The controversial crime watch app Citizen announced today that it will acquire Harbor, a disaster preparedness app and tech firm. This is Citizen’s first acquisition, though the company did not disclose the financials of the deal.
“Transforming public safety is a massive undertaking and requires an incredible team and set of products to accelerate our mission globally. We’re excited with this acquisition of harbor, along with their technology, products and team,” said Citizen founder and CEO Andrew Frame in a press release.
In the 60 U.S. cities where it operates, the company says it delivers over 20 million alerts, sourced from public 911 blotters and verified by staff, each day. Users used to be able to report incidents directly to Citizen, but now its website encourages them to call 911 instead.
Harbor, which raised a $5 million seed round about a year and a half ago, gamifies the process of preparing for crises like fires and earthquakes. The app, which launched in October 2020, asks users to enter their ZIP code. Then, they’re told what disasters are most likely to befall them (which sounds a little terrifying).
From week to week, Harbor provides users with preparedness tasks that only take a few minutes, rather than bombarding them with a massive emergency list to handle all at once. These tasks can include checking smoke detectors or stocking a go-bag at first — later on, users might be encouraged to take on more time-intensive safety measures, like learning CPR.
“I couldn’t be happier for our team to join Citizen and its mission to make your world a safer place,” said Dan Kessler, the CEO of harbor, who will join Citizen as chief business officer. “There’s so much we will do together to continue building our new technology category around mobile safety.”
This acquisition could help Citizen give users ways to stay safe that don’t involve anxiety-inducing alerts about nearby incidents. Citizen also recently launched Protect, a $20/month service that lets users contact a Citizen agent if they feel unsafe, but don’t want to call 911. Citizen told TechCrunch that Protect now has 100,000 users.
Now with 10 million users across the free app, Citizen has been embroiled in various controversies over the years. Starting in 2016, the app — previously called Vigilante — was removed from the App Store for encouraging activities that could lead to risk or physical harm (this iteration of the app suggested that average people should approach the problem of crime “as a group,” the company wrote at launch).
The app has also come under fire for offering to pay users $30,000 for information about a suspected arsonist who turned out to be innocent, as well as trying to deploy private security workers to examine the scene of reported crimes.