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Plugging In to Community: Age-Old Values, New Tools

Across the nation, school is back in session for youth and teens. As such, with CPDC’s ‘Collaborating for Prevention’ safety initiative well underway and the recent spike in violent crime across Washington D.C. (where CPDC owns and operates 85% of our affordable housing communities) we thought it an appropriate time to consider practical ideas to ramp up neighborhood safety.

It’s a fact: neighborhoods are at their best—connected, invested and safe—when neighbors share relationships, are invested in their community and work together. There’s nothing more powerful than simply ‘getting out’—walking the neighborhood and meeting surrounding neighbors and local business owners.

In our increasingly ‘wired’ world, however, the reality is that many simply don’t engage in good old-fashioned socializing and networking. With the rise of online and mobile communication, there have emerged new modern and effective ‘tools’ that enable community members to communicate where they are and how they’re most comfortable to help ensure safety and neighborhood collaboration.

As CPDC continues to work on increasing resident engagement across our communities, here are three modern tools that can help connect residents for safer and thriving neighborhoods.

1.      NextDoor
NextDoor is a free, private online network with a mission to use the power of technology to build stronger and safer neighborhoods. The platform allows residents of specific communities, based on verified address, to connect and hold dialogue with each other and with participating local law enforcement. Uses of the website range from posting about block parties, service providers, garage sales and lost pets to more serious issues like neighborhood watch, crime and emergency response. NextDoor’s core values are: invest in community; be a good neighbor; communicate openly; act like an owner.

2.      Tech-Assisted Neighborhood Watch
Local community watch programs, whether formal or informal, have been around forever in the name of crime prevention. Today, with the advent of instant communication via Internet and smartphones, there’s an app for that! With numerous free tools available for use by citizens, community groups, local government and law enforcement professionals, crime prevention and information sharing has an entirely new tool box.

National Neighborhood Watch, for example, promotes an app aimed at assisting neighborhood watch programs. The app allows users to make emergency calls and record videos of crime in action. Videos are automatically sent to a user’s contacts or a portal where they can be viewed by contacts. Likewise, there are apps that enable users to live stream images or video to local 911 dispatch and submit crime tips in real time.

3.      Community Blogs
A blog is a regularly updated website typically run by an individual or small group that offers an audience information in an informal or conversational style. In the case of a community blog, it could be managed by one involved resident or by a group such as members of a Neighborhood Watch or homeowner’s association executive members. The audience for a community blog is all neighbors and the information to be provided is anything of interest, use, value or relevance to that community. Blogs can typically be established and hosted for free through popular sites like WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr and can be an effective means to distribute information.

In Ward 8 Washington DC, a community where CPDC owns and operates several communities, several community blogs including Congress Heights on the Rise, The Art of Ward 8 and River East DC Blogs have become popular and gained considerable followings.

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