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City Partners With Social Networking Site To Connect Neighborhoods Online

The city of Pittsburgh entered into a partnership Thursday with the social networking site Nextdoor, which allows users to connect with others in their city or neighborhood through private websites.

The site has been in the Pittsburgh area for more than two years and is represented in 67 neighborhoods, according to Sarah Leary, co-founder of the San Francisco-based company.

With the partnership, city officials will now have the ability to use the site to relay information to the entire city or specific neighborhoods, Leary said.

“The mayor, the commander, the head of the public works group, is going to be able to send a message to an individual neighborhood, to groups of neighborhoods or entirely city-wide with the single click of a button,” she said. “That’s amazing.”

While city officials can post on the site, Leary said they cannot access users’ profile information.

Leary said users can get alerts on the site, through email or on the mobile app.

To sign up, residents need to verify their address by way of a telephone call or a personalized postcard stamped with an access code.

Because of the site’s verification requirements, Leary said users can start conversations about pretty much anything.

“Because of that trusted community that we have created, people feel very comfortable talking about everyday things like trying to find the name of a great babysitter or a handyman, personal things like trying to find a lost family pet , or more critical things like reporting a rash of break-ins in the community,” she said.

Commander Rashall Brackney of Pittsburgh’s Zone 1 police station on the North Side said she’s familiar with Nextdoor. She said officers have used the site to catch burglary suspects.

Leary said this type of alert system brings the neighborhood watch mentality into the digital age.

“This is an innovative, progressive and forward-looking approach to community policing, community conversations, and really, an innovative way to bring the conversation to the 21st century,” she said.

Pittsburgh is the first major city in Pennsylvania to adopt Nextdoor alerts and is one of the top six cities in the U.S. using the site. Other cities include: Denver, New York City, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."