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Group Of Chicago Men Develop App To Help Witnesses Record Crimes

CHICAGO (CBS) -- There is a new push to help you respond and record any type of community danger. A group of men in Chicago is developing an app to make it happen.

Willie Samuel's roots are on Chicago's West Side.

"I grew up around it, the whole violence aspect," he said.

The now 25-year-old college student can attest to having moments where he did not feel safe in his neighborhood or around police.

"Oh, most definitely. I've been in plenty of positions," he said. "We're living in some hard times and we really need people to start really stepping up."

That's what brought him to the corner of 75th and Indiana in Chatham Thursday -- lending a hand by getting people to use theirs by simply clicking a scan code and downloading an app.

"It's an instant hit. Whenever we share it with somebody, immediately," said Marlon Watson.

Watson, a South Side native, is the tech brains behind the app called Signal 13, a term normally referring to a call for first responders now branded as a call to the community to help after dialing 911.

"If you have the app on your phone, you can hit 'I need a witness.' It starts recording instantly," he said.

And when you hit that button, an alert immidiately goes out to people around who have the app as well. The point is to get them out as soon as possible to help witness or film it themselves.

The concept played a vital role in the case of George Floyd. Cell phone video and witnesses ultimately led to former officer Derek Chauvin's murder conviction. The incident was motivation for the app's creation and launch this month in Chicago's 6th Ward on the South Side.

"I think me growing up in Englewood, if we would have had this 20 years ago, police in Chicago would be different," Samuel said.

The app also allows users to immediately post the recordings straight to social media.

"As if you were posting a status you could post it just like that," he said.

It is an accountability tool the men say could help not only keep police in check but also could just create a safer environment for eveyone.

The month long launch is happening on the South Side, but anyone can get it for free. So far there have been about five-hundred downloads.

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