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Alachua Sheriff’s Office Partnering With Site Connecting Neighbors to Spot Crime

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The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office will be partnering with the social media site Nextdoor in an effort they say to increase neighborhood safety and community involvement.

The site, launched in October 2011, is designed to allow neighbors to communicate with each other about anything from car break-ins and missing pets to garage sales. The sheriff’s office promotion of the site joins Gainesville Police Department and the city of Gainesville, which have been partnered with the site in some neighborhoods since 2013.

Sgt. Brandon Kutner of ACSO said that the county agency learned about Nextdoor at this year’s Florida Crime Prevention Association conference in October, where the company that created the site held a presentation.

Described as a “private social network for your neighborhood,” new members to Nextdoor are required to verify their address and use their real names in order to access their neighborhood’s site, and the site guarantees that members’ information is private, according to its website.

Anne Dreshfield of Nextdoor said that 82,000 neighborhoods across the country have joined the site, and 1,300 city agencies, primarily police departments, have partnered with Nextdoor. The partnership allows an agency to view the different communities’ websites, post alerts and directly communicate with the neighbors.

According to a press Q&A resource on their site, NextDoor is backed by venture capital and angel investors and plans to make money by selling local business access to the neighborhood networks it creates.

Kutner said that the goal is for the sheriff’s office to be able to get information out to the community as quickly as possible. He said while ASCO already utilizes popular social media outlets, such as Facebook, to connect with community groups and forums, Nextdoor has the ability to be more accurate.

Because of the verification process, the ACSO is able to put out information targeted for a specific area and know reports coming from that neighborhood are from actual residents.

“It’s another social media tool that we can use to specifically send a message to that group of individuals,” Kutner said.

Currently, 61 Alachua County neighborhoods have active Nextdoor sites.

“The communication between the public and law enforcement is invaluable to make those communities even safer,” Kutner said.

About Jessica Hundley

Jessica is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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