizen COP’s incident reporting functionality allows users to anonymously report illegal activity directly to the police. The reporting feature allows the user to supply the police pictures, videos, location data, and a description of the scene with the press of a few buttons. Talking to the police or reporting a crime can still be taboo in India. The apps’ anonymity allows the user to report an incident without facing the same backlash that could occur from reporting a crime in a traditional manner, thereby removing a major barrier.
Help Me (SOS)
The SOS feature empowers a Citizen COP user to call for help almost instantly. The user can open this feature simply by shaking their phone, shaving valuable seconds off the time it takes to call for help. It sends an SMS to a series of contacts, as well as to the local police. The message is preprogrammed with geolocation data, as well as a call for help.
This feature is named after Lakshmana rekha, which refers to a strict line or principal. If that line is crossed, or principal broken, severe consequences can be expected. e-LaxmanRekha allows the user to map a boundary around themselves utilizing their smartphones’ mapping capabilities. To do so, the user selects several points on a map (like dropping a pin on Google Maps), which are connected with a line. This sets a geographical limit for the mobile device. If the device crosses this boundary, an SMS message will be auto-sent to contacts preloaded into the “Help Me” feature.
Additional features of Citizen COP include an in-depth directory of police contact information which is automatically sorted based on proximity to the police station, a live tracking GPS system which can enable family members to view the users’ location in real-time, and a notification system which provides news updates.
While Citizen COP doesn’t work to address the underlying causes of violence against women in India, it can be a valuable tool in promoting public safety. Upendra Jain, of the Bhopal Police Department, published an official letter thanking Citizen COP. It read: “…Citizen COP has immensely empowered our citizens with enhanced awareness of security and safety measures. It has already started giving favorable results. I, on behalf of Bhopal Police, sincerely appreciate your concept, innovation, and successful implementation of ‘Citizen COP’ in our jurisdiction for the welfare of society as a whole.”
The app is currently available in the cities of Indore, Bhopal, and Jabalpur. Infocrats Web Solutions is planning to expand their Citizen COP service offering to the other major cities in Madhya Pradesh, and then regionally to other states. The app can be downloaded via the Apple App Store or via Google Play, where it has a 4.3/5 rating with over 1,000 reviews.