'Citizen' app launches in Los Angeles, alerting users to nearby crime and emergency situations

A new app that launched Tuesday in the greater Los Angeles area gives users instant access to information about real-time crime and other emergency situations in their immediate surroundings.

The app, called Citizen, was created as a user-powered public safety network designed to open the 911 and emergency response systems of cities, providing crime and safety alerts, real-time incident updates, and live user-generated video streams of the incidents reported to 911.

"Instead of just first responders getting these alerts -- knowing why the helicopter is overhead, knowing why the police tape is in your neighborhood, now all of us get to know," Andrew Frame, the Founder and CEO of Citizen told FOX 11 in an interview on Tuesday.

So how does it work? Citizen's central operations team monitors a variety of publicly available information -- such as police scanner chatter -- and pushes out notifications to users within a certain radius of the crime and other emergency incidents. All of the incidents in the Citizen app have already been reported to 911, according to the company.

Listen to Peter Donald, the app's head of policy and communication, talk about the launch of the app on the Olympic & Bundy Podcast:

"We're not telling [users] what to do. If you see a man drowning or woman and you're a great swimmer we're not telling you to jump in or not jump in. We're simply creating transparency," Frame said. "We are asking you not to do anything unsafe and to use common sense with this information."

The central operations team is a compiled group of analysts with writing and public safety backgrounds who are "trained to make on-the-fly decisions about what goes into the app based on complex criteria," the company's website states.

"What chance do crime and corruption have when technology unites the forces of good?" the company said in the app's promotable video.

"The purpose was to use technology to do something, hopefully good, for the world. And to help people and so -- the stories that fuel us are the people getting help," the company's CEO added.

The Citizen App has many success stories, following its launch in other cities such as New York, San Francisco and Baltimore. A user in New York credited the app for alerting him about a fire in his own apartment building, according to the New York Post.

"The notification I saw instantly brought me out of the hazy fog of sleep: 'NEARBY INCIDENT' Report of Apartment Fire at 385 Fort Washington Ave,'" Dan Humphrey said, according to the publication. "I took a breath and looked down at the app again to confirm: this was my address."

Humphrey said he was able to quickly wake and alert his friends, allowing them to exit the building safely before the fire was extinguished.

"It's tough to say how much worse things could have been without the professionals at FDNY and the prompt notifications from the team at Citizen," he said.

The app is available for both Android and iOS devices.