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Crimewatch apps may not reduce crime

Some people in Maryland may be familiar with apps that are supposed to show whether crime is happening in the neighborhood. These include Citizen, Next Door, and Neighbors, which is part of Amazon Ring. However, there is no evidence that these make people any safer. They do stoke fears about crime, which people believe to be on the rise even though over the past 25 years, it has significantly dropped.

Although Amazon Ring claims its program does prevent crime, according to the MIT Technology Review, some studies report that houses that have Ring cameras are more frequently burglarized than those without. Ring has also partnered in several states with law enforcement to allow security videos to be monitored.

It is possible that these types of apps may also discriminate against people who are black, Latino, or poor. This was the case with an app called SketchFactor, which was widely criticized prior to its release for being both racist and classist. Its purpose was to allow users to report what they believed to be "sketchy" behavior. After outcry on social media and elsewhere, the app was retired. A spokesman for the Center for Media Justice says the apps may increase the likelihood of conflict between police and citizens, particularly black citizens, and this could result in shootings or other violence.

People who are facing criminal charges, regardless of whether technology is involved, might want to consult an attorney about an approach to criminal defense. Evidence or an entire case could be dismissed if there has been misconduct by police officers. If a case goes to trial, an attorney might focus on discrediting the testimony of an eyewitness. Forensic evidence could be mishandled or misinterpreted and sometimes may cause conflict even among experts. An attorney might also suggest a plea bargain, which usually involves pleading guilty in exchange for lighter penalties.

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