Fellow joiners sought for online block watch

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WALLA WALLA — A local woman wants to spread the word about a new social website intended to help neighbors keep an eye out for each other.

“I call it a block watch on steroids,” Sharon Bright said about Nextdoor.com, a website that launched a year ago and now has more than 5,500 neighborhood websites in 49 states, including three in Walla Walla.

Bright, who lives on Valley Chapel Road, has helped establish a Nextdoor network in her own neighborhood. She is enthusiastic about how the free service can let neighbors alert each other about possible criminal activity and trade other information without having the entire world privy to the conversation, as is the case with some other social networking sites.

The service allows neighborhoods to create a private website accessible only to the residents of that area. Although a person can sign up online, site administrators require verification of a physical address through several means to ensure the person actually lives in the neighborhood. Once registered, a map on the Web page shows who else in the neighborhood belongs to the network.

One asset of the network is that a person’s information is kept private and not available through Google or other search engines, Bright said. Another asset is that a person cannot hide behind an anonymous screen identity or moniker. Although they don’t have to post a picture of themselves, they have to use their real name when conversing with neighbors on the site.

Apart from alerting neighbors to possible criminal activity, Bright said the site also allows people to trade information on local events such as garage sales, school activities, lost pets or other topics. “This is a way you can talk and meet with your neighbors and not have to hold a meeting,” she said.

Whitney Swindells, communications manager for Nextdoor, said there are more than 250 Nextdoor neighborhoods in Washington state.

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