Mosca Inc, a Venezuelan based start-up, is proud to announce the public beta release of its mobile app available on the iOS. The Mosca app is an easy-to-use, location-based mobile app giving citizens the ability to combat crime in the developing world. —
Despite huge advances in crime prevention technology and methods, violent crime remains rampant in much of the world. Whether it is a result of corruption, incompetence, or lack of resources, many countries' police forces cannot quell violence, leaving citizens to fend for themselves. Venezuela is one such country, and while Venezuelan crime statistics are tragic, there is hope. Entrepreneurs like Saul Lustgarten and Rafael Zamora have used technology to combat violence, proving that human ingenuity can triumph in even the bleakest situations.
Although specific figures vary, there is widespread evidence that Venezuela has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Violent crime rates rose steadily during the presidency of Hugo Chávez, and climbed even higher under his successor, Nicolás Maduro. The Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV) estimates that 25,000 Venezuelans were murdered in 2013, compared to 5,000, when Chávez was elected in 1998. The number of kidnappings in the country also increased from fifty people in 1998 to 382 people in 2007. The government claims that the kidnapping rate has gone down since then, but many believe this is due to underreporting and that the real rate has gone up. The rise in violent crime has a variety of causes including:
Corruption — Police, judges, and other officials often commit or profit from violent crimes, and are thus happy to turn a blind eye or even actively support these crimes. Citizens often fail to report crimes for fear of retaliation.
Police Brutality — The OVV estimates that police committed 3,485 of the 25,000 homicides that occurred in Venezuela in 2014.
Lack of Resources — Even honest police and judges lack the training and the means to viably protect the people.
Impunity — According to a 2014 study, 98 percent of human rights violations that occur in Venezuela go unpunished. Criminals thus have little incentive to avoid committing crimes or even to temper their violence.
As shocking as these figures appear, many find the Venezuelan government's official response to be even more appalling. Rather than try to reform the country and put a stop to crime, Maduro and his party have claimed, without evidence, that crime has been going down in Venezuela. They dismiss the evidence of rising violence as fabricated, arguing that opposition parties fabricated this knowledge, to discredit a successful government. Though they have taken action against the murderers of high-profile victims, they have done little to protect ordinary people. Moreover, they have not released official crime data since 2003, making it difficult for citizens to protect themselves.
Unless the government changes its tune, violent crime rates are likely to keep increasing given economic decline and rising social unrest. Many citizens have lost faith in the government, turning instead to direct action and to market-based solutions. According to Lustgarten, this is what Mosca intends to help solve.
Aggravated with the government's failure to take crime seriously, Venezuelan entrepreneur and Brown University graduate, Saul Lustgarten developed Mosca in 2009. Originally marketed as "VicTeams," this product gave ordinary citizens the power to report crimes, compile statistics, and mark out particular areas as unsafe. In the absence of police protection, citizens can communicate with each other about best practices for avoiding theft and assault. Its features included:
Anonymous Reporting — Citizens are free to upload as much information as they want, without fearing retaliation.
Interactive Maps — VicTeams compiled all crime reports within a city or densely populated area and mapped out where crimes had occurred. Citizens could identify and steer clear of the most dangerous areas.
Crime Breakdowns — Besides listing the overall number of crimes committed in each place, VicTeams explained the proportion of murders, sexual assaults, kidnappings, thefts, and other specific crimes, allowing citizens to assess the relative risk of different places, and decide whether to avoid them entirely, travel in groups, or take other actions. It also provided information on the time, date, motives, victim's gender, and other details.
Ordinary Venezuelans had long done their best to protect each other by marking off unsafe areas with graffiti, organizing neighborhood watches, and when possible, hiring paid security.
VicTeams gained a new lease on life in 2014, when Lustgarten met Venezuelan engineer and entrepreneur Rafael Zamora. Hoping to reverse his country's deteriorating condition, Zamora helped Lustgarten re-launch VicTeams, this time as a mobile phone application. They renamed the software "Mosca," which means "fly" in traditional Spanish, and "be alert" in the Venezuelan vernacular. Mosca seeks to work with educators, NGOs, and if possible, the government, to raise awareness and teach ordinary citizens how to use the app.
Venezuela is by no means the only country suffering from high rates of violence and official corruption. Once they have perfected Mosca, Lustgarten and Zamora hope to market it in as many countries as possible.
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Release ID: 85591