Crime fighting forces are getting proactive as the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office joined the popular Nextdoor app network.
With a few keystrokes, county crime fighters gained instant access to eyes and ears in more than 1,350 local neighborhoods.
Sheriff Javier Salazar says that the app will be a valuable tool to manage many challenges.
"Traffic hazards, active shooter situations, God forbid, fugitives we may be looking for in the neighborhood, or just simply crime prevention tips,” Sheriff Salazar said.
Robbie Turner of Nextdoor said that the saturation rate of people using the service in the local area is very high.
“That represents 93 percent of the neighborhoods, within Bexar County, are using Nextdoor to talk to each other about things that matter the most in their neighborhoods,” Turner noted. “What Nextdoor does is it makes it easy for neighbors to establish their own virtual community watch. It's vital in strengthening community and combatting local crime.”
The Sheriff added that one of their first targets is the northeast Bexar County area where a teen was recently shot to death at a Whataburger at the corner of Walzem Road and FM 78.
“Absolutely, we're going to test the limits of it. We're going to try to use it in ways that maybe haven't been seen before," said Sheriff Salazar, who added that Nextdoor is especially helpful in getting information out in a timely way. “In any situation, like an active shooter, rumor control is what we spend a lot of our time doing. Many times, bad information gets in the way of progress and Nextdoor is going to be another way for us to stay on top of that situation and provide real-time information from the scene, and quash bad information.”
Turner said the service is free to law enforcement and easy to use.
“They're going to be able to post a message out to individual neighborhoods across the county, to their districts, or to the entire county and they can do that with the click of a mouse, so it makes it very easy, very efficient,” explained Turner, who added that Nextdoor has a verification process that only allows people who live in a neighborhood access to that shared data. "This allows them to know they can access their private website with only the people that live in the area that they live in."
Both Turner and Sheriff Salazar said one very important aspect of the new collaboration is that privacy will be maintained for users. Turner said that law enforcement will not have unlimited access to material on the site. She said they can send information out and they can receive messages from people who want to communicate, but they can’t read other posts.
“The neighborhoods remain private,” Turned said. “[Law enforcement] cannot see any of the private profile information. They don't see the neighbors or where they live. They can only see the replies to the messages that they post out so it keeps those neighborhoods private.”
Nextdoor is a free app. The logo is a green square with a white house.
The sheriff says it will only get better as more people sign up and start sharing life-saving information.