By Nate Doughty – ReporterApril 08, 2022, 03:29pm EDT Updated 04/09/2022 3:27 pm
At the end of the day, Carlton Vreen just wants everybody to make it home safe. That is, home safe from the law enforcement officers who are conducting traffic stops.
To do so, Vreen said he’s created what he believes to be a solution that could curb violence at traffic stops as well as serve as a transparency tool for drivers and law enforcement officers alike. It’s since gone on to draw the interest of national legislators as Vreen works to expand the platform into pilot programs across the country.
With the mobile app Make it Home Safe, available for iOS and Android devices, users are able to upload identification documents and other pertinent information — such as if a motorist has a disability or health condition — to the platform. Police officers who then use the Make it Home Safe app could then know who they are pulling over before they even step out of their vehicle. This could also provide the motorists who are using the platform with information on who is stopping them and confirmation that they are being pulled over by a legitimate police officer.
This past week, Vreen had the opportunity to showcase the app’s abilities to members of the U.S. Congress and other national figures during the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) CES on the Hill event in Washington, D.C. Smaller than the annual CES flagship event held in Las Vegas, CTA selected just 16 tech companies to participate in this year’s CES on the Hill event, which included tech giants like Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com Inc., and Meta Platforms Inc. (previously Facebook), among others alongside Make it Home Safe. CTA also selected Pittsburgh-based autonomous vehicle company Aurora Innovation Inc. to participate in this year’s event.
Vreen said the interest the app saw at the event is likely to lead to further levels of success in the weeks and months to come.
“Their response was overwhelming, it was outstanding; so many people when (CTA first) advertised this event and they heard about Make it Home Safe, they couldn’t wait to meet me and also have a demo of the application, it was just incredible,” Vreen said. “It was exciting and it was exhilarating to meet these movers, these shakers, these policymakers, to expose them and to introduce them to this innovative technology that I’ve created to help increase safety.”
One of such talks Vreen had was with Nicole Malliotakis, New York’s 11th congressional district representative who represents parts of New York City in an area that mostly consists of Staten Island. Vreen said Malliotakis was so impressed with the app that he said she’d be working to get Vreen in contact with officials at the New York City Police Department, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, for talks about establishing a possible pilot program.
“She showed great interest because she works with a lot of law enforcement in New York City,” Vreen said. “(She) was very excited to hear about this and the new technology that I demonstrated.”
Prior to the event, Vreen said he’s been in talks with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, the Aliquippa Police Department and the Columbus Division of Police about implementing a pilot program with the app. He’s optimistic about working with Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey‘s administration in seeing his app’s deployment locally.
As for funding, he’s applied to the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s recently announced URA Ventures program. He’s secured a $50,000 funding award from AlphaLab, a startup accelerator from Pittsburgh-based seed-stage investment group Innovation Works. He’s made the app with the help of his wife and the startup’s Chief Operations Officer, Pamela Vreen, as well as several contractors who worked on design, coding and other elements of the platform.
“Safety is important to all of us and when it comes to the safety of our families, our friends and law enforcement and also having experiences that are frightening and intimidating for motorists and is also a concern for police, too. This (issue) has caused bad decisions even in our own city that has cost lives and ruined lives,” Vreen said. “I have experienced some of the racial profiling, I’ve experienced some of the overreach by law enforcement myself. That one wrong decision could be a permanent decision for both the motorist and police. I want to make this interaction safer for both sides. It’s a big problem, it’s a costly problem, it’s a dangerous problem and it’s a deadly problem, especially for people of color.”