Inside Report: Website helps Baton Rouge neighborhood with crime alerts

by robert stewart

Advocate staff writer

Nancy Curry was signing up her neighborhood, Goodwood Villa, for the National Night Out Against Crime last year when officials from the program told her about http://Nextdoor.com, a social media website designed for neighborhoods.

“They said this is a wonderful way to alert people of anything going on in your neighborhood about suspicious activities or if somebody had been burglarized or their car broken into or their house broken into,” Curry said.

One year later, Curry says, she and other neighbors are using the site to spread the word about any suspicious activity in Goodwood Villa subdivision, which is near the Tara subdivision in Baton Rouge.

Curry, president of Goodwood Villa Area Civic Association, said that before she started the Nextdoor.com page, she would have to send out scores of emails to association members for any neighborhood alerts. She said 212 homes are part of the association.

But with Nextdoor.com, alerts can be sent out by any member of the site, Curry said. People also can use their phones to send and receive those alerts, she said.

“You don’t have to be home to know something’s going on in your neighborhood, which is wonderful,” Curry said. “And anybody can send an alert. They don’t have to call me and say, ‘Send this out.’ ”

Curry said about 60 of the association’s 212 homes have signed up with Nextdoor.com.

Curry said most of the alerts issued by the Goodwood Villa page so far have been related to suspicious people wandering around the neighborhood.

She said alerts also have been issued for home burglaries and burglaries of cars left unlocked in the area.

“If you know and recognize who is in your neighborhood, then you know who is the suspicious-looking one that doesn’t belong that’s walking slowly and looking down the driveways,” she said.

Curry, who has lived in Goodwood Villa with her family since the 1970s, also said Nextdoor.com has helped her meet more people in her neighborhood.

“I don’t know everybody, even at this point, but I know a lot more people than I did even after we’d been here, say, 20 years,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful that I can go down the street and see somebody I know and wave and ask how they’re doing.”

Her daughter also lives in the subdivision, a few blocks away from Curry and her husband, but their son lives elsewhere.

Five other neighborhoods in Baton Rouge — Morgan Place West, Hundred Oaks Addition, Lake Sherwood Acres, Southdowns and One Lakeshore Place — also have created a Nextdoor.com page, company spokeswoman Kelsey Grady said.

Nextdoor.com encompasses 10,500 neighborhoods in all 50 states, said Nirav Tolia, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer. It was formed in October 2011.

Nextdoor.com lets people post anything relevant to the neighborhood, whether it’s finding a lost pet or looking for a baby sitter, Tolia said.

“This is not a social network with status updates and photo sharing,” he said. “Nextdoor is about solving everyday problems that occur in the neighborhood.”

Tolia said preventing crime has become one of the most-frequent uses of Nextdoor.com because the free service can serve as a “virtual neighborhood watch” for neighbors who want to stay as connected as possible to remain safe.

“If we can come together with our neighbors, all of a sudden, dozens if not hundreds of eyes are looking out for suspicious behavior,” he said.

Robert Stewart is a general-assignment reporter for The Advocate. His email address is rstewart@theadvocate.com.