CAPE CORAL, Fla. -- Drive through many of the neighborhoods in the north end of Cape Coral, and you'll notice the homes are very far apart. Some of the homes that are there are vacant due to foreclosure.
That can make it tough to get to know your neighbors! But thanks to the click of a button, one website, hopes to change that.
It's called Nextdoor. The goal is to bring a sense of community back into your neighborhood. We know of six neighborhoods using it in Cape Coral. In the state of Florida there are more than 250.
Gloria Ray admits it's tough moving into a new neighborhood. "We are very spread out here and I only knew a handful of neighbors," she said. She moved into a community off Jacaranda Parkway two and a half years ago.
The houses aren't exactly close together. "I tend to feel isolated out here," Ray said.
But this summer she found something that transformed those feelings of isolation into a sense of community. "It is a Facebook so to speak, but it's for neighbors," she said.
It's called Nextdoor: an online community made up of your own neighbors. To start a neighborhood site online, you first draw the boundaries of your neighborhood.
Gloria's is called the Jacaranda West Watch in north Cape Coral.
Of the 300 homes in her community, now about 30 of them are connected.
Once a neighborhood is created, to join, you first have to prove you actually live within the boundaries.
"In their email address, their mailing address, they have to be confirmed they live in that area either by post card with a special code, credit card with their billing address," said Ray.
Then you can post as much or as little information about yourself online. Organize a garage sale. Find out who recommends a babysitter. But most importantly, you can alert neighbors of crime, and alerts will be sent directly to your cell phone.
"Everything goes to your iPhone these days, they immediately get what's going on. If there's a suspicious car in the neighborhood, you can send out an alert on that," Ray said.
Sarah Leary is the co -founder of the website. She says it launched in October 2011, after spending a year in private beta working out the kinks.
Ever since, its been going strong using technology to create safer communities.
"What we've found is that over 20 percent of the posts that are shared on Nextdoor are about crime and safety, and it's very clear that people are wanting to use Nextdoor as a way to share information, report suspicious activity and organize themselves to keep their neighborhood safe," Leary said.
"I think it makes it a little easier. People who are hesitant, maybe they don't feel it's big enough or important enough, it's an easier avenue for them," said Lt. Tony Sizemore with the Cape Coral Police Dept.
Gloria created the Jacaranda West Watch page on Nextdoor to better connect with the people in her neighborhood. She later found out those online connections translated to face to face connections here in her neighborhood.
"We use it for parties, get together's, cookouts, swimming socials," Ray said.
Beverly Cure lives in the south section of the city and is very involved in her neighborhood watch. Now, her community is using Nextdoor and she saw the results almost instantly.
"Even though I actually lived in my neighborhood 17 years? I met three times the amount of people in the last year than I did in 17 years living there! And that's kind of sad but that's the truth," Cure said.
"You've seen people driving by but you didn't know them. Now, I know them," said Ray.
Not everyone is allowed on the site. Gloria says they have a convicted criminal living in her neighborhood who also wanted to get on the site, but she didn't feel that was safe. She called Nextdoor and they blocked him.
To learn more about Nextdoor, visit their website here: https://nextdoor.com/