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Law enforcement sees benefit in getting to know neighbors online

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AMARILLO - Law enforcement usually urges people not to put too much personal information online, but they a have a different opinion about a new social media site.

The site is called nextdoor.com. It's free to sign up, and your information can't be accessed by anyone who does not live in your neighborhood.

To join, you must be invited by a neighbor whose address has already been verified, or use your cellphone number or credit card to verify you do live at the address.

Residents in the Bivins neighborhood in Amarillo say their community is a fairly close one...

"But we don't know everybody,and the more we know each other, the better off we are I think," Bivins resident Anette Carlisle said.

So when Carlisle saw a post from a friend on Facebook about nextdoor.com, she signed up.

"You can put a picture on there, which I think is a good idea," Carlisle said.

She invited the neighbors she knew by e-mail.

"I think we've got 14 people on already," Carlisle said.

Then she sent 100 post-card invites to those she didn't know, all free on the website.

"I'm a long time resident of Bivins, and I thought that might be a good way to build community," Carlisle said. "So if we have an issue, or I'm having a party... They're all on here."

But it's not just about neighborhood block parties and making new friends. The site also serves as a modern age neighborhood crime watch.

Corporal Jerry Neufeld often speaks to residents at neighborhood watch meetings, but believes communities who keep in touch online are more effective in preventing crime.

"That particular street is going to be more successful than one who has a meeting this week, then doesn't talk for two years," Neufeld said.

Knowing your neighbors, and who belongs in your neighborhood, can be key to knowing when something isn't right. And that's exactly what Carlisle hopes this site will help to do.

"Crime prevention is certainly one thing, and we'd love to work with the local police department," Carlisle said.

Amarillo Crime Prevention will hold meetings with folks in a community about ways to keep safe. Neufeld says it's best to have at least 75% of neighbors on a street or a block available in order for a crime watch to be effective. You can contact Amarillo Crime Prevention at (806)378-4257.

The neighborhood crime watch signs that be posted in a neighborhood can be bought from the Amarillo Police Department. Neufeld says the cost is usually about $10 per household on an average block.

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