Social networking sites and apps starting to help fight crime - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Social networking sites and apps starting to help fight crime

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

For about a decade, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have given people a chance to connect, anytime from anywhere.

But now something new is gaining steam that keeps you connected only with those near you.  

Closed social networking sites, also known as hyper-local sites are beginning to gain popularity in neighborhoods as a way for residents to share private information with each other.  

Hyper-local apps as well are becoming a way neighborhoods are fighting back against crime. 

With just a quick tap on your smartphone or tablet, you can alert your whole neighborhood of suspicious activity.  

But Chattanooga Police say these private social networking sites and apps also come with a warning.

A thief broke into a Chattanooga couple's home about a year ago and stole several things, including a television.  

Even with video, no one was caught.  

Rob Bettis says his Stuart Heights neighborhood has used Facebook and e-mail chains to keep in touch before, but switched to a private social networking site.  

"If we wanted to post something about a break-in, that's something we can get immediate feedback from versus going through the proper channels and that sort of thing," said Rob Bettis, Burglary Victim.

CPD spokesman Kyle Miller says the apps also help Chattanooga Police during investigations.  

"It's important that we use any tool we can to make sure that our officers are an informed as possible," said Kyle Miller, Chattanooga Police Department.

Even though neighborhood watch apps can be good, it's important to do your homework.  

"The protection of information and who gets it is always a concern with any organization and any community group. Neighborhoods are always concerned with who's out there and who could target them," said Lt. Eddy Chamberlin, Chattanooga Police Department.

Make sure the site verifies the people in the group actually live inside the neighborhood.

For Bettis, the site helps him stay connected with neighbors like never before.  

"I can communicate with a lot of the neighbors on other streets that I otherwise would never meet and get a sense of where they are in the neighborhood," said Bettis.  

Police say even though these apps are helpful, they don't want them to become a way that people report crime. In other words they still want you to call police.  

Two of the private social networking sites for your neighborhood are Nextdoor and Village Defense.

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