Citizen, the app that allows people to monitor and participate in public safety watching and reporting, is officially expanding to Seattle after testing in the city for a few months.
The startup plans to dedicate more resources from its operations and incident moderation teams to Seattle after already attracting about 30,000 downloads.
The venture-backed tech company, which launched in 2016 with New York as its first market, is now operating in more than 60 cities and has nearly 10 million users across the U.S. As the 15th largest metropolitan area in the country, Seattle fit the bill for Citizen’s desire to grow its footprint and serve more communities.
Citizen has raised $133 million from backers including Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Sequoia Capital, Greycroft and others.
“We believe in giving people a way to use their phones to protect a neighbor, to prevent a tragedy, and to count on one another,” Citizen says on its website.
It does that by monitoring events and alerting users to such things as fires, missing persons, or criminal activity. Citizen monitors 911 communications, ambulance dispatches and more to gather information in real time. Citizen app users within a quarter mile of an incident receive alerts.
Users can click on incident updates to gain more information, watch videos or check a map for the location of the reported activity. They can also share videos as part of the community, and that content is approved by Citizen moderators.
Citizen launched its Protect service as “the future of personal safety,” in which users can pay $19.99 a month for access to around-the-clock “Protect Agents” who help escalate a call to 911, alert your emergency contacts, help you navigate to a safe location, and more.
Citizen employs more than 200 fully distributed employees and said it regularly works on the ground in the communities it operates in. It said the same will be true in Seattle, without specifying how many people it might employ in the city.
Workers at Citizen voted to unionize this week as the Communications Workers of America won majority support in a National Labor Relations Board election. Bloomberg reported that out of about 90 eligible voters in the bargaining unit, 51 voted in favor of unionizing and 22 against.
Citizen has faced criticism for the tactics it employs in “making our users’ world a safer place.” Vice Media’s Motherboard reported in May on the “citywide, app-fueled manhunt for a specific suspected arsonist” in Los Angeles who turned out to be an innocent man. The New York Times Magazine criticized the app last week for the nature of one missing child video in particular and the premise of the platform as a whole: “to snag eyeballs and turn the world into a participatory reality show.”