Is your neighborhood as safe as you think it is? These free websites and apps* can help you understand the actual risks, whether it’s nuisances such as front-porch package thieves or more serious threats…
Nextdoor is a website and app where people post messages to others in their area on a range of topics including local crime. It’s a good way to keep up on local chatter and keep tabs on crime-related matters that are too minor to receive attention in local newspapers, such as strangers seen lurking or possessions going missing from unlocked parked cars. Noncrime- related matters covered often include items for sale, lost pets and requests for assistance…plus the inevitable complaints about loud lawnmowers and people who don’t clean up after their dogs. Nextdoor’s usefulness depends on how many people use it in your neighborhood. Similar: Citizen, available for about 30 US cities, is an app that can send you notifications of nearby 911 emergencies in real time— it’s like having access to a police scanner only in app form and curated to focus on the incidents most likely to be of interest. Examples: You might receive a notice when a dementia sufferer or child goes missing in your neighborhood…a warning when there’s an active shooter within miles of your home…or an explanation why there’s a police helicopter hovering overhead.
Neighbors by Ring. You might have heard of the Ring Video Doorbell, the digital doorbell and security device that contains a motion-activated camera featuring night vision. When Ring’s motion detector records digital video of a crime or suspicious activity, the doorbell’s owner often will share that footage through Ring’s Neighbors app, alerting people who live nearby to the potential threat. You can download this app and view these videos for free even if you don’t buy a Ring doorbell.
National Sex Offender Public Website is a US Department of Justice site that can be searched to identify any registered sex offenders living near your address (NSOPW.gov). Similar: States maintain searchable sex offender databases, too, which sometimes offer better search features than the federal site and typically are updated faster. To find a state’s site, visit FBI.gov, choose “Scams and Safety” from the “More” menu, then click “Sex Offender Registry Websites.”
SpotCrime is a website and app that provides local crime stats and crime reports for more than 500 US cities and towns using data gathered mostly from law-enforcement agencies. Crimes are displayed on a local street map to show where danger lies. SpotCrime is especially useful if you’re moving to or visiting an unfamiliar area. Crimes are not reported in real time, however—it can take several days for them to appear—and many small towns and rural areas are not covered well or at all. Tip: If the area you want to see is not well-covered on SpotCrime, visit the town or county website or contact the local law-enforcement agency to see if area crime reports and data are made available directly to the public. Your local law-enforcement agency may maintain a website for crime reports or let you sign up for regular e-mail alerts on local crime.