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Pittsburgh partners with to reach residents

Thursday, May 15, 2014, 11:24 p.m.

Pittsburgh city workers plan to connect with residents active in online neighborhood groups through a partnership with social network company Nextdoor, officials said on Thursday.

“This is a really bottom-up, grass-roots initiative that started with residents,” co-founder Sarah Leary said at a news conference in the City-County Building, Downtown. “This is ushering in a whole new way for city officials to stay in touch with residents.”

Nextdoor provides private, online groups for residents who have verified their addresses in specific neighborhoods.

Conversations are private within the group, but city employees will be able to broadcast information to members through the partnership, which was established at no cost to the city.

Police and 311 help line employees will be among the first to post information to the sites.

“If there's an accident, I can send a message to take a different route,” said Cmdr. RaShall Brackney, who heads the Zone 1 police station in the North Side. “There's a lot of information you can share.”

Brackney said members of a Nextdoor site in Fineview worked with detectives to help identify a suspect in a rash of burglaries this year. Police charged that man, Scott Wilson, 32, who said he was homeless, with eight burglaries.

“Residents were able to actively participate in solving their own crimes,” Brackney said.

More than 67 city neighborhoods have started Nextdoor websites in the past two years. Lawrenceville Nextdoor, one of the top 10 most-active groups in Allegheny County, has roughly 1,500 members, Leary said.

Lauren Byrne, executive director of the nonprofit Lawrenceville United, said neighbors have used the site to find lost pets and lost bikes.

“It's really worked for Lawrenceville,” Byrne said. “They're building on something that's already working in the neighborhoods.”

Leary said people interested in signing up can verify their address by receiving a post card from the company with an access code or by using their credit card's billing address.

“You join under your name,” Leary said. “We see a high degree of civility on these sites because you're accountable for what you say.”

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or




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