Brookhaven police are moving into a new area of social media. On Aug. 22, the department announced it will begin communicating with residents using Nextdoor (www.nextdoor.com), a private social network for neighborhoods.
“We have always invested in innovative ways to increase safety for our residents,” Police Chief Gary Yandura said. “With Nextdoor, we can help empower neighbors to keep their communities safe and connected, and give them the ability to collaborate on virtual neighborhood watch efforts.”
Brookhaven is one of the newest cities to establish an active account geared toward interacting and updating residents by neighborhood or subdivision, said Officer Howard Miller, a community outreach and public relations official for Brookhaven Police.
During a meeting, a resident asked if Brookhaven police were using Nextdoor, and Miller said when the department looked into it, the immediate benefit became apparent.
“Unlike Facebook, it allows you to specifically send emails to certain neighborhoods rather than making a city-wide alert,” Miller said.
The department’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BrookhavenPD) has more than 2,400 “likes,” and Miller said these fans could be residents or people outside the community. But with Nextdoor, residents of individual neighborhoods must be confirmed, and Brookhaven’s 32 total neighborhoods on Nextdoor boast 3,800 people who have signed up.
The great thing about Nextdoor as well as social media platforms like Facebook is that applications allow officers to send posts from the road, Miller said, noting that keeping the community informed is possible in real time.
Community resident and Nextdoor user Jordan Fox said he likes that people have to use real names to identify themselves. “I like that everyone has to verify their address and use their real name,” he said. “That sets Nextdoor apart from Facebook and other social media.”
With Nextdoor, Brookhaven residents can join private neighborhood websites to share information, including neighborhood public safety issues, community events and activities, local services and even lost
“Police staff will not be able to see any of the content on your neighborhood website except for the direct replies to our posts,” Miller said, adding that Nextdoor is not the appropriate way to request emergency services, police services, report criminal or suspicious activity, file a report and such.
The Brookhaven Police Department will be able to post information, such as safety tips and crime alerts, to Nextdoor websites within the city.
“I have the ability to create a post and select whether to send it to the entire service area or a specific neighborhood,” Miller said, adding he then chooses a category for the post.
The categories police choose from include public safety, lost and found, and urgent alerts, which Miller said could include active pursuits where residents are asked to stay indoors.
“The ability for the police and the city to post updates and communicate with us through Nextdoor make it that much more useful and important to us,” Fox said.
In addition to Miller, the department public information officer, Major Gurley, also has access to the analytics as well as to posts in the neighborhoods. The police only see the replies to the posts they make, just like with other social media applications and websites.
Brookhaven police are considering the idea of adding police officers to act as liaisons for each individual neighborhood.
“This would make it more personal so people can collaborate with their officer,” he said.
Nextdoor is free for residents and the police department. Each Brookhaven neighborhood has its own private Nextdoor neighborhood website, accessible only to residents who verify that they live in the neighborhood. Neighborhoods establish and self-manage their own Nextdoor websites and the police department will not be able to access residents’ websites, contact information or content. Information shared on Nextdoor is password protected and cannot be accessed by search engines.
Those interested in joining their neighborhood’s Nextdoor website can visit www.nextdoor.com and enter their address.
To start a Nextdoor community, one person fills out an application and must sign up at least 10 neighbors in 21 days to make it official. More than 41,000 neighborhoods across the country now use the network, according to Nextdoor.com.
Miller said Nextdoor will help police share and collaborate more with its citizens, and establish more of a partnership between residents and police.
“We want to get to know the people in our city,” he said.