INDIANAPOLIS –Being a good neighbor is taking on a new meaning through an new online network. The free service called Nextdoor is similar to Facebook but is only for people living in the same neighborhood.
“Each person has to sign up individually and has to be invited on so we can make it secure. You can’t just log onto the website and say, ‘Oh yeah, I live on that block,” you have to have proof,” said Ann Bevilacqua, who started the Nextdoor group in her Indianapolis neighborhood, Delaware Trails.
About 35% of the 198 households in Delaware Trails are using Nextdoor. Nationwide more than 7,000 neighborhoods in 49 states are online.
Neighbors create a profile with as much or as little information as they choose. Users can post messages about a lost cat or a free sofa or create groups within the neighborhood for dog walking or a book club.
“It’s been really quite positive and we’ve had so many different uses for it that I’d never really imagined,” Bevilacqua said.
The big benefit is a feeling of security, Bevilacqua said.
“I think that if you know who your neighbors are and they know things about you, that they will be aware that something seems awry at that house,” she said.
One of the features under the “crime and safety” tab of the site is the ability for neighbors to send out an alert if something is suspicious. Because Nextdoor is web based, neighbors can get that alert on their smart phone or through email no matter where they are.
“If somebody’s going down the street selling something, we’ve had instances where someone will note on Nextdoor that it’s happening and then the next person says, ‘okay, well I think I’ll ask them a few more questions,'” Bevilacqua said.
Indianapolis Metro Police Officer Michael Hewitt said the concept of a neighborhood watch, whether online or the old fashioned way, is the best protection against crime in a community.
“Do contact the police if you’re going to be gone, get involved with your neighborhood watch group. We do recommend people get involved before something happens. Tell your block captain, let them know you’re going to be gone,” said Hewitt.
He also said during the spring when many families go on week-long vacations it’s best to leave your house looking as normal as possible.
“Go to the post office and stop your mail delivery or have a friend or neighbor in town collect your mail. Put your lights on the inside of your house on a timer, too, if you can do that,” he said.
While Nextdoor is a private, secure online network, Hewitt warned against broadcasting your vacation plans on other social media sites.
“Don’t Tweet, don’t’ Facebook, don’t do all the things we all want to do because we’re happy we’re going on vacation. I’d recommend you be careful about how to you put that out there that you’re going to be away from your home,” Hewitt said.