Proudly South African Unitehood App to Turn Everyone Into a Crime Fighter

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Unitehood is the first South African crowd-sourcing for safety Smartphone app, launched in November.

Crime remains a main concern among most South Africans. While many would like to be part of some kind of a solution, not many know what they can do to make a difference. A new proudly South African mobile phone application, which was launched in November, is set to change this, as it turns anyone into a crime fighter.

From house robberies, hijackings and murders to rape and assault: one can't open a newspaper without being confronted with South Africa's crime problem. Take the previous financial year. Between April 2012 and March 2013, the South African Police Services recorded 16.259 murders as well as 185.893 incidents of serious assault. The National Crime Statistics Report over the 2012-2013 financial year also showed 66.387 sexual offences, 105.888 aggravated robberies, 262.113 residential burglaries and 17.950 residential robberies. ( )

Fact is that most people don't want to stay on the side-line, and want to play a role in solving this situation. The problem is that not everyone knows how to go about it. Determined to change this, Dirk Grobbelaar co-founded Unitehood, a Cape Town based start-up. The company in the first week of November 2013 launched a brand new GPS-based crowd-sourcing mobile phone application which can assist people across the country in keeping themselves and others safe from harm.

“Many South Africans own smart phones, which they use for all sorts of purposes apart from making phone calls. We decided to tap into that infrastructure as a GPS-based safety networking tool for these types of devices,” explains Dirk.

In her 2012 Internet Trends Report, American venture capitalist Mary Meeker suggested that South Africa counts approximately 11 million Smartphones. That is a penetration of 21%. This rate is growing steadily as new and cheaper models flood the market.

“Unitehood works as follows,” Dirk says, showing the app’s sleek interface on his iPhone. “When something happens, for instance a burglary, you press the red panic button. After a 5 second countdown, it automatically sends an emergency call to the relevant emergency service you have pre-programmed, such as the police or your security company. In addition, the app sends a signal to all people who have Unitehood installed on their phone and who are in a 5 km radius of where you are.”

Unitehood users in the particular area where the emergency is taking place, and who have received the alert, can do various things: they can keep an eye out for any suspects running or driving by, and for instance snap their picture using the app. They also can come to the rescue of the victim only if safe to do so, or provide support through a built-in messenger system.

“Most crime happens unnoticed. Neighbours often don't know what happens next door, and vice versa,” Dirk notes. “This app changes things. Now, everything that happens in a certain area will be picked up by others. Unitehood, as the name suggests, pretty much turns you and your phone – and all the other users in your area – into a virtual neighbourhood watch.”

Dirk adds that Unitehood is more than just a crime fighting tool, as it can be used for a wide variety of emergencies: “You can indicate whether your alert is crime related or a medical emergency, a problem at sea, or even a missing child. In case of the latter, the app's messenger system enables the user to send a picture and description of the missing youngster to everyone in a 5 km-radius from the very moment their child goes missing, not hours afterwards.”

Hikers, runners and mountain bikers too could benefit from the app and the same counts for mountain rescue services. Dirk: “Having the ability to communicate with a network of mountain users in close proximity is a great comfort and possibly lifesaving in an emergency. Users can invite any other user to track you and while not everyone wants to be followed, it provides a valuable safety function in certain circumstances. People driving or walking alone at night could request their partner or friend to track them safely home. It also allows for two way tracking which has many benefits.”

Unitehood might not be the first panic button app available, but it is ground breaking in one particular sense. “Where other applications only send out alert messages to the friends you have pre-programmed in the app, Unitehood may reach out to people you do not know in addition to your chosen friends, creating a much wider protective environment in your situation,” Dirk says. “That is why we decided to do it differently.”

Dirk adds, “in many situations, the victim of a crime or an emergency is unable to press a panic button. With Unitehood, anyone trying to help or a witness to a crime is empowered by pressing the panic on their phone on behalf of the victim, sending an alert signal to the community in close proximity.”

Unitehood will initially be available in South Africa only, for iPhone and Android Smartphones. “It can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and Apple's iTunes Store, “Dirk says, adding that the app is free for the first month. “Afterwards you pay R8 a month. However, if you tap into the Unitehood loyalty system, you could end up getting the app for free. For that you'd need 60 points. You get these points by sharing the app and by assisting other users. “

Eventually, Unitehood will be taken globally. Crime after all is not just a South African phenomenon. Dirk: “At the moment, the app is focused on connecting South Africans for their safety and will build from there.”

For more information on Unitehood, visit

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Amy Greenwood
since: 04/2013
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