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HLN: Know your neighbors and use Nextdoor.com

According to a June 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center, only 29% of Americans know some of their neighbors and 28% know none of their neighbors by name! So this week through this weekend, Mario Armstrong is appearing on HLN to talk about what YOU can do to meet and get to know your neighbors and use that knowledge to better connect with people, reduce crime in your neighborhood, and just keep tabs on what’s going on!

What is available these days that people can use to to not only connect to their neighborhoods, but protect their neighborhoods?

Nextdoor.com is a free platform that launched back in the fall of 2011. It is a unique social media site that unites neighbors and neighborhoods all over the country—over 16,600 neighborhoods in all 50 states. This is a great way for people to connect within their neighborhood. It is an open forum of sorts for people to reach out and discuss anything and everything in the neighborhood—this can be both good and bad.

Yes, it is great for getting to know one another, but you have to use your imagination as to all the various ways you can use it within your neighborhood. A topic that you frequently see appear has to do with recent crime activity—what happened at what addresses and if anyone saw anything or what if anything was reported to police.

But Nextdoor isn’t limited to just being a crime watch. Trying to organize something in your neighborhood? Get creative and you’ll find tons of ways to use Nextdoor as your platform. You can use it to organize almost anything, but here are a few ideas to get you started: use it launch a bakesale to raise funds for the local school or softball team. Organize interested people and start a community garden. Have multiple people get together and put together a massive, multi-family garage sale. Team up with your neighbors to find lost pets or other misplaced items.

One cool feature is Nextdoor’s version of a modern day Neighborhood Crime Watch program. People you may have never even met, that live blocks away or a couple of blocks over are telling you, “…last night, around 3:25am cars were broken into at Oak and Main Streets. The police were called. If anyone has information or if anyone had anything taken from their car, please let us and the police know.” This is the type of thing that if it gets out that an entire neighborhood has signed up for it, can really empower them as far as keeping and eye out for criminal activity as well as keeping a eye out for their neighbors.

Is it safe to use?

Well one thing you need to remember is that you will be giving out some private information about yourself. The site itself is a safe and private place where people can feel like they are actually in an online neighborhood. In order to even use the site, every neighbor must verify their home address to ensure that they do in fact live in that neighborhood. This can be done using one of these three methods: 1. Postcard with unique code sent to home address 2. Phone call to a listed number registered to home address 3. Credit card billing address which matches home address. So unlike other social networks like Facebook or Twitter, on Nextdoor you know with a fair amount of certainty that people are who they say they are. But that doesn’t mean you should blindly trust people just because they’re on the service! As Mario always says, you have to be careful when you’re online all the time!