BPD sign on to social networking site Nextdoor

Posted at 6:02 PM, Mar 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-16 18:02:22-04

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called Nextdoor another tool for transparency, and announced Wednesday that the department will be partnering with the social networking site.

"Today, the Baltimore Police Department is officially adopting Nextdoor, the free and private social network for neighborhoods to create stronger, safer neighborhoods across our city,” Davis said.

From reuniting residents with lost pets to reporting suspicious activity, the website is meant to be a virtual neighborhood watch in various communities.

“Nextdoor makes it easy for people who haven't met or maybe haven't crossed paths or live on opposite ends of their neighborhoods to communicate about the things that matter most to them,” said Joseph Porcelli, senior city strategist for Nextdoor.

The Baltimore Police Department wants to use the platform to target individual neighborhoods. Police commanders will be posting specific messages relevant to that area.

"Everything isn't meant for everyone. So it's nice to be able to say in one specific community this is what's going on, or this is what we're going to have going on as opposed to sharing with everyone on some of the other global site's that we use,” Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith said.

Davis also called it a resource for keeping rumors in check.

“Because a rumor that's left unaddressed and becomes repeated somehow becomes the truth,” he said.

Some of those rumors took over in the city during the unrest last April. Earl Johnson had just created a page for the Oliver neighborhood, and he said residents started using it to communicate about what was going on in their area.

“Residents were asking me should I stay or should I leave? And if it wasn't for the information that was pouring into Nextdoor about what was going on in my neighborhood, where we're seeing shots, where we're seeing people, I don't think I would've been able to answer that question,” Johnson said. “And of course, I told my neighbors to stay because everyone felt safe. I knew they felt safe because we were communicating through Nextdoor.”

The neighborhood sites are private, and users can only join by verifying that they are a resident of that particular area through the website. Davis said police will also not be able to see messages between neighbors. Police can post updates and then only respond to comments on the individual posts.

The website is similar to neighborhood Facebook pages, but police are not able to post in the private groups unless accepted. Smith confirmed that the department is also working to launch Facebook pages for each district.

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