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Goleta Neighbors Liking Nextdoor

Free Online Service Finds Pets, Fights Crime, and More


Saturday, May 12, 2012

When her 10-year-old golden retriever, Bridget, slipped through the backyard gate last month, Laura Murphy didn’t panic — she posted.

Placing a notice on Nextdoor, Goleta’s recently launched neighborhood-specific social networking site, Murphy used a text-alert feature to notify her neighbors of Bridget’s disappearance. It didn’t take long for her Lake Los Carneros-area acquaintances to start looking. Thanks to a call from the La Patera Elementary School secretary shortly thereafter, Murphy found her dog near the campus and marveled at what Nextdoor had done. Explained Murphy, “It connected us back up again.”

Launched this past Valentine’s Day as a way to “Love Your Neighbor, Know Your Neighbor,” Nextdoor — a free service that links neighbors all across the country — has since grown to more than 755 members across 16 Goleta neighborhoods, said Valerie Kushnerov, the City of Goleta’s public information officer. “I know that we’re reaching a lot of people,” she explained, noting that the city can post pertinent information to the site as well. “Word is continuing to spread about what a powerful tool it is.”

Kushnerov would know. As a city employee, she decided to start Nextdoor in her Lake Los Carneros neighborhood to see how it would work. The proof was in her own neighbor’s house: Laura Murphy and Bridget the dog literally live next door.

But Bridget wasn’t Murphy’s first Nextdoor experience. Long before then, she woke up in the morning to find that her car had been broken into while parked in the garage. Murphy went to Nextdoor to warn her neighbors of the brazen crime, and another neighbor soon realized she too had been burgled. Had it not been for Nextdoor, said Murphy, “She never would have known to look.”

Such events make Kushnerov joke that, one day, her community might be able to put up signs that say: ‘This Neighborhood Protected by Nextdoor.’”

It’s happening in the Evergreen neighborhood, too, where UCSB employee Krista Mastres has found Nextdoor to be worth its weight in gasoline. “Just this morning,” she said last week, “a neighbor posted that she saw vehicles with the gas caps removed or hanging. She called the police, reported it, and posted it to Nextdoor. Obviously, someone went around siphoning gas. That certainly is useful, timely information to know.”

Saying that she signed up for Nextdoor “pretty early” in its three-month history, Mastres quickly made sure that her fellow Evergreeners knew about the program. She passed out fliers, invited neighbors, and went on to become the neighborhood’s de facto Nextdoor leader. “It’s to serve our local community, our small little neighborhood,” she said. “I see it as sharing information.”

As the manager of media relations at Westmont and a neighbor in Lake Los Carneros East, Scott Craig was already well-versed in sharing information before he joined Nextdoor. But he says the site stands out in the social media crowd. “I love the way it’s private,” he said, explaining that people have to confirm their addresses via postcard. “I don’t feel that people are misusing it.”

Since it has “taken off” in his neighborhood, Craig has seen the site’s benefits keep on coming. When there were downed trees and road closures, people posted notifications. When people need referrals for baby-sitters or dog-sitters, people post recommendations. When there was a discussion about a traffic roundabout, people posted — but they did so civilly. The best part of Nextdoor, though, he said, is simple. “It’s a wonderful tool to get to know your neighbors,” said Craig.

It’s a pretty wonderful tool, too, even when you already know many of your neighbors, said Majestic Canyon resident Clara van Meeuwen, whose husband has Alzheimer’s. Thanks to young mothers and retired people who “keep an eye” on her husband, van Meeuwen has never had much of a concern leaving her husband at home when she goes to work at the Camino Real Marketplace as the marketing manager.

But one recent day, her neighbors called to tell her that the police were at her house, and she rushed home, worrying that it was her husband. It turned out that the cops were there looking for the man across the street, who they believed was hiding at her house. Nextdoor let van Meeuwen fill everyone in on the misunderstanding. “Everybody always has information about something,” she said. “You can reach out without being obnoxious.”

Although she noted that her neighborhood was already “close-knit” prior to getting involved with Nextdoor, she also said that it has kicked their closeness up a notch and could likely do the same for the other areas of Goleta that are registered.

“It makes us be neighborly again,” she said. “People had lost that.”

For more information or to join your Goleta neighborhood, visit nextdoor.com.

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