In the wake of recent tragedies around the world, many communities are looking for ways to connect with one another and help neighbors stay safe in times of distress.
According to local Alabama news affiliate WBRC, a new smartphone app called Nextdoor is allowing community members to fight crime and warn each other of potential threats in the area.
The Nextdoor app is a private social media network in which neighbors can advertise community events and send out urgent notifications, acting as a virtual neighborhood watch.
“Any way that you can share information with your neighbors, I think that’s awesome,” said Alabama police officer Michael Mangina.
The app was particularly useful in the Lake Cyrus community of Hoover, AL, when a 33-year-old husband and father of two was murdered. Shortly after news of the homicide broke, residents began using Nextdoor to alert neighbors and share information that could help police find the suspect.
“You know anytime there is something suspicious going on, people will send out a notification,” said Darrell O’Quinn, president of Birmingham’s Crestwood North Neighborhood Association.
Potential home buyers are now placing a much stronger emphasis on finding safe neighborhoods when searching for the perfect house. Many communities take a more old-fashioned approach to neighborhood watch, keeping in touch with one another constantly and sharing information in-person when something seems out of the ordinary.
Other homeowners tend to isolate themselves from neighbors for a variety of reasons. According to CBS News, nearly one-third of Americans have little to no interaction with their neighbors, partly due to a lack of trust.
Neighborhoods that do not have this intrinsic level of trust may want to consider implementing the Nextdoor app. There are currently more than 85,000 U.S. neighborhoods using the free app, and authorities believe that it is already helping to thwart would-be criminals.
“Most of the bad guys I’ve met, they’re not even smart enough to know how to get on a computer and set up an email account and register for these things,” Mangina added.
The state of Alabama already has four counties that use the app to directly communicate with residents in time of crisis, and it seems as if more U.S. communities will begin implementing Nextdoor or similar apps in the near the future.