Sheriff’s office joins the social media neighborhood

STANWOOD — For Miriam Lancaster, the website has been a seamless way to connect with others living around Lake Ketchum north of Stanwood.

“It’s just as though we are talking to a neighbor over the fence, even at midnight,” she said.

Many Snohomish County neighborhoods are using the www.nextdoor.com site to stay in touch. By one recent count, more than 123,000 people from 147 county neighborhoods are tapping into it.

That ability to reach pockets of people quickly appeals to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. It recently joined the private social network of neighborhoods, which will allow it to post information, such as safety tips and crime alerts in a timely manner.

Sheriff Ty Trenary said he’s excited about the possibilities.

It’s an opportunity to work with communities “on a virtual neighborhood watch,” he said.

Even so, the sheriff’s office doesn’t have access to individual neighborhood websites. Each one is open only to people who verify they live within the neighborhood.

Each neighborhood manages its own Nextdoor website. Every neighbor who joins signs in with their real name.

The site has the ability to post alerts for instantaneous communication. That can be particularly helpful if a dangerous situation arises, Lancaster said.

Last year, the neighbors posted a warning when a mother bear and her two cubs were spotted in the area. Last week, a similar message was sent when two coyotes were run off after being seen near a toddler on a swing.

The website has brought people closer together, Lancaster said. Besides safety concerns, they also post information about community events, lost pets and items up for sale.

Lancaster recently sold a lawnmower for $100 to a neighbor.

“People know you and trust you,” she said.

Lancaster, 70, remembers wondering if she could get the 20 neighbors needed to get a website going and how hard it would be to start up.

Today, there are roughly 150 neighbors signed up in an area of 420 property owners.

“It was so easy to get the site set up and running,” she said. “Even a great-grandmother can do it.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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