Nextdoor.com is sort of a digital community bulletin board and neighborhood-specific Facebook combined. Residents of a defined area can sign up for free to interact with their neighbors, advertise garage sales or inquire about babysitting availabilities. And, to hear about crime in the area.
And that’s where the Harris County Sheriff’s Office comes in.
Major Edwin Davis spoke at a press conference announcing the partnership in Crosby, northeast of Houston.
“Nextdoor is a powerful tool because it gives us the ability to narrowcast information. We can now send targeted information to specific neighborhoods, groups of neighborhoods or sections of the county rather than only being able to broadcast information to all residents.”
The Sheriff’s Office joins the Houston Police Department as a law enforcement partner for the network locally. Major Davis says the partnership is yet another tool to reach residents by means of social media.
“Social media has been a great tool… I mean, Facebook and Twitter and all of them have been just great because any time we can access information that we don’t have it’s a great tool for us. People send things in anonymous and we’re able to act on it.”
The Sheriff’s Office also never wastes an opportunity to advertise its iWatchHarrisCounty smartphone app, which residents can use to report suspicious activity or crimes. The agency recently recorded its 50th arrest thanks to information received through the app. Spokeswoman Christina Garza says law enforcement’s trend toward more digital communication mirrors societal behavior.
“We have to get with technology to keep that communication open. It’s no longer just when we host a town hall meeting in your community that that’s the only time that you can communicate with us or see us or have a conversation with us. Now you have it literally at your fingertips 24/7.”
Nextdoor co-founder Sarah Leary says about 20 percent of conversations on Nextdoor websites are about crime and safety.
“Law enforcement has known for decades that one of the most powerful ways to keep a community safe is to get the neighbors talking to each other and looking out for each other and sharing information and hopefully preventing crime before it happens.”
According to the company, at least 375 neighborhoods, or 54 percent of Harris County, have started Nextdoor websites.