Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Living in a condo, I have neighbors above, below and across the hall from me. It’s a small building of 15 units located in the Venice Beach area of Los Angeles. My neighbors run the gamut from retired doctors, a few lawyers and an “herbalist”(this is California after all!), to a TV show host, and a crackpot who hosts parties for drug dealers, prostitutes and thieves. There’s always one in every building, I’ve been told.
Regardless of whether they’re good or bad, I know who they are by site and name. Not many people can say they truly know their neighbors anymore. According to a 2015 report from City Observatory — an urban-policy think tank funded in part by the Knight Foundation — about one third of Americans say they have never interacted with their neighbors. I guess we lead such busy lives now that we don’t think it’s important to even say hello. And it’s not like when you moved in neighbors brought freshly baked cookies over to welcome you to the building or neighborhood. Those days seem to be relegated to scenes in old TV shows or movies — back in the day when people truly relied on neighbors.
Over the years I’ve realized the importance of knowing my neighbors — whether they are next-door or on Nextdoor.com. Those that live in my building are kind enough to drop off packages left for me by the mailbox or let me know when an elevator is broken down or other building maintenance issues have occurred. We help each other out from time to time and we are well, neighborly.
My virtual neighborhood encompasses a few thousand people online. That’s the place where I really find out what’s happening. If a police helicopter has been circling overhead for 20 minutes I can guarantee I will find out what it’s all about in minutes online. There’s an immediacy in this virtual community to share information that I don’t often get from my real life neighbors.
A few months ago my building was broken into and bikes and audio equipment were stolen from out of our common garage. My neighbor above asked me to check the cameras to see if we could get a picture of the thief. Sure enough, I watched as this man quickly and easily opened the buildings front door. Even with the latch guard plate cover installed, this guy got inside within 10 seconds! I was astonished.
Pulling some photos for my neighbor to include in his police report, I then logged onto Nextdoor. What I found was the mother lode of postings about this very suspect. As I combed through posts and replies, I found other photos, and a video clip of this man stealing bicycles, skateboards, keys, garage door clickers, electronics and even a surfboard.
In all, he had burglarized at least seven buildings in the neighborhood over the course of ten days. One Nextdoor neighbor wrote that we all needed to email Chief Moore so we could get additional cops on the street, and he even provided the email address. I didn’t recognize the chiefs name so I figured he was in charge of the local police station. I put together an email stating “just the facts” and included all of the photos and video of this burglar. Within thirty minutes I had a reply from Chief Moore in which he copied other officers. Everyone was very attentive with quick replies.
The next day I received a call from a detective and then from a captain, both assuring me that their officers were on the case. Wow, I was so impressed with our police department and how attentive they were from my one email. Then I Googled Chief Moore and realized he was actually the new Chief of LAPD! I was even more impressed that he was emailing me back!
Checking Nextdoor again, I found a message from a woman who wrote “the cops need to go where this guy hangs out.” I sent my virtual neighbor a private message asking her where that location was. Within a few emails I had a location which I sent on to the local police captain. He said he would pass the tip onto his team. A few hours later, he emailed me that officers had arrested the thief. The captain wrote: “He is connected to at least three cases. With the help of your emails and other neighbors in the vicinity, we may connect him to more!” A few days later the thief was sentenced to four years in prison.
It took a community to catch a thief. We need our neighbors to help our communities thrive and be safe. Several of my virtual neighbors have now become real friends. Neighbors are our lifeline to the entire community. Whether you live in a house, condo or apartment, it’s important to meet your neighbors. The good ones will:
- report suspicious activity
- keep an eye on your property while you’re out
- recommend tradespeople
- take in mail, newspapers and packages while you’re away
- take care of your pets
- become friends
- recommend a great security product like HAVEN!
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