Violent crime has decreased sharply over the past decades in Virginia and across the United States. According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, violent crimes fell 49 percent from 1993 to 2017. New neighborhood crime prevention apps, though, may have users feeling otherwise.

Neighborhood crime apps, such as Citizen, Amazon Ring’s Neighbors and Nextdoor, are becoming increasingly popular. The apps send users local 911 alerts and coordinate coverage of local news. They also encourage people to report crimes. Users report that they get alerts from anything to someone ringing their doorbell and running away to “suspicious” minorities who are walking in the neighborhood.

Experts say these apps are problematic because they reinforce the idea that crime is on the rise and allow targeting of minorities. Because users can report suspicious activity or crimes, many stereotypes that centered on skin color are reinforced. Unfortunately, these apps may do more than make people aware of what is going on in the neighborhood; they made lead to violence. Experts fear that the self-reporting may lead to an increase in physical contact between minorities and police and could lead to additional violence. Additionally, users should be aware that there is no evidence these apps reduce crime.

The United States Constitution guarantees everyone certain rights. In order to be detained for a crime, the police must have enough evidence or proof that a crime was committed. Without this proof, the person must be released from jail within a certain time period. Minorities who are accused of committing a crime via a neighborhood crime app may not have enough evidence against them and may have been unlawfully arrested. A criminal defense lawyer might be able to protect the rights of a person accused of a crime.