Goodbye, Citizen

Citizen is an app that bills itself as:

The most powerful safety app for today’s world. Download Citizen to feel safer at home or out, get real-time safety alerts and live video of incidents happening near you, updates on natural disasters or protests, and know if your loved ones are near a dangerous incident.

Google Play Store Description

And that all sounds great, right? Who doesn’t want to feel safe and informed? When I first downloaded the app a few years ago, it was pretty neat being able to see where crimes were taking place at the street level. It gave me a better idea of what areas to avoid and what time to avoid them. The data wasn’t complete, it wasn’t always accurate, and the user videos were usually pretty bad, but it felt more genuine than what I would see on the news. It added value to my day-to-day.

Then, Citizen tried to be more than I needed or wanted it to be. And it got invasive. During the pandemic, I started to get really wary of the Citizen app. It started adding a lot of features that went beyond its original purpose, like prompting for always on location tracking for friends and family members, COVID-19 symptom tracking, and background contact tracing. All of that sounds cute and useful on the surface, but who is Citizen and why should they be trusted with that much of my personal data? And even more important, does giving them that information add real value to my life?

Ultimately, the answer to that question was no. I thought about it for a while and realized that after an initial period of usefulness, my most common interaction with the Citizen app was swiping away notifications. Sometimes not even notifications about crimes, but notifications about the weather, protests, politics, and so much other random nonsense that I stopped even paying attention to them. I also realized that knowing about the crimes in my area with immediate notifications and spending a lot of time looking at and thinking about them wasn’t improving my mood or making me a better person. Instead, it was cultivating an atmosphere of fear.

I’m apparently not the only one that feels this way, though I took it further.

So, I deleted the app a few weeks ago. I realized today that I haven’t missed it at all. If I need to know what’s going on, I can check the news when I want to check the news, so that my mood and my day aren’t dictated by the notifications coming from an app.

I’ve been going through a process of decluttering and minimizing, and I’m adding apps and other digital clutter to the list. I’m getting rid of unused email addresses, deleting duplicate or old backups, consolidating where my data is stored, and moving anything I can to simpler hosting solutions so that I can free up my headspace for other things that are more important to me.

So far, it has been a worthwhile journey.

The Attempted Burglar is Back in the Building

The girl that lives next door sent me panicked messages saying she saw the person that tried to break into her apartment again, out in the hallway on our floor. I don’t understand how this person is back here again. How do you attempt to break into someone’s apartment, get caught, and then show up at the building again wandering around like nothing happened?

The police detective involved in the case said there’s nothing he can do to keep her out of the building. That’s up to the building owners. It just seems like it would be common sense, from a legal point of view, to prevent someone from being within a certain distance from a place they tried to rob previously. Now, the only thing to do is get the building owner to state that she is not allowed on the premises and then have her arrested for trespassing, but if she’s a crackhead and is coming here to buy drugs and rob people, will that even stop her? What a mess.

Oh, and she’s still wearing the same hoodie.

The Would-be Burglar Was Arrested


Over the past few days, we’ve seen the person that attempted to break into our apartment and our neighbor’s apartment wandering around the building in the stairwells and out on the streets. My wife took the photo above. As you can see, the person did not even bother to throw away the hoodie. Or leave the area.

We stayed in contact with a detective that was working on the case. Me, my wife and the girl that lives next door told him that we’d seen the suspect around the building and neighborhood multiple times so he came and reviewed the security footage. Turns out it’s not a he. It’s a she, and she is a crackhead that used to live in the building and is sleeping on the roof. I couldn’t make out features under the hoodie and just assumed this person was a man, I suppose because it seems a little unwise to do breaking and entering as a woman, when there is a greater chance of being overpowered by anyone inside. She has been arrested before for breaking into people’s apartments and stealing in order to support her drug habit.

Yesterday, my wife and the girl whose apartment was almost burglarized saw the suspect in the morning and I saw her in the afternoon, out on the street. I called 911, but the cops never showed up. That’s really disappointing. I waited outside for almost 15 minutes and then gave up. I went into the subway to try to get the transit cops to come out and arrest her, but they weren’t interested in helping. Their conversation with their colleagues was too interesting, I guess. I went home, and when I got to my floor, the building superintendent told me she had gone into one of the apartments in the building. I called the detective to let him know and found out later that she had been arrested.

I’m not sure what she’ll be charged with, but hopefully it’s something that keeps her away from our building for a while, or permanently.

An Update on the Break-in Attempt

Around 9 PM, another cop knocked on my door. My neighbor had finally returned home and found my note taped to her door. Her parents were there as well. The cops took my statement and information again and this time at least told me to keep the photos in case they found or find the guy so they can build a case against him. My neighbor also wanted copies of the photos so I sent them to her. Funny thing is, we’ve lived next door to each other for a year but until tonight I never even knew her name. Nothing brings people together like misfortune, I guess, but it’s nice that we’ve managed to turn this into an opportunity to get to know each other.

Attempted Break-in by a Criminally Stupid Criminal

This morning I woke up to the sound of banging. I went to check the door because I was expecting a package today (another book for my MA Arab-Israeli Conflict course), but no one was there. I figured it must have been the people downstairs that are renovating the apartment below ours. When I walked back down the hallway I heard banging on the window in our bathroom, so I went to see what was going on.

When I stepped into the bathroom I saw a guy standing there on the other side of the window out on the fire escape. I couldn’t see him clearly because the glass is frosted, but I could see a silhouette. I wasn’t sure what was going on at first because it was 10:30 am, very sunny and the corner of the building is still visible from the street because the trees haven’t grown leaves yet.

The guy must have seen me through the window as well. He moved over to his right, towards my neighbor’s apartment windows. I figured the guy was going to run or something, but instead he started kicking in the glass of my neighbor’s window. I peeked through the blinds to double-check, because really, who is stupid enough to keep trying to break into a apartments when they just saw someone in the next apartment? I saw glass falling. I went to the bathroom, opened the window, peeked around the corner and saw the guy leaning into the window, so I shut the window and called the police.

I can’t imagine the guy didn’t hear me open and close the window, unless it’s louder standing on the fire escape than it was for me inside. The whole time I was on the phone with the police though he kept at it, breaking glass on the window. When I got off the phone with the police, I went back to the bathroom, cracked the window open, stuck my hand out and snapped a few photos. Then I shut the window. I heard more glass breaking.

About 5 minutes later I heard the guy go up the fire escape to the roof. Two minutes later the police were at my door. I gave my statement and two cops went through my window onto the fire escape to look at the neighbor’s window. They confirmed the glass was broken. I showed them the photos I took. The weird thing was, the cop was using her iPhone to take a photo of the photo on my iPhone screen. I asked her if it wouldn’t make more sense to just forward the pictures to her and she declined. Seems like it would be better to have the real photo for ID purposes, especially since tattoos are clearly visible in my pictures.

While I was talking to the cops they got a call over the radio saying that a suspect matching the description of the picture had been spotted. I didn’t hear it exactly, but the sergeant I think replied, “He’s still wearing the same clothes?” Then they all ran down the stairs. I imagine they got the guy. Or at least I would hope they did.

I don’t believe in something like slut shaming, but I do believe in shaming criminal stupidity, especially in this instance, when I don’t know whether the cops caught this guy, so I’m going to share these photos I took of the guy, as a sort of public service. If you see this guy, don’t let him near your windows.