Crime reporting app Citizen announced mass layoffs on Wednesday, multiple sources told Motherboard. One of the sources said the layoffs were across departments, in some cases impacted long established employees, and that Citizen said the move was due to an uncertain economic environment in the coming year.
In a statement later confirming the news, Citizen told Motherboard “We are grateful to all of our departing team members for their contributions to CITIZEN and are committed to supporting them through this transition with a generous severance package that includes accelerated option vesting and extended exercise window, six months of cobra payments, career services support and other benefits.”
Motherboard granted the sources anonymity to protect them from retaliation.
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Citizen is a melding of a social network and news alert service, focused almost entirely on crime and safety. Workers listen to police radio audio, summarize it, and send push notifications out to users about activity in their local area. These can range from the mundane to genuine emergencies. Users can also upload their own material, such as video, which other users can then view. A key problem for Citizen has been how to monetize that userbase, who can use the app for free. Citizen has been criticized as a surveillance app, and also as an app that sows fear and distrust among neighbors.
Citizen launched its paid-service, Citizen Protect, in August 2021. For $20 a month, Protect lets users be in touch with a Citizen agent who can follow their location and call 911 on their behalf. It has also explored running on-demand private security services.
In May 2021, Citizen CEO Andrew Frame used the app to place a $30,000 bounty on information leading to the capture of a suspected arsonist in the Los Angeles area. Citizen staff broadcast the photo and name of a specific person, encouraging users to hunt them down. It was the wrong person.