A D.C. news crew robbed of thousands of dollars of cameras, laptops and other equipment was set to report on a so-called racist locality app called “Sketch Factor.” Using consolidated crime stats and firsthand reports, the app lists areas within U.S. neighborhoods that are at high risk for crime. The app evidently proved itself true, at least in this instance. The news crew found exactly what they were reporting on – firsthand proof of crime.
Sketch Factor's website, where the app is available for download, makes a candid acknowledgment of the contention:
It's no secret. We’ve seen the negative press. Setting the record straight: SkecthFactor is a tool for anyone, anywhere, at any time. We have a reporting mechanism for racial profiling, harassment, low lighting, desolate areas, weird stuff, you name it. When people actually download the app, they see that this is truly a tool for everyone. These hit pieces have attacked the founders personally.
CBS News on August 10 gave the details on the robbery: “The news crew's vehicle was burglarized while they were working on a story about a controversial app that alerts people to ‘sketchy’ neighborhoods… The crew had locked their news van on a street in Petworth in Northwest, D.C. while they were out in the neighborhood conducting interviews. When they returned, they found the lock had been popped out of the door of their news van, and that most of the crew's gear had been stolen.”
Ironically, one of the news reporters from WUSA9 used another app – “Find my iPhone” – and the crew was able to track down some of their stolen property that was evidently deemed worthless. Tossed in a nearby dumpster were the reporter’s cracked iPhone and a few other items, but the laptops and cameras appear gone for good.
WUSA9 reported on their experience, writing: “Typically our crews are reporting on these sorts of incidents, but on Friday our own WUSA9 crew's vehicle was burglarized.”
“I'm not going to call it a ‘sketchy’ neighborhood, but as folks were telling us that it was a good neighborhood, and that not much activity happens around there — as that was being told to us, our van was being robbed,” WUSA9 reporter Mola Lenghi said.
“We got back to the news van,” he continued, “and noticed that the lock was popped out. Got in there, and noticed that all of our stuff was gone. I had a backpack full of electronics.”
Photographer James Hash said that two backpacks filled with his personal tools were stolen. The value of the goods was “in the thousands,” and represented equipment that he had “built up over a career, 15 years,” Hash said.
The Huffington Post ran a very reproving story on the “Sketchy” app, titling the piece: White People Create App To Avoid, Um, 'Sketchy' Areas.
Say the HuffPost:
How are we supposed to define “sketchiness?” According to the Team SketchFactor blog, “it means an event that's uncomfortable and out of the ordinary.”
If the phrase “uncomfortable and out of the ordinary” sounds like a dog whistle for “minorities,” that's understandable. After all, it's easy to imagine a white dude who feels “uncomfortable and out of the ordinary” in a predominantly black neighborhood jumping onto SketchFactor and reporting that he felt “a lil sketched out LOL.”
What are your thoughts on this new app? Racist or realistic? Sound off below.