Photo: Julie Pike

Scholarship article

A flare for crime prevention

Police Officer Eirik Husby Sæther has been advising the founders of Flare. An expert on crime with several books to his name, Sæther believes that the app has the potential to make cities feel safer.

Eirik Husby Sæther is a police officer at the Oslo Police Headquarters. He has studied Criminology at Oslo University and is a crime novelist in his spare time – he has published six books to date, the most recent being Det vi skjuler (What we’re hiding).

Sæther and Sandø first met at a women’s event in Oslo. “As an Oslo kid, I naturally agreed with his thinking in helping people who live in cities to feel safer,” says Sæther. “His desire to create a sense of togetherness by bringing users together via an app further tickled the interest of the police officer inside me.

“That Flare facilitates contact between people that live in the same area but who don’t know each other was an eye opener for me, and made me think it would be a perfect city app. What’s great about Flare is that it can benefit absolutely everyone who feels unsafe, whatever their age or gender.”

Sæther adds that it’s important to stress that Flare is meant to complement rather than compete with the police.

“The police have limited resources, so they are strict about prioritizing when they should dispatch a squad car to investigate something,” he says. “What’s so good about the Flare app is that it provides a good opportunity to prevent a situation escalating. Even so, we’re not talking about some kind of vigilante movement.”

To ensure Flare works as a complement to the police, Sæther has three simple rules of thumb:

1. Don’t hesitate. “It’s far better to press one too many times, than one too few,” he says.

2. Contact the police and use the app as well. “Even though the Flare app has big potential, there’s no guarantee that someone will come and then you could be in trouble if you haven’t contacted the police as well.

3. Don’t get physical. “If you receive a call via the app, it’s best that you keep your distance and shout out to deter potential perpetrators.”

Sæther adds that Flare will help provide the police with good witnesses. “You will be a far better witness than the person who is subjected to criminal action,” he says. “(The victims) are often traumatized and therefore have problems explaining exactly what has happened.

“Flare has the potential to make all cities where a lot of people congregate feel safer,” says Sæther. “But at school, on holiday or at an international festival, it can provide an even greater sense of security. And when you’re abroad, you won’t have to remember the emergency services number.” 

Sæther advised Sandø to link up with Norwegian and foreign student organizations. “This meant they had to go there to build up a contact network. The great thing about this is that students are international – they love traveling and are big app users. Done correctly, the potential will be enormous.

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