HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) - Watch groups are now conducting their meetings, and updates, on social networking sites exclusive to defined neighborhoods.
One network is called NextDoor.com and communities all over Hampton Roads are catching on to the trend.
When Cusi Hamlin moved to a Suffolk neighborhood, she loved its peacefulness and pride, but felt something was missing.
"One of the things I noticed in the past was that people didn't say, 'Hi' or anything," Hamlin said. "It's like you don't know your neighbors next door."
Hamlin wanted to connect with her neighbors but respect their space, so she started a NextDoor.com group for her community.
"We use the website for crime awareness, safety issues and we use it kind of like a digital neighborhood watch," Hamlin said.
The site connects neighbors through a social network only they can access. It has helped residents find lost pets, notify them of changes in their home association and neighbors can send out alerts when something of concern is going on.
"When things do happen, we have people post on the website, 'Okay, I saw this. Keep an eye out for that,'" Hamlin said. "Any kind of suspicious activity is usually on that site."
There could be a downside though. The Norfolk Police Department told WAVY.com they worry sites like NextDoor.com could encourage residents to take crime fighting and evidence gathering into their own hands.
Police departments also recommend that neighborhoods that use sites like NextDoor.com work closely with crime prevention officers to keep misinformation and rumors from running wild without being checked out.
"What is good is that we do work closely with the police department and they know what's going on," Hamlin said.
While the site has its limitations, Hamlin said it has brought more warmth to the neighborhood.
"Everybody waves, now. Everybody says hello," Hamlin said.
In Hampton Roads. there are more than 100 neighborhoods using NextDoor.com - 95 are in Virginia Beach alone. NextDoor.com officials said they have a tight privacy police. Members can not reveal identity or personal information of any members without their written consent.
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