Hostage Standoff During Citizen’s First Week in San Francisco

We launched as an open beta in San Francisco one week ago today. Users are already contributing live video, sharing incidents with each other, and engaging in live chats about what’s happening in their neighborhoods.

We’ve watched the Citizen community grow in New York City where there are 120,000 active users, and not one documented case of someone misusing the app, disrupting law enforcement or involving themselves in an active situation. We’re proud of our NYC community. As we watched new San Francisco users download, share and use Citizen, we waited for the first big incident to unfold live in the app.

On Saturday night, September 23rd, we began following and documenting a 911 call of shots fired in San Francisco’s Nob Hill neighborhood. We quickly learned this was an active hostage situation. The incident was reported at 11:46pm local time, and by 11:54 Citizen had posted updates that the suspect was threatening to shoot officers and holding hostages inside the apartment.

A crowd of people passing by formed behind the police tape blocking off the street. Emergency response vehicles lined the intersection. Three different Citizen users streamed live video from the scene. Two filmed from nearby apartments, and the third from the street safely behind the marked police line. Hundreds more watched. The collective heartbeat of everyone watching raced as the situation escalated.

On-duty Citizen staff listened, watched and communicated, making sure each update reflected the latest information to keep people nearby safe and informed, respect the hostages and victims involved, and protect the activity of police on scene.

In the first hour, Citizen posted nearly 30 updates: The hostage negotiator made contact with the suspect. The suspect hung up and turned off his phone. Shots were fired inside the apartment. Close to 30 users connected with each other in Citizen chat; they heard the gunshots, saw the flashing lights, and knew exactly what was happening the whole time.

At 3:01am on Sunday morning, after three hours of monitoring every minute of the hostage standoff, Citizen updated the app with the news that all three hostages were safe and sustained no physical injuries.

We’re sharing this incident with our community today to document the power of real-time information. The stakes are never higher than in situations like this, and with each of these experiences we think about the role Citizen played, the information we were able to share, if we helped keep people safe, and how we can continue to improve.

As we review our first San Francisco incident of this magnitude, we’re inspired by the way people used Citizen and their consistent good judgment throughout. People connected, communicated and cared. We can’t wait to see Citizen continue working in San Francisco.

Citizen recap of the Nob Hill hostage standoff.
Watch CBS SF Bay Area coverage with Citizen user video.
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