Lightcatch, an app whose mission is to give everyone in the world with a mobile phone the ability to stop trouble, has been catching on quickly in Penticton.
The app, free to download and use, is compared to a modern-day neighbourhood watch.
“That’s is exactly how we are describing it. It is the social media neighbourhood or block watch. So if Joe, living on one side of the city, has his bike stolen and reports it on Lightcatch then someone in another neighbourhood might see it and can update (in real-time) through the app and create this trail of evidence,” said Barb Langston, who is the administrator for the Penticton area and is one of the co-administrators for the Penticton Lightcatch Facebook group.
Updates can be in the form of a written description, but Langston encourages taking video or photos when it is safe to do so. Photos come in with blurry faces to protect privacy until a volunteer administrator can determine if it was posted maliciously or not. Those who have the app then receive a notification message. Langston, along with a few other people, has also created the Facebook page where people can ask questions on how to use the app and carry on discussions.
“I saw the potential of engaging with the community instead of people just posting to random Facebook pages about the influx of crime. I saw this as an effective tool and we would like to see the RCMP come on board so they can see a clear line of stolen items or the hotspots where criminal activity is and up patrols in that area. Utilizing this app, I hope we can at least scare criminals to be not as active or force them out,” said Langston, who also reminds those who are posting to also call the police so an RCMP file is created.
The group was in the process of trying to organize a meeting with Supt. Ted De Jager, but then found out he was transferring out of the city. They hope when a new superintendent comes in they can meet with them. Lightcatch creator and founder Darren Boyer said where he lives in Grand Prairie they have had some success in the recovery of stolen items. Boyer said he initially set it up as a trial on Facebook and claims that in an 18-month period 42 stolen vehicles were recovered with more than $1 million in stolen goods.
Membership for the Facebook page, Penticton Lightcatch, opened one week ago and they have over 200 members. The actual Lightcatch app within Penticton has, by Boyer’s account, almost 800 users and growing. He said improvements to the app are happening on a continual basis as more people start using it. Boyer, who has family in Naramata, is looking to introduce a button so those with security cameras can have the option to click it and immediately upload their video to the app. While there are users in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan that they can currently support, Boyer said he has plans to roll out to eastern Canada in 2019.
The Penticton Lightcatch group is hosting a family event for the public this Friday (Aug. 2) at Okanagan Lake beach around 6 p.m. at the fire pits to encourage more people to get active in the community.
“We don’t want us to be a bunch of strangers behind a computer or phone screen. I think that is really important. We need to know our neighbours and the people we are living within this community. We are encouraging people to come out and learn about how Lightcatch is a benefit and meet one another,” said Langston.
Boyer applauds Langston, and others in Penticton, who volunteer their time to make the app a useful tool in the city and region.
“This is a free service that has no value at all unless caring members of the community, like Barb and a few other active people in the Penticton area, are committed to using it. We want to give people a tool to make it impossible for bike thieves, vehicle thieves or anyone like that to get away,” said Boyer.
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