August 11, 2014
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For perpetrators of petty crimes, a handful of high school students think they’ve “Gotcha!”

Eleven students participating in a program through Temple University’s Center for Design + Innovation, which is led by Fox School of Business professor Youngjin Yoo, are working to develop a social-media network that encourages the reporting of crime through community activism.

The students in the program, called the Urban Apps & Maps Studio, have laid the foundation for ‘Gotcha!’ For now, the students see their creation as a web-based platform within which a witness or a victim of underreported criminal acts – like theft or vandalism – can report the location, time and circumstances of the purported activity.

Gotcha!, the students said, has the potential to curb crime, as well as alter the patrol assignments of local police departments, dependent upon the locational frequency of crimes, as indicated through a real-time map feature their platform incorporates.

The students envision Gotcha! eventually transitioning into a mobile application. They believe they can have their web app running in the fall, before most of them get into the thick of their senior years of high school, though they will need to secure a patent and a domain name in order to do so.

“We built this in four weeks,” said Kory Calicat-Wayns, a rising senior year at The Haverford School. “The possibilities are out there for us. We plan to take this very far, so we can cover not just Philadelphia, but maybe the entire nation.”

Crime-map sites similar to Gotcha! exist, but none incorporates a newfeed, social-media component like the one designed by the students in Urban Apps and Maps, said Michael Korostelev, a graduate-student instructor of the program.

In other ways, the offerings of Gotcha! overlap with those of preexisting programs. The students said users will have to register, with a log-in name, zip code and phone number to which only the site’s administrators will have access. And posts made anonymously will require a vetting process and approval from Gotcha! administrators to verify their credibility.

“And to avoid spam and other fraudulent reports,” said Jimik Ligon, who will soon begin his senior year at Simon Gratz High School. “We want to help stop small crimes any way we can, and we’re planning full cooperation with the police to help in that.”

“We want to build a sense of community through Gotcha!, so people know what’s going on in their neighborhoods,” Calicat-Wayns said.

Gotcha! is one of several projects to have been generated through the 200 participants this summer in Urban Apps & Maps, which is in its second year.

“Through this program, we’re not just teaching coding. That’s not enough,” said Yoo, a Professor of Management Information Systems at the Fox School. “They need to know where that coding skill will apply to.”

Management Information Systems