Baltimore Police Engage Community Through Nextdoor App

The department plans to share information about events and services, in addition to ongoing crime or breaking situations.

by Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun / March 17, 2016

(TNS) — In addition to finding a baby sitter or a contractor, a private social media website will now connect Baltimore residents with their local district police commander.

Starting Wednesday, Baltimore police commanders will begin communicating with residents on Nextdoor.com, a private social network already in use in more than 200 city community groups. The officers will be able to tailor specific information to a single neighborhood, or even sections or a neighborhood.

"Nextdoor is a powerful tool because it gives us the ability to target messages by area," said Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. Nextdoor will provide "a direct line of communication with residents about important and often critical updates about crime and other critical events," he said.

The department also plans to share information about ongoing events and services, in addition to ongoing crime or breaking situations.

The website is free but requires users to create a log in where they must validate their home address and enter their full name before they can access the site or share information within the community. The police department will only see its own posts and not have access other posts on neighborhood sites.

Davis said the website will enhance police-community relations. "The more transparent the police department is, the better we're connected with our community and the safer we become" Davis said.

Baltimore resident Earl Johnson, a member on Nextdoor's Oliver community group, said he started the group because it was an easier way to communicate with his neighbors rather than passing out fliers.

During the April unrest, he said he fielded many concerns from residents about whether they were safe in the neighborhood.

They asked "should I stay or should I leave," Johnson recalled. "If it wasn't for the information pouring into Nextdoor about what was going on in my neighborhood… I don't think I would have been able to answer that question."

Ultimately, he advised his neighbors to stay, he said because other residents said they felt safe. "I knew they felt safe because we were communicating through Nextdoor," he said.

©2016 The Baltimore Sun Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.