City partners with Nextdoor

Published 8:59 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Citizens who are part of a private social network now can get notifications about public safety directly from the Suffolk Police Department through the network.

The city has partnered with Nextdoor to improve communication with residents. Nextdoor, a national sponsor of National Night Out, already includes more than 50 neighborhoods in Suffolk, according to a city press release.

“It was kind of a happy coincidence that they happened to be a partner for National Night Out,” said Maj. Stephanie Burch of the Suffolk Police Department.

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Nextdoor allows residents who live in the same neighborhood to create their own community within the social network. Information shared there is not accessible by those outside the community.

Cusi Hamlin, who started the Nextdoor page for her neighborhood, Hillpoint Farms, in April 2012, said residents use the online community to share information about events, find lost pets, start walking groups, sell household items, get recommendations for childcare and other services and more.

“We can use it in a lot of different ways,” Hamlin said.

A couple of years ago, Hillpoint Farms residents used it to share information about a suspicious vehicle that was frequenting the neighborhood at night. Police were eventually able to arrest the person using the information, Hamlin said.

That’s the kind of information the Suffolk Police Department hopes to share using its new partnership, Burch said.

“It’s very geographically focused,” Burch said. “It’s really valuable to us, because while we might have burglaries in a particular area — that doesn’t mean we have burglaries all over the city. There’s no need to send a blast message to everyone and create heightened apprehension when there doesn’t need to be.”

Burch said police handed out cards during Tuesday’s National Night Out events encouraging residents to sign up for Nextdoor. About 4,000 Suffolk residents are already on it, she said.

In addition to crime news, the city also will post information about services, events and emergency notifications, according to the city press release.

Several social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, are among the ways the Suffolk Police Department communicates with residents. It also has a Reverse 911 system that can place calls to residents with a message.

But regular social media and Reverse 911 all have the potential to reach people who don’t necessarily need or want to hear the message.

“We’re very judicious in the use of (Reverse 911), because people don’t want to get phone calls at home,” Burch said. “Nextdoor is a real passive way of reaching the community, and it taps into people who specifically want to know.”

Hamlin, who has nearly half of her community’s residents signed up for Nextdoor, said she believes the police department’s partnership will be useful for Nextdoor users.

“When people start talking, you build a better neighborhood and community,” she said.

Burch said the police department hopes residents will use Nextdoor as a tool to become more engaged.

“We would encourage people to join and connect with us,” Burch said.

In the meantime, the department will continue to use other forms of social media but is trying to gear them toward good-news stories, rather than reports about crime.

“It kind of was an outgrowth of what was going on in the nation,” Burch said. “We just wanted to tell our own story and tell the stories of the good stuff and not always the bad stuff. It doesn’t take but a minute on social media to recognize people want to hear good news stories.”

Nextdoor is free to residents and the city. Visit to get started.