Citizen: Now Operating in San Francisco

4 min readSep 19, 2017

What if the 911 system were open — if everybody within a quarter mile of every reported crime were immediately made aware of incidents that could affect their safety? What if you knew what was happening whenever lights and sirens raced past or you heard a helicopter overhead?

Citizen gives every person technology that empowers them to make their family, their community, and their city safer. The need has never been greater for technology that informs and protects the public. We created Citizen to drive down crime and increase accountability. When everybody does their part, Citizen is a tool that could save your life.

The closed system excludes the community while the open system informs and empowers citizens.

How It Works

Citizen uses technology to monitor public safety and emergency communication networks 24/7. Our complex system enables us to alert users of emergency incidents as they are reported live to 911. Citizen’s central operations team — a group of specialized analysts — is constantly monitoring communications and updating the app with the real-time information that matters to you.

We send mobile alerts notifying users of all relevant incidents in their area to help them avoid potentially dangerous situations. Users can broadcast when it’s safe to do so, or watch live video from the scene to monitor situations as they unfold. As new information becomes available, users receive instant updates and can use our live chat feature to interact with people in their communities.

To be clear, Citizen does not allow users to interfere with active crime scenes or disrupt law enforcement. Both are clearly forbidden in our Terms of Service, and we’ve been encouraged by the responsible engagement of our New York user base. Incident reports and live video do not confirm guilt or imply association of anyone depicted in the app. On the contrary, live video from the scene adds transparency and provides a record for all involved. Citizen allows the public to both contribute and consume live public safety information in a controlled environment that is monitored around the clock.

We’ve Come a Long Way

We made Citizen publicly available to everyone in New York City six months ago. We limited signups to New York in an effort to focus on and learn from a local user base. Our community has grown rapidly: We now have more than 120,000 active users in New York, and we’ve provided real-time information on close to 100,000 incidents. We’ve given New Yorkers instant access to information they never had before, and as a result, we’re seeing them look out for each other in ways we never could have expected.

“This app is an absolute game changer. It gives me peace of mind knowing there’s a neighborhood of people looking out for one another.” — Chloe G.

“There was a five-alarm fire in a building two blocks from where I grew up. I watched other contributors’ live videos — it was coverage I couldn’t get anyplace else.” — Alan

“My wife called me and said there was a shooting outside the department store she was in. I immediately looked up the incident on Citizen, which was rapidly posting real-time updates. As I fed her information from the app, she was able to relay everything to the store employees and a fellow shopper with a two-year-old in a stroller. Without Citizen, my wife may have left the store when she shouldn’t have, or remained unsure of what was going on. We both thank Citizen for being there when we needed to be in the know.” — John V.

While focusing on New York over the last several months, we’ve been able to learn from our users, building relationships and gaining insight from city officials, the New York City Police department, and community leaders.

What’s Next

Now it’s time for the next phase. People in nearly every country around the world, and in every state throughout the US, have asked us to make Citizen available in their cities. Today we are proud to announce that Citizen is now operating in San Francisco. We are launching as an open beta and will soon expand throughout the Bay Area.

Citizen’s San Francisco coverage area

Here’s the video we premiered today, announcing our launch and sharing a bit about our vision:

We are committed to listening and learning from San Francisco’s community leaders, advocates, and law enforcement officials. We’re also excited to announce that we’ve partnered with Sequoia Capital on our Series A to grow our global safety network.

Citizen is publicly available on the App Store and Google Play. While we’re still in beta, you will only be able to access the incident feed if you sign up within New York City or San Francisco. If you’re outside either of these areas, click here to request Citizen in your city.

If you’d like to get in touch, please contact us: