SAN FRANCISCO -- An unprecedented $5 million commitment is helping the Asian American community combat a rise in hate crimes and attacks in the Bay Area with a mobile app.
Citizen, the most popular public safety app in the country, on Thursday made the announcement about an effort to protect the Asian community in San Francisco's Chinatown.
Josephine Zhao of San Francisco attended the information session at the Chinese American Association of Commerce.
"I have a few close encounters with people, and I feel very unsafe when I'm alone. And that's why I've been driving," said Zhao.
Zhao works in Chinatown, where parking is scarce. She said even walking a few blocks to her destination makes her anxious.
"During those few blocks, I feel very scared. I'm on high vigilant and carry defense pen, and try to look out for everything," she told KPIX.
But now, thanks to Citizen, she has one more tool. She just downloaded the premium version of the popular app, which sends safety alerts and uses law enforcement communications to provide real-time alerts.
The premium version, which launched last year and costs $20 per month, offers additional safety features including live safety agents 24/7 via video or text, who can escalate to emergency services or track the user's location.
"That made me feel a lot better. I know that I have a companion on my phone that's accessible anytime, any moment, any last few blocks, and with the press of a button, someone can be my witness," said Zhao.
Citizen's safety agents are former emergency responders, 911 dispatchers, or crisis counselors.
"A third of the Bay Area uses the Citizen app, and a third of the Bay Area is also Asian. And that's why it just made perfect sense for us to be a part of the solution here," said Director of Government Relations at Citizen Trevor Chandler.
Goodwater Capital, which provides grant funding to consumer tech startup companies, stepped up to cover the cost of 20,000 one-year premium subscriptions. Those subscriptions have a total value of $5 million.
"We believe that consumer technology is the most powerful force on earth, shaping culture and transforming the global economy at unprecedented speed and scale," said Goodwater Capital co-founder Chi-Hua Chien. "The Goodwater Collective is privileged to partner with Citizen to provide this critical tool in the fight against Asian hate."
Tammy Tan of San Francisco said she felt very safe when she arrived in San Francisco in 1992. That's not the case anymore.
"Right now, the economy is not so good. After 8 o' clock, it's very quiet in Chinatown. So if I walk by myself on the street, feel danger and nervous. So right now, this Citizen app help us a lot," said Tan.
For Zhao, who said she's had a few close calls with potential attackers, the violence in her community has been too much to bear.
"All these things just make it very difficult for all of us. Everyone have experience something like this or know someone that has. This has to stop, as a community we all need to come together to make this stop," she said.
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