Neighborhood Crime Watch ... that’s so yesterday.
The cities of El Portal, Key Biscayne, and now Fort Lauderdale have turned to real-time crime-tracking and information sharing, instead of residents walking the streets.
Those communities have bought into a plan by a San Francisco-based tech firm called Nextdoor that allows police and city administrators to determine who gets to view a web page, and what that web page says.
Only El Portal residents, for example, can view El Portal’s page, and only Key Biscayne residents can see Key Biscayne information. This week for the first time, Fort Lauderdale residents will be able to obtain information on crime sprees or street closings on their very own web page.
The site can even be narrowed down more specifically, said El Portal Village Manager Jason Walker, who uses it to tell people living on a certain street about sidewalk or street repairs.
“We have people who ask for recommendations on roofers, plumbers. There are weekly crime posts. It can send emergency alerts by text,” Walker said.
So far, about 200 of El Portal’s 2,500 residents are signed up to Nextdoor.
South Florida is actually a little late to the game. Police, fire, and emergency managers in 140 cities across the country, including New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, have joined Nextdoor. The site was launched in 2011 and now boasts websites for over 29,000 neighborhoods nationwide.
Fort Lauderdale, which joined Nextdoor Monday, has already created sites for 69 specific neighborhoods inside the city’s boundaries, or about 70 percent of its population.
“Nextdoor makes it easy for neighbors to establish virtual neighborhood watch and help our officers combat crime,” said Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley.
The site wasn’t created specifically to deal with crime —it just morphed in that direction. It was created for neighbors to get to know their neighbors. Discussions and information on criminal activity now take up almost a quarter of the conversations on the Nextdoor site, company spokeswoman Anne Dreshfield said.
“We allow police departments to narrowcast and target information,” she said. It was created “for neighbors themselves. But we found cops were joining [the conversations] where they lived.”