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Police developing a virtual neighborhood watch via social media

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By Brett Gillin

The city of Springfield Massachusetts has been the home to nine homicides already this year, up from just two at this time last year. That alarming jump in crime is leading the Springfield Police Department to look for new ways to help keep the residents safe. They may have found just the thing they’ve been looking for via social media. Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri and Mayor Domenic Sarno have just announced a brand new partnership with a company called Nextdoor, who created a “Private Social Network for Your Neighborhood.”

Nextdoor is a free service that operates much like Facebook. Users have to sign up for the service using their real names and addresses, which is then verified. Then, they are automatically linked with their neighbors. Once they are signed up, they can then share information and report everything from break-ins to vandalism, organize neighborhood watch groups, help find lost pets, or share information about reliable babysitters and plumbers.

“It will be a big deterrent I think in regards to property crimes and be on the lookout for the breakers,” Police Commissioner John Barbieri told WWLP.com.

The East Forest Park Neighborhood of Springfield has been using the website for three years to look out for one another and organize events such as their National Night Out, where residents get the opportunity to meet their police force one on one. “Nextdoor is really getting to know your neighbors. You know people used to wave, but now this is a cool site where you can know your neighbor,” Beth Hogan, an East Forest Park resident told WWLP.

The police are hoping to make Nextdoor an integral part of their plans to serve and protect the community going forward. Springfield Police Sgt. John Delaney told reporters that he hopes that communities will use the site to create their own virtual neighborhood watch programs and vowed that the department will monitor the site. He hopes that along with the reporting of crimes and suspected crimes, the site can also help raise the quality of life with residents by allowing them an easy way to report overgrown properties or illegal dumping.

The communication should also go two ways, meaning that the Springfield Police hope to be able to use it to issue crime alerts and other important information to the residents. “It brings neighbors closer together, which works for the police department by-and-large. Communities that talk to each other, that communicate, are more involved in each other’s lives, are safer communities,” Barbieri told reporters.

To date, 40% of the city’s neighborhoods have begun using Nextdoor, and the Springfield Police Department expect that number to grow quickly with the newly announced partnership.

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