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I have been an enthusiastic fan of the local social network, Nextdoor, since it launched. I started one for our neighborhood right away, and have worked to increase participation because I believe it has potential to drastically improve communication between neighbors as well as between neighborhoods and law enforcement agencies. We have made a few gains, but I notice recently that many members do not understand how the system works. A neighbor recently asked me where to find instructions to use the site. This inspired me to find this tutorial and create this post with some simple suggestions.
One of the most common misunderstandings seems to be about who can see the posts. Some folks think that because our police department is a member, and does post useful information to the community using the system, they are monitoring Nextdoor full-time. The posts initiated by the police force are visible to the force. All other posts are private from any government agency. There is a private messaging system with which to privately contact any cop who is in the system. Some officers also publish their phone numbers or e-mail addresses. This is not an official channel to report crime. It is a way to dialog about community issues that may include crime. The goal of Nextdoor is to increase engagement, not enter the arena of law enforcement. We already have a police force working very hard on that. Increasing engagement may eventually improve our crime statistics just because more pertinent information is shared.
The calendar and the classified sections are excellent tools to promote events or let neighbors know about services offered. The classified section provides free advertising between local establishments and local residents. The reason to use these special designations is simple. The conversation that is known as a thread or stream will move on with time and be buried by newer posts and conversations. New members will not be likely to search the conversations held in the past. They might, however, check the classified section or the calendar, just as they might in a newspaper. These useful sections are underused where I live. If a member shows interest in an event on the calendar Nextdoor will send an e-mail reminder when the event is soon to occur. There is a new feature I have not used much myself that tags, and recommends businesses that are discussed in the thread.
If you do not have a Nextdoor site in your area, I urge you to start one. It is available as an app for the phone, which most people use now. If you have a site I encourage you to use it to get to know your neighbors. It is free. What is not to like?
Our community in midtown Tucson started using the Nextdoor app six months ago. We now have 7% of our households in the area enrolled and communicating. This is a real change for us since few of the residents knew many other people in the vicinity. We still have more recruitment to do, but it is pretty easy and natural to grow the membership once the site gets started. This startup from San Francisco was started in 2010 by techies to meet a need that seemed obvious to them. Social media has made it possible to be in touch with folks around the world, but statistics showed that local communication was grinding to a halt. A third of Canadians and half of Americans did not know the name of a single neighbor. If you live here this should not shock you. Close knit communities are a distant memory for America. Gangs, vandalism, and drug related crime have a chance to thrive when nobody knows each other. Tagging and theft become a regular part of life when the entire population is isolated from each other. Nobody wins.
Nextdoor is a private way for neighbors to connect and start to improve social fabric of a place. Crime and safety is one of the topics frequently discussed. Like our counterparts across the nation I think it has been shocking to start to learn about how much crime is going on constantly all around us. Eventually, when we have more membership, I am sure it will become more difficult to commit crime without being busted by neighbors with cameras. We all look forward to that day since our cops are neither responsive nor communicative. People do complain about lack of law enforcement, but that will have no effect on the situation. Some angry citizens feel that owning many guns will protect them and their property, but I think this is a fallacy. One of the most common items stolen in break-ins is a gun. Heavily armed communities are not safer than those with a healthy respect for private property and a strong social fabric. They may be more dangerous and are probably depressed about what they perceive as a need to be heavily armed at home.
Here are a few good reasons to start using Nextdoor in your neighborhood:
I hope you will join us in creating safer more appealing neighborhoods through communication. Use this link to go directly to the Nextdoor site for more information and to join.
I am enthusiastic about Nextdoor.com. It has potential to become a tool of great value to fight crime and improve life. I invite everyone I know to start one for your neighborhood. I opened ours just a few days ago and we have gathered more than the minimum 10 members we need to have our site supported for free for our community. This is private, non commercial networking to improve the environment and create safer places to live. It is not connected to any government agency or political group. This start up knows that cities need this, and is developing the system with venture capital. It is brilliantly simple.
We have sunk to a new nadir in Tucson. Our neighborhood has a federally funded neighborhood watch consisting of only 5 households, for the sole purpose of willfully denying the presence of the charity scam, “Feeding the Homeless in Tucson’s Parks“. It is a sad state of affairs when your city will break federal revenue law, getting a grant to help a small group of white collar criminals break federal revenue law in front of everyone in the neighborhood. This makes it look like the best way to stay in any criminal business is to found a fake neighborhood watch to protect it, and help your local cops get a federal grant to help you deny that it is criminal to collect donations without reporting them to the IRS.
It is completely ironic to call this neighborhood watch when the majority has to watch the minority…and the authorities…openly break the law. This is why Nextdoor is an important way to clean up neighborhoods. When people know what is happening around them they can make improvements together for the benefit of all. When people live isolated lives, crime has more opportunity to exist. If there is a real neighborhood watch that succeeds in real life, I applaud you. In our case, we need to start by simply getting some neighbors to know their neighbors. That is progress in itself where I live.