The economic growth that Latin American cities like Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia), Rosario (Argentina), or Trujillo (Peru) have experienced in the last decade has led to organized crime. César Vigo, a 26-year-old young man who wants to help prevent robberies in the Peruvian city of Trujillo, highlights this through a map of public insecurity.
“The real estate boom, the arrival of new companies, and the opening of large businesses attracted organized crime to Trujillo,” said César, who showed his concern and indicated that every day in the papers he reads about deaths and injuries as a result of settling scores and extortion by gunmen.
Additionally, César admits that there is speculation surrounding Trujillo's economic growth that claims the economic boom is a result of money laundering. “These events generate a sense of insecurity in people and a fear of going outside,” he said.
Faced with this situation, César and several of his friends thought of a solution to the problem, allowing them to go outside without fear and to avoid being yet another victim of crime. In February 2013, César devised the “Guachiman Project” during his participation in the Conectándonos Perú [es] event, organized by Rising Voices in Cusco. During the event, César identified insecurity as a main problem in Peru after reviewing studies and data on public safety in the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics of Peru [es].
Guachimán is a word used very colloquially in Peru, derived from the English words “watching” and “man”, joined together to mean “man that watches.” With the beginning of the Guachimán project, César found Amasuwa [es], a digital platform where victims of robberies can report crimes, created and directed by activist Larry Sánchez. César decided to join forces with him to strengthen the initiative, hopefully leading to greater results. In the end, the project was called Amasuwa.
Now citizens are challenged to contribute to public safety by reporting crimes on Amasuwa, indicating the scene, time, and items stolen.
There are two ways to report a robbery [es]: as a registered user – via Facebook – or anonymously. Registered users can report up to eight robberies per month and share the report on their Facebook walls; users that prefer not to register can report a maximum of three robberies per month. Regardless, there is a limit of reporting one robbery per day, ensuring that the service is not being abused with false information.
Whether or not the user is registered, the report published anonymous on the website. This way, Amasuwa is taking precautions to prevent retaliation against the those filing the reports.
The goal of Amasuwa is to use crime data to map out unsafe zones in Peru and alert the public.
César stresses that after filing out a report on the platform, citizens are able to share it on social networks and to add comments. César is convinced that social networks are useful tools for generating communities of interest in the digital space, as well as for spreading information on activities and opportunities.
While this initiative is not the only record of criminal offenses online in the form of a map of public insecurity, this project enables citizen participation through digital tools and social networks. Furthermore, it generates statistics on crime in Peru which can help authorities can look for more efficient measures to guarantee public security.
César says that the most useful thing he has learned during his participation in Conectándonos Perú was how to use datea.pe [es], a virtual platform that makes it possible to create participatory maps through citizen collaboration, and looks to harness society's collective intelligence to improve the quality of life.
For César, participating in Conectándonos and meeting other activists meant expanding his vision of Peru, its diversity, and its problems. In addition, he says he learned the true power of digital tools and social networks, and their ability to generate communities of interest and promote civic causes without geographical limitations.