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  • Writer's pictureLenora Thomas

Lightcatch: Community Alerts in Real Time

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

If you live in rural Alberta, chances are you’re concerned about the break-ins and suspicious activity that many communities have experienced. You and your neighbours may also try to keep one another up to date so that you are aware of what is happening in your community. Lightcatch is a free app developed in Grande Prairie that is helping residents feel safer by allowing them to report crimes to their neighbours quickly and easily.

Darren Boyer started Lightcatch as his IT company looked at ways to transition from the oil and gas industry. Darren recognized that he had great staff and wanted to keep them on in the face of a rapidly changing environment. The team brainstormed a number of ideas. They knew there were issues with increased crime in the Grande Prairie area, and they took a leap to test whether it was something they could address.

Starting with a group of Facebook users, Darren and his team began to track instances of suspicious or criminal activity. It didn’t take long to convince the team they had a winning idea. Within the first six months, the group had helped locate 35 vehicles. Within 10 months, they had recovered more than $1 million of stolen equipment.

At this point, Darren decided to get serious and secured financing to build an app. Moving from the Facebook group to an app provided Darren and his team with the ability to:

  • Alert anyone in a 20-km area that someone is behaving suspiciously or has acted criminally.

  • Those users can then update the alert that aligns to that initial notice with updates and confirmation. Example:

One of the best examples that Darren shared with us involved one of his company’s advisors. The advisor’s wife was at home when someone broke into their quonset and stole their truck—blowing through the door of the quonset. An alert went out right away, and people in the community started watching for the truck. As the truck worked its way through the area, many people noted it. After 60 minutes, a community member uploaded video footage and a location tag. At 75 minutes, the police stopped the truck and arrested the man behind the wheel. While Lightcatch can’t take credit for the arrest, it helped track down the man. As it turned out, it was fortunate that the police—and not community members—approached the suspect. He was one of Canada’s most wanted and had escaped four manhunts (including dogs and air support) in 2020.

Darren is excited about the positive impact that his team’s app has had in Alberta. After starting using the app, Red Deer experienced a 41% drop in stolen vehicles (compared with 15% nationally). This is significant, given Red Deer is among the top-10 highest crime cities in Canada. In Ponoka County, one of Darren’s customers went from having weekly alerts to having none which made him wonder if the app was working. He and a neighbor drove to another county just to check. They discovered the app was still active, it was just that their community had seen a slow down criminal behavior, some of which Darren believes can be linked to the use of Lightcatch.

Lightcatch provides a faster way for communities to notify police, and provide accurate information to them like vehicle type, colour, and location. It makes it harder for those who might be looking for an ‘easy’ score to go unnoticed.

Darren and his team are currently working on how to get more municipalities and users on board and are testing in areas outside of Alberta.

As always, I asked Darren why he started his business in Alberta. Initially, he was looking at the best way to get invested in the great economic tide that came with oil and gas, which is how he started his IT Consulting business. As our economy changed and projects changed, he had a chance to work with developers remotely and decided that running a business in Grande Prairie didn’t mean that he had to limit who he worked with. Alberta is where his roots are, and his team is, and they have access to the resources they need regardless of the location.

Darren hopes that you will download Lightcatch (it’s free) and spend five minutes a week helping your community get just a touch safer.

Watch our interview:

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