Nextdoor & Police Angst: Reporting Crime Through Nextdoor
Nextdoor, a social networking app for neighbors, plays a major role in building a sense of safety in our cities. Neighbors use the platform to cultivate local security by reporting suspicious activity and sharing news from their cities and local public safety service providers. Residents can also stay up-to-date with the latest reports from their local public agencies when those agencies setup Agency Accounts on the platform.
With all the talk of crime and safety concerns on Nextdoor feeds, however, the line between sharing news and reporting crime has been blurred. So much so, that Denver’s Police Department published a news release on the issue. They asked residents to report crimes to them rather than to each other on Nextdoor and reminded residents of a Nextdoor feature, designed to protect their privacy and avoid a “Big Brother” dynamic.
Nextdoor states this on its Help Center for connecting with public agencies: “Agencies will never see your profile or content from your neighborhood. They only see their own posts and replies to those posts.”
This feeds into why Nextdoor is not the best platform for reporting crime along with two more reasons: (1) public agencies have ingrained systems for efficiently and effectively addressing crime, and (2) public agencies are not required to monitor their social media accounts 24/7 as they are with their dispatch processes.
While local law enforcement agencies prefer that residents report crime by calling 911, there are two ways for residents to report risk of someone’s safety or property via Nextdoor:
1. Send an Urgent Alert to a Neighborhood
Residents can send Urgent Alerts, which are a special type of post that reaches other Nextdoor members immediately via text message (SMS), in-app notification and email. Urgent Alerts are limited to 110 characters and can only be sent to the Neighborhood a resident lives in.
2. Forward “Crime & Safety” posts to Local Law Enforcement Agency on Nextdoor
Crime & Safety posts can be shared with agencies if a user opts to forward it. However, this feature is only available in neighborhoods where staff have enabled it on their agency account.
Because lives and the health and well-being of communities are at stake, Tripepi Smith recommends that public agencies share resources and information for reporting crime on- and offline. Take a page from Denver PD’s book: remind your residents that the best way to report crime is by calling 911 and that any other means is appreciated, but secondary.
Police concerns and community confusion about Nextdoor use demonstrates just how pervasive social media is. For many, the idea of doing something other than calling 911 about a crime, seems odd, yet the habit of seeking and conveying information via a digital device is now so ingrained that Denver PD felt compelled to issue a statement.
Indeed, Nextdoor created the the Crime and Safety posts in response to the concerns of public safety agencies who were seeing a growing number of situations where crimes were being discussed on Nextdoor without being reported to the local police department.
As digital technologies become further baked into agency processes and services, the lines of community-agency engagement will continue to blur, and it is up to agencies to continuously clear up confusion. This is a growing pain of creating well-connected communities.
We encourage public agencies to keep your community in the loop on any system changes by reminding them of your current processes and tools for collecting crime reports and feedback.
PRO TIP: Add regularly-scheduled posts about this topic to your social media calendar.