AUBURN GRESHAM — As a former Chicago police officer, Richard Wooten knows the importance of being informed.
While residents can use Facebook communities and sites like EveryBlock and Nextdoor (which acquired and shut down EveryBlock in 2018) to connect with neighbors, those sites usually restrict access to those living outside of the neighborhood, keeping important information siloed.
Wooten hopes to change that with a new app, Crime Agitator. The app allows users to press a button that will send a distress call to 911 and five people on their contact list.
“This is a tool that not only puts the power back in the hands of the people, it bridges the gap between police and the community,” Wooten told Block Club.
Crime Agitator has been a labor of love for the former 6th ward aldermanic candidate, who has spent years of time and money to address what he believes is an infrastructure failure of the city’s emergency system. Wooten has used $50,000 of his own money to get the app up and running, enlisting a team of consultants while completing Goldman Sachs’ small business program.
“People are frustrated with 911. Eighty percent of emergency calls are made by cell phones, and the police can’t trace those calls using GPS,” Wooten said. “We want to amplify 911 services so that if you’re in danger, you can alert others.”
Noting the disappearances of pregnant postal worker Kierra Coles and other girls and young women from the city’s South Side, he believes the app will be instrumental in preventing them.
Once a user creates their profile, they’ll be able to share their location with their contacts. From his office in Auburn Gresham, Wooten can check in on his granddaughter in Texas as she leaves for school.
The location information is much more precise than what 911 is able to glean from your call — which is typically just a nearby cell phone tower, Wooten said.
Another feature, one similar to Nextdoor, allows Crime Agitator members to share information with each other, from break-ins to more serious offenses. Homeowners who don’t report garage burglaries are unwittingly giving thieves the green light to strike again, Wooten said. With Crime Agitator, those homeowners can spread the word and encourage people to properly secure their garages — even if they live in a nearby neighborhood.
“No matter how major or minor, the app will note it,” said Wooten.
Wooten said he’s been in touch with the Chicago Police Department to see how the the app can help encourage community policing.
Crime Agitator isn’t yet where Wooten wants it to be.
“I’ve learned that you can’t cover all bases in the beginning,” he said, chuckling. But he believes that, in time, it will get there.
“Eventually I want it to be compatible with smart watches, in case people can’t get to their phones,” said Wooten. “Phones get snatched. With the app, we’d be able to track them.”
Crime Agitator is available for download for both Apple and Android users.
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