Treasure Valley, Idaho, residents have been connecting via Nextdoor, a smartphone and computer app designed for neighborhoods, since it first became available in October 2011. About 250 Valley neighborhoods are using Nextdoor, including 101 in the Boise city limits.

The city of Boise is now partnering with Nextdoor. Starting Thursday, the city's police, fire and parks departments will be able to post neighborhood-specific information. City officials won't be able to eavesdrop on neighborhood conversations; those will remain private.

What are residents using it for? All sorts of things. They're sharing information about lost dogs and cats, warning others about crime, and organizing block parties, fundraisers and yard sales. Postings aren't as frequent as on Facebook or Twitter, and city officials don't plan to bombard residents. But if there is a series of similar burglaries in a neighborhood, authorities could post a warning for residents in that area.

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Crime and public safety issues are hot topics on Nextdoor. That's why police departments in cities such as Houston, San Jose and Denver are using the app. "To make best use of resources, we have to go where the conversations are," said Lynn Hightower, a spokeswoman for the Boise police and fire departments. "We'd be almost remiss to be not there. It's something that residents of the city are using." And it won't cost the city a dime, Hightower said.

©2014 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)