Hyperlocal app Citizen pushes the limits of public safety platform

“That friction, in that they're trying to simultaneously be a service while a revenue generating business, it leads to these more extreme things like the bounty hunt,” says Vice’s Motherboard reporter Joseph Cox. Photo by Shutterstock

Last month, LA saw its first major fire of what’s expected to be a devastating season. That night, neighborhood watch app Citizen was blowing up users' phones with notifications about the blaze. As it turned out, users and the app's employees had identified a suspect in the arson. His photo was plastered all over push notifications and the app even offered a $30,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

There was one problem though: he wasn’t the man who police say set the fire. According to Vice’s Motherboard reporter Joseph Cox, Citizen CEO Andrew Frame was a central figure in the bounty hunt for the perceived arsonist on the night of the Palisades fire. It’s said that Frame not only lives in the area, but he also saw the incident as an opportunity.

“Frame explicitly saw this as a chance to demonstrate the utility of Citizen. … Frame saw that as a chance to bring in more viewers and really show that ‘Hey, look. We're Citizen. We can catch the bad guys.’