A Network of Neighbors New app allows communities to keep safe

Staff Writer

by cigi sparks
o-n-e reporter
The Catawba County Sheriff’s Office has began using an online social network to keep track of neighborhood and community issues.
Nextdoor.com offers community members with a way to connect online, enabling them to have conversations about neighborhood issues and also to communicate directly with the sheriff’s office.
“Its easier than community members calling to the communications center or calling our tip line,” said Sheriff’s Office Lt. John Helton. “People can submit information to the sheriff’s office through the app and communicate with neighbors as well.”
For example, if a neighbor notices a suspicious vehicle in the area, they can alert the rest of the neighborhood’s members via the app. If the community notices this as a large or reoccurring issue, they could then notify the sheriff’s office and officers would then increase patrol in the area.
The sheriff’s office began using Nextdoor at the end of July. On Aug. 24, the sheriff’s office announced via the platform that community members would be allowed to forward information directly to law enforcement.
“We want to announce that you may now choose to forward important Crime & Safety messages with the Catawba County Sheriff's Office via Nextdoor. We want to be very clear that this is NOT a tool to report emergencies or file an official crime report. It's very important that you call 9-1-1 in the case of an emergency,” according to the post. “As always, we cannot view any content that you do not choose to directly forward to the Catawba County Sheriff's Office. We cannot see the posts and replies that are made in your neighborhood.”
43 neighborhoods in the county already utilize Nextdoor, along with a total of 2,170 local subscribers. Many city police departments in the area are looking to begin utilizing the platform as well, according to Helton.
“To get your own neighborhood watch together, set up a meeting and invite everyone who lives around you as well as a representative from the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office. Try going door-to-door to tell people personally, or create and drop off a small flier that announces the time, location and intent of this meeting. On the night you do meet, explain to everyone the benefits of working together to watch over each other’s property, and allow a Deputy to speak to the group,” according to an article on community watch from the sheriff’s office. “The Deputy will be able to offer great tips and training that will help you protect your neighborhood more efficiently. In some cases, depending on your neighborhood, it’s a good idea to have someone who can speak English and Spanish present so they can translate to residents who are not bilingual.”
The platform is accessible via computer at www.nextdoor.com or via app through the App Store or Google Play Store.
For more information on the social media platform, visit the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CatawbaCountySheriff/.