Cops and tech team up

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After unveiling its app and registering with the website Nextdoor in December 2015, the Chico Police Department has seen a rise in the community’s efforts to stop and solve crime.

“The community involvement has gone way up,” said police officer Ed Nelson who is leading the department’s online efforts. “People felt like there was nothing they could do. They felt helpless. With these two apps it empowers the citizens to become involved and to reach out to police to use the tools to help themselves.”

The ChicoPD app is for the most part designed as a precautionary step. It allows users to take photos of their property. If that property is stolen, users can easily send those photos to the police via the app. Nelson said that it’s a way to streamline the verification process of stolen items. It also has an area to divulge tips to the police, read press releases, and communicate with other sections of the police department.

Nextdoor, which is like a hyper-localized Craigslist, is an online community that allows neighbors to communicate with each other. People post about job listings, lost and found, and to buy and sell goods and report crimes. The Chico Police Department uses it as a way to deliver press releases as well as warn neighborhoods about crimes committed in the area.

Nelson said that the website has been instrumental in identifying and solving crimes in a town that lacks cops severely.

“There’s not enough police,” he said. “We need neighbors to be involved, and that’s exactly what we have been getting… We’ve gotten a few tips that have turned into actual cases.”

The app “comes in handy” for an understaffed police force, said Nelson. People are able to get questions answered on the app and it expedites the process of verifying owners’ stolen property. The public still gets what they need while freeing up officers to perform other duties, said Nelson. 

The police aren’t the only ones using Nextdoor to stop crime. Chico City Councilman Randy Stone, said he was able to identify and solve a crime before the police were even aware of the problem.

Because of Nextdoor, my neighbors and I were able to determine that there was a tire slashing spree occurring in our neighborhood weeks before Chico PD was even aware of the problem,” Stone said.

As the website has gained more attention, citizens have become more active. Stone said that a community meeting was organized solely on Nextdoor in August. They met at Hooker Oak Elementary School and formed night watch groups that patrol crime-ridden areas and report activity to the authorities.

The use of Nextdoor goes beyond neighborhood crime, though. Stone said that through coordinated efforts, community members were able to remove many NextCycle recycling facilities around Chico, which have been the site of vandalism and vagrancy loitering. 

Also, since Nelson has started posting press releases, meetings and crime reports on Nextdoor, he said he has seen a dramatic rise in attendance in police meetings open to the public.

With positive results only months into its implementation, Nelson said that the CPD will continue to use Nextdoor as a tool to make neighborhoods safer.

“Using the internet is a tool that the Chico Police Department is leaning on. Our chief has committed (to) the use of tech as a tool to communicate with public. The use of the app along with Nextdoor has made our job a lot easier,” he said.

 

For those interested, the app can be downloaded onto both Apple and Android phones by searching ‘Chico PD’ in app stores. Residents can also sign up for Nextdoor by clicking this link https://nextdoor.com/.

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