May 19, 2022

Citizen, a controversial neighborhood watch app, is paying New York City residents $200 per day to race to a murder scene, a three-alarm fire, or a traffic accident, whip out their phones, and begin filming. According to The Post, Citizen’s pitch asks New Yorkers to livestream crime scenes and other public catastrophes to persuade more ordinary folks to do the same.

Citizen accumulated $133 million from high-profile investors, including Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley venture companies Sequoia Capital and Greycroft, on the promise of real-time safety alerts for users near their homes and places of employment.

The vast majority of those notifications, which include videos, appear to have been generated by volunteers who were in the right place at the right moment. And this business model, which comes amid dwindling journalistic coverage of local news, saves the company money.

Once known as Vigilante, the program now has over 7 million users in 30 locations and is secretly recruiting “field team members” to go about the city following down emergencies.

Chris, who goes by the handle @cgutter_, spent Thursday riding across the Bronx, responding to at least six separate incidents, including a bloody bus collision on Morris Avenue and a report of gunshots on East 175th Street. According to his profile, Chris has streamed 1,600 videos totaling 1.52 million views.

When questioned last week about Chris’ regular streaming on the app, a Citizen official confirmed that he worked for the company. Nonetheless, Chris is not identified as a Citizen employee in the app. Rather, he appears to be another concerned New Yorker. Citizen asserts that it does not conceal the fact that it employs paid field team members.

The job posting said field team members would be “dispatched” to cover events, including “dog locked in car” or house fires. “In the event that witnesses, police officials [sic] or other parties to interview are available, you must take the initiative to interview them for app viewers,” the listing added.

“You will be live-streaming from your phone straight to the app, covering the event as news,” according to the job description offered by third-party casting agency Flyover Entertainment.