Many police agencies are using social media to help connect with the communities they serve. Wired.com had a great piece recently that looked at how police departments have taken this approach a step further by using localized or neighborhood social networks to fight crime.
The piece explains how a neighborhood in Oakland, CA used the neighborhood social network Nextdoor to share information about a pair of suspicious door to door salesman who were actually using their sales calls to plan and burglarize homes. Neighbors sharing this information with police led to their ultimate arrest.
Tools like Nextdoor and Nixle, a text and e-mail alert system used by police, are not just altering the landscape of social networking. They’re also changing the ways cities across the U.S. ensure safety — helping residents look out for one another, helping cops make highly targeted disclosures and inquiries, and turning the tables on criminals who have long availed themselves of sophisticated communications systems and carefully plotted strategies. The change is being driven less by cutting-edge technology than by new demands for police transparency, by budget cuts, and by calls for greater efficiency and efficacy on the part of law enforcement.
Police agencies have long used programs like organizing Neighborhood Watch programs to get citizens involved in making their community safer. One part about this that especially intrigues me about localized social networks is the fact that using this can help citizens who can't or won't attend traditional Neighborhood Watch meetings to participate. I don't know about you, but after working all day, attending another meeting is usually low on my list of priorities.
What is your agency doing to help engage citizens in making their neighborhoods safer?