SAFETY IN NUMBERS: GeoSure travel app offers insights around the block and the world

436

AURORA | Ask a dozen people how safe Aurora is, and you’ll likely get a dozen different answers.

Different cities across the world? Same thing. Everyone has an opinion.

Michael Becker knows it’s difficult to suss out the safety of a city. The Boulder resident said he has traveled to some “off the radar” places he wasn’t sure were totally safe.

Now, Becker thinks he has the answer — and he can embed it on your smart phone.

The crime rate, media reports, and stories told through the grapevine all shape people’s perceptions of a place. Worry can amplify for women, minorities and LGBTQ people, Becker says.

To tackle the problem, Becker launched GeoSure five years ago. It’s a phone application providing users with a simple score indicating the safety of a place down to a neighborhood.

With over 65,000 places scored across the world, users can download the free app, enter some personal information and browse safety scores not only in Argentina, but individual Buenos Aires neighborhoods.

The goal is to show people that many streets across the world aren’t as scary as they might sound, Becker told The Sentinel.

“You can spend hours researching the safety of Cape Town, Zimbabwe or Detroit, for that matter,” Becker said. “There’s a big difference sometimes between the perception of a location, or neighborhood, or city and objective reality.”

Becker said GeoSure uses machine learning and artificial intelligence technology to pull data directly from government crime and health databases, news reports, travel warnings and more. Big data sources include the World Health Organization, Interpol, and the Centers for Disease Control.

But the GeoSure information highway goes both ways: users also update their apps while experiencing a place, feeding positive or negative information into the system.

What pops out is a color-coded scoring system between 0 and 100 — 100 being a “war zone,” in Becker’s words, and 0 being heaven itself.  The scores constantly evolve in response to new reports and even whether it is day or night.

“Our goal is to get more people to travel, and to travel in a more informed fashion,” he said.

GeoSure itself resembles many other GPS-based smart phone applications such as Uber or GoogleMaps. On the app, the user can zoom in closely as a neighborhood in Dar-es-Salaam, although scores in many distant lands appear fewer and far between than those in London, for example.

On GeoSure, a Sentinel staffer’s profile indicated Aurora won a 39 overall. That’s pretty safe, and rated equal to Denver overall.

But on a granular level, GeoSure rated the north Aurora neighborhoods near East Colfax Avenue and Havana Street a 33, some of the safest in the region. That’s better than the Tollgate neighborhood’s 36, Dam East-and-West’s 38 and downtown Denver’s score of almost 60.

Becker said there’s a lot that goes into the changing scores. GeoSure looks at health indicators, for example, to determine how clean the water and air is in a city. Scores might also evolve in response to political crises, such as the recent coup in Bolivia.

The app also specializes in providing numbers specific to individual users. For travelers identifying as part of the LGBTQ community, individual scores might take in recent reports of hate crimes or harassment, Becker said.

In 2018, GeoSure released its assessment of the safest neighborhoods for LGBTQ travelers. Topping the list was the Castro District in San Francisco, a long-standing hub of gay culture, with a score of 17. Second was Berlin’s Schöneberg neighborhood at 24.

Or, the app will take into account political freedoms and safety for women.

Although GeoSure scores change often, the app will confirm that a visit to Homs, Syria should probably wait. That city was scored a perfect 100.

The application is free and can be downloaded on Apple’s App Store and on Google Play.