Visualize this situation: You're sitting at home and notice a suspicious car rolling through your neighborhood.
It's not exactly the type of situation that would justify making a 911 call, and even a call to the non-emergency police line may seem like overkill. At the same time, you'd love to make the police and your neighbors aware of the car, just in case.
In the past, many would have simply shrugged the situation off, called a neighbor, or raised the issue at a neighborhood watch meeting. But now there's an easier option: a social media site called Nextdoor (nextdoor.com) that allows you to connect with your neighbors and, if you choose, a crime prevention officer with the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Officer Jon Sharketti is one of five officers who started monitoring a new police Nextdoor account in late April. As of Monday morning, he noted there were 9,777 Nextdoor members in Colorado Springs — making Nextdoor a great supplement to a neighborhood watch program.
"They go together like peanut butter and jelly," he says.
Nextdoor connects neighborhoods, meaning that only verified residents of a specific area are connected. Typically, the service acts like a virtual message board for neighborly information. (An Indy staff member with an account has been receiving messages about lost keys, free landscaping stones, and private piano lessons, for instance.)
Sharketti notes that he can't access all those messages — only ones sent specifically to the police, or that the police are copied on. And that's fine with him — he says police don't have to dedicate much time to monitoring Nextdoor, but find it helpful in neighborhood policing efforts. He hopes people will contact him with law enforcement questions like how to protect their homes for the holidays and with tips about suspicious activity. (Nextdoor isn't the appropriate place to report a crime.)
When those tips are put together, he says, it can help police identify crime patterns — like tying break-ins to a suspicious car. Nextdoor even allows neighbors to send police a photo of suspicious circumstances, which can be especially helpful.
"We want people to share that information that would otherwise go nowhere," he says.
The police will also be reaching out to neighborhoods through Nextdoor. Sharketti says he plans to share information about crime prevention and community events like clean-ups.