Some travelers who find themselves exploring a strange city or unfamiliar part of town engage in a constant internal struggle to determine whether or not they are safe. Lots of graffiti and trash tumbleweeds? Lots of chain link and corrugated steel? Moderate to excessive amounts of blood? You might be in a "Sketchy Neighborhood"! Or you might be in your own neighborhood, or the neighborhood of a friend or delicious restaurant. Fortunately, a new app, called SketchFactor is here to help people totally devoid of basic awareness figure out if they have stepped into a potentially dangerous situation.
Here's how it works: Upon exiting the train in a remote neighborhood at 2 a.m., simply pull your brand new iPhone 12 from your Jack Spade messenger bag. Wave it around until you get a signal—is the service better in that dark corner across the street? Yes, good. Go to that dark corner across the street. Have you been mugged yet? If not, you are in a Safe Neighborhood. Celebrate by tearing off your shirt and balling it up into a pillow to enjoy a nice nap on the pavement. Wallet uncomfortable in your back pocket thanks to wads and wads of bills? Go ahead, rest it beside you. Remember, you're in a Safe Neighborhood!
When is it OK to enter a Sketchy Neighborhood? Glad you asked!:
1) You live there.
2) A friend or family member lives there.
3) It contains a place or places you care to patronize
4) You are a competent being capable of discerning how to carry yourself in an unfamiliar location. Note: If you suspect you are unsafe, this is not the optimal time to procure your expensive iGadget to consult an app.
Might the residents of a so-called "sketchy" neighborhood find this useful new technology offensive? Sure! Are the crowdsourced interpretations of "sketchy" going to get racist as fuck? Yes, with haste. Fortunately, the creators of SketchFactor have considered this:
What does sketchy mean?
Sketchy means a number of different things. To you, it may mean dangerous. To someone else, it may mean weird. [Author's note: If you don't see anything weird, you are either not in a city, or you're in Minneapolis.]
What can I report?
You can report any sketchy incident you see fit.
What about the racial and class implications? Doesn't this harm communities?
SketchFactor is a tool that can be used anywhere at any time by anyone. The app is not exclusive to privileged communities or tourists. Many of our users experience racial profiling, police misconduct, and harassment. We encourage all users to report this information. In addition, we partner with community organizations to ensure all members of the community have access to this app. [Author's note: What a pretty thought! Maybe it will work! Subnote: Riiiiiight.]
Co-founders Allison McGuire and Daniel Herrington elaborated to Crain's: "And even though Dan and I are admittedly both young, white people, the app is not built for us as young, white people. As far as we're concerned, racial profiling is 'sketchy' and we are trying to empower users to report incidents of racism against them and define their own experience of the streets."
For reference, here's a photo of McGuire and Herrington posing in their Sunday finest against what may or may not be a sketchy brick wall:
SketchFactor will be available for download Friday.