PIEDMONT -- The popular Nextdoor.com networking website has "taken off" in this city's neighborhoods after three home-invasion robberies since December.

Residents can sign up for Nextdoor.com and exchange information about crime in their neighborhoods, upcoming local events, classifieds and more.

"Seems like people are on guard. There is an awful lot of email traffic about burglar alarms, what deals are out there, a lot of discussion. Everyone is getting a security system," said Dracena Park neighbor Sandy Rappaport, who signed up before the robberies took place.

Rappaport's settings allow her to view email exchanges beyond just her neighborhood, which gives her a good sense of what is happening in areas adjacent to Piedmont.

"I see comments from the Rose Garden group, Park Way, Piedmont Avenue group, a lot of different neighborhoods," she said. "It kind of replaces neighbors standing and talking across the fence. It's an online forum used for a million things.

"I see postings about suspicious activity and ongoing problems."

At a recent town hall meeting led by new police Chief Rikki Goede, some residents complained there were not enough police patrols in their neighborhood. They asked Goede what steps she was taking to combat crime, and what response times were, particularly for crimes such as burglary.

"There are a lot of break-ins," Rappaport said. "Crimes of opportunity when people are not at home.

"Maybe we're just hearing about it more (through Nextdoor.com), but it seems to be on the rise," she said.

Neighbors are also using the website to organize neighborhood watch meetings, which Goede at the town hall meeting stressed are important for a police/community partnership. Rappaport and her neighbors are heartened by the new police chief's proactive stance.

"She's on it. She has ideas. People are very impressed," Rappaport said.

"We see police cars driving by regularly, a more substantial presence than before."

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