As crime rates in Kenya shot up during the coronavirus pandemic, a Kenyan developer who was a crime victim himself created a mobile application to help people alert police about emergencies. The application has been so successful that Kenya’s police force has adopted it.
At Kenya’s national police command and control center, officers are monitoring the movement of the public. While the technology helps in catching suspected criminals, the increase of crime during the pandemic is overwhelming this technology.
But a mobile application created by a Kenyan developer Vincent Awino is helping to meet this challenge. Called “Upesy,” meaning “quick” in Swahili, Awino’s mobile app enables crime victims to raise alerts to police or security firms.
“It’s on your phone, meaning it’s mobile,” Awino said. “The response comes to you anywhere you are. It’s not fixed because we have a large network of providers. All the user needs to do is go on the phone and trigger an alert or click the phone’s power button at least four times in order to get an emergency.”
Kenyan authorities say some members of the public don’t report suspected criminals, fearing retaliation. But technology such as this can help apprehend criminals.
“We endeavor to use technology to fight crime and any application that can assists in reporting track criminals will be implemented,” said Charles Koskei, deputy police spokesperson of Kenya’s police service. “Technology is key in fighting crime that’s why we are able to track some of the criminals.”
Anthony Murithi, who lives with disabilities, is among the millions of Kenyans who could be targeted by criminals as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt livelihoods.
“As a person with a disability, my security is to a large extent compromised,” he said. “I cannot put up a fight, so I need something that is going to give me ... like to be there for me in case of any danger.”
In a 2021 report, the United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice found that the pandemic is putting a strain on authorities’ capacity to detect, prevent and combat crime.
Kenya’s security officials hope that technology will make a difference in crime prevention.