The Boston Police Department (BPD) Neighborhood Crime Watch Unit (NCWU) has launched the first police-sponsored social networking site in the country, and it is being piloted in Jamaica Plain.
Residents can use the site http://E13.bostoncrimewatch.com to immediately reach out to and communicate with other residents on their street or in their area about what’s going on around them.
The brainchild of JP resident Joseph Porcelli, the project director at the NCWU, the site was designed to be “easy to navigate,” he said in a recent interview.
A map of the E-13 area of Jamaica Plain (Forest Hills and Woodbourne are in E-18.) divided into subneighborhoods appears on the first page. Clicking on the subneighborhood reveals green houses with flags showing which streets already have groups. Clicking on a house allows communication to begin.
Of about 100 crime watch groups in JP, 60 are on the site so far, Porcelli said. Each subneighborhood has a “network advocate” who helps with the area.
“It’s important to know what’s going on on your street and in your neighborhood,” Porcelli said, and he pointed out how difficult it can be for busy people to actually get together to share information in a timely way. “This way we can get people involved who are not yet involved,” he said. “Relationships develop among neighbors even if they are not face-to-face.”
Once signed in, people can read about and let others know about any incidents in the neighborhood, complete with the date, time and location of the event.
Porcelli emphasized that people should first dial 911 as the only way to report incidents, even suspicious activities, to get the information in the police system. The number “is not just for emergencies,” he said. “It is how to access police services.” Although police blog on the site, they can’t possibly cull it for information about crime.
People can also use the site to give crime prevention reminders to their neighbors, such as to not leave anything visible in their cars to tempt car-breaks.
Melissa Hernandez, an intern from Newbury College, assisted Porcelli in putting the site together.
The next step is to put flyers around JP to let people know about the new site. Porcelli, who is also the well-known founder of Neighbors for Neighbors in JP, said they are currently accepting new groups and evaluating the site. Anyone with questions or suggestions or who would like to help out can contact him at 857-222-4420 or firstname.lastname@example.org.