Nextdoor Debuts Service for Public Agencies

The popular social networking service will allow public agencies to communicate with more than 42,000 neighborhoods to discuss crime and safety issues.

by / September 30, 2014
Nextdoor co-founder Sarah Leary says governments can use her site to reach community members. Photo by Jessica Mulholland.
Nextdoor co-founder Sarah Leary says governments can use her site to reach community members. Photo by Jessica Mulholland.

Nextdoor.com, the private social network for neighborhoods, announced today the launch of Nextdoor for Public Agencies. The new platform will allow cities and their agencies nationwide to easily sign up, verify and start communicating with residents on Nextdoor via a secure network. Nextdoor is a private social network for neighborhoods -- and has 42,000 neighboorhoods throughout the country.

Using the platform, police departments, sheriffs' offices, fire departments, departments of emergency management and other public agencies can begin connecting with residents on Nextdoor almost immediately, allowing them to send targeted information to specific neighborhoods, groups of neighborhoods or the entire city. The platform is free for public agencies.

Sarah Leary, co-founder of Nextdoor, said the platform was originally focused simply on helping neighbors connect and communicate about local issues. But “soon after we launched, we saw that neighbors were naturally turning to Nextdoor to discuss crime and safety concerns,” Leary said. “It quickly became clear that residents also wanted local agencies to join the conversation and help make their neighborhoods safer.”
 
But, until now, the platform’s configuration would not allow that to happen. 
 
“In order to join Nextdoor, you have to verify that you live within that neighborhood’s boundaries, so our platform previously really didn’t allow for these really important voices to be part of the conversation,” said Leary. 
 
At the same time, Leary said they were hearing from public safety officials who were craving a way to communicate with residents about things like power outages, emergency evacuations, Amber alerts, disaster recovery and weather alerts, and saw Nextdoor as a great vehicle for doing so.
 
In response, Nextdoor has been working with 250 cities over the last two years, including Plano, Texas; Santa Cruz County, Calif.; North Las Vegas, Nev.; and Orlando, Fla., to develop and refine Nextdoor for Public Agencies. 
 
Leary said one of the challenges they faced was determining how to build flexibility into the platform to enable better coordination between agencies. For example, during recent wildfires in San Diego, both the police department and the fire department were sending out important updates, but they didn’t want to duplicate messages or contradict each other.
 
“Using Nextdoor for Public Agencies, they were able to see each other’s messages and to better coordinate their communication,” Leary said. 
 
Nextdoor for Public Agencies was launched in order to coordinate with the National PrepareAthon! Day of Action. The platform provides an online sign-up flow with agency verification and set-up.
 
Leary said the public agencies that are already utilizing the platform find that the two-way communication with residents helps build trust and community partnership. In addition, residents and agencies can use Nextdoor to organize virtual crime watches, prepare for an emergency, and to communicate during or after a disaster.
 
Leary said agency officials appreciate that every member of Nextdoor is a verified resident, and residents like hearing from their officials while still maintaining their privacy because information from their private websites cannot be accessed by the public agencies.
Justine Brown Contributing Writer