Goodwood neigborhood praises value of high-tech neighborhood watch

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POSTED: Friday, April 5, 2013 - 10:29am

UPDATED: Friday, April 5, 2013 - 12:05pm

The Goodwood Villas Area Civic Association is part of a nationwide trend that combines social media with the traditional neighborhood watch.

And they're learning more about their neighbors in the process.

"To me, if you want your neighborhood to be safe," said Nancy Curry, head of the association, "you should know who lives in your neighborhood and who doesn't."

The Goodwood Villas Area Civic Association encompasses roughly 200 homes, but has no annual dues.

"We operate on a really small budget," Curry stated.

She distributed a neighborhood newsletter for several years, but they cost of printing and the time required for delivery made information-sharing a frustrating process. She looked into using a phone tree system, but if the no one is not home, phone trees are ineffective at communicating information.

"Somebody has to call somebody to report it," Curry said. "And that person has to sit down and call the company or make the message and send it out."

Instead, the civic association uses a free web service called Nextdoor. The neighborhood has its own site, which is restricted to those approved by Curry. Anyone can post about crimes or suspicious activity and those special alerts are delivered instantly.

"Everybody whose phone even can receive email and texting, they will get the alert on their phone," she said.

Everyone in the neighborhood can create a profile, which fosters community spirit. Residents can easily see if someone down the block would be interested in getting together to watch a game, or if they have children in the same school.

There are also sections for business offers or other community announcements.

"If you have lost your dog, or you have found a dog or cat, there's a little section you can click in, 'Lost Pets,'" Curry stated. "And you can even put in a picture, if it's your pet that's lost, that this is my dog, it's gone, have you seen it?"

Some neighbors choose not to create profiles, preferring to maintain their privacy. But they still benefit from the service.

"Information is more timely (compared to offline methods)," Curry said. "That's like, I can't say that enough, it's so important that your alerts are timely. Otherwise, it's not really an alert."

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