(TNS) -- Austin police have begun using the social media website Nextdoor to garner input on their performance and the safety of the city, Police Chief Art Acevedo announced Monday.
The Police Department posted its first polls on the website on Friday, asking residents whether they feel Austin is safe and what their most important public safety concerns are. As of Monday, more than 2,400 account users had participated and had left hundreds of replies.
In the first poll, 87 percent said they felt safe in Austin. When asked what public safety concerns are the most important, 56 percent responded that they would like more emphasis on community policing, which broadly refers to police using time to actively engage with residents.
The polls will remain open for voting for about two weeks, police said.
Nextdoor aims to connect neighbors through a private social network, which requires users to verify their addresses. The company sends a letter to the address of each account holder, who then has to verify that he or she received the letter before being able to see posts from neighbors or start posting, Nextdoor representative Robbie Turner said.
In Austin, about 89,000 residents have signed up with Nextdoor, Turner said. The website is not available in Spanish, and that could, in effect, leave out input from the estimated 200,000 Austin residents who primarily speak Spanish at home and do not consider themselves fluent in English, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Nextdoor approached Austin police about participating in the pilot program, making the Police Department the first agency in the U.S. to use Nextdoor to poll users.
Acevedo emphasized that the initiative would not put people's privacy at risk. Police will be able to see only messages that are sent directly to their account and replies to their poll postings, Turner said.
"We can't get information on you," Acevedo said. "It's not like a Big Brother type of thing. This is about getting to hear from the people we serve."
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