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New Apps Aim to Help Chicagoans Report Crimes Anonymously

By Wendell Hutson | July 16, 2013 6:39am
 Two new apps were created by a Chicago-based company that allows residents to send anonymous crime tips and photos to law enforcement.
Apps help report crimes anonymously
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BRONZEVILLE — Owners of a Bronzeville company are hoping two new apps they created will help combat the violent crime plaguing Chicago.

Nexx Business Solutions' apps allow anyone to send anonymous crime tips or photos to school security guards and police.

Owners Victoria Shannon and Keisha Willis created both apps earlier this year after they said they realized how difficult it could be to report crimes without having to give personal information.

The two will show off the apps at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Sheldon Heights Church of Christ, 11325 S. Halsted St., according to the Rev. Leonardo Gilbert, pastor of the church.

"Crime is happening all over the city, and at many schools from elementary to college. And while the police and schools do what they can to minimize things, we realized that the more help, the better," said Shannon, Nexx's CEO.

 Children watch as Chicago police investigate a shooting death Thursday. A new app aims to help residents report what they know about crimes anonymously.
Children watch as Chicago police investigate a shooting death Thursday. A new app aims to help residents report what they know about crimes anonymously.
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Getty/Scott Olson

"These apps will allow more people to get involved in helping the police keep neighborhoods safe without directly being involved by having to go to court to testify or pick suspects out in a lineup," Shannon said.

One app, Advanced Action Control Tragedies, is designed for use in schools. It would allow teachers to instantly alert security about criminal activity in classrooms.

"Teachers don't have walkie-talkies like the security guards. If a fight breaks out on the third floor, a teacher would have to go find a security guard, and by then it's too late," Shannon said.

"Teachers and staff could take photos of incidents, too. So once security does arrive there is proof of what happened," said Shannon.

Reporting incidents on college campuses also would be faster with the app, she said.

"When a college student calls 911 while on campus, it is routed to campus police. The app allows for a student to reach campus police directly, which could result in a faster response from them, opposed to campus police being notified by Chicago police," she said. "I would like to see every school have the AACT app to keep kids safe."

But before the app can be used in Chicago Public Schools, Shannon said school districts would have to sign off on a licensing agreement with her company. A proposal is being finalized this week to present to Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, for consideration, Shannon said.

David Miranda, CPS spokesman, said the district is always looking for ways to enhance security, but until officials receive a proposal on the app, he couldn't say whether CPS would use it or not.

The second app, IALERTU, was designed to allow residents to send anonymous crime tips and photos to police. The new app follows last week's announcement by Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy about new ways residents can inform police about crimes, including sending anonymous text messages via cellphone.

"We all have a role to play," McCarthy said.

Residents also can send anonymous photos to the city's Crime Prevention and Information Center. But first they must call 911, so the operator can send them a message allowing the anonymous photos to be sent.

"Why go through all of that when you could download our app that will be secured on a private portal to protect one's privacy?" said Shannon. "Calling 911 first means your number is seen on caller ID."

Police spokesman Adam Collins said law enforcement authorities "are always looking for ways to engage the community in help solving problems."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the Police Departmet initiatives are helpful.

"Police are the backbone of public safety, but we all have a role to play in continuing to reduce crime and violence," the mayor said. "Residents will have new tools available to connect with police and access important information about their community."

The apps will be available on the iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

Shannon, 44, who lives in Bronzeville, and Willis, 40, of Addison, have created other apps, too, including video games.

Shannon, who earned a degree in marketing from Western Illinois University, comes from a family of entrepreneurs. She is the niece of Lafayette Gatling, founder of Gatling's Chapel Inc., which runs two South Side funeral homes.

In, 2010 Shannon teamed up with her daughter Latrence Joi Russell to create Joi Doll Inc., which produces dolls for little girls that quote biblical phrases.

Working on ways to fight crime is something Willis said she enjoys. The Grambling State University alumnus with a degrees in public relations and graphic design also works as a teacher at Proviso West High School and is founder and executive director of the Speaking Publicly Eliminates Another Killing nonprofit organization.