Neighborhood Uses Facebook to Keep Watch

Aug. 4, 2011

From personal profiles and games to event listings and business pages, Facebook serves a number of diverse purposes for more than 750 million users.

For Sparr Heights, a neighborhood located in northern Glendale, Facebook Groups has emerged as a popular function of the networking site. A group called “Sparr Heights Neighborhood – 91208” was created in June 2010 and serves as a virtual neighborhood watch program for the community.

“I wish every zip code had [a Facebook group],” Evan Gore, founder of the Sparr Heights Neighborhood – 91208 group, said.

Gore created the group after his high school reunion and after his house got robbed, both of which occurred last year.

“[The robbery] sort of got me more mindful of wanting to tell people and communicate with neighbors,” he said.

The group currently has more than 180 members who also use the group as an open forum to make announcements about various topics, from yard sales to upcoming events.

“It’s a great way to advertise neighborhood events that one might not know about otherwise,” said Lynda Hessick, a member of the group.

Unusual observances are also posted on the group’s wall. Recent concerns include recurring helicopter noise earlier in June and American flag thefts in early July.

Apart from these purposes, members use the group to announce if they’re giving things away, ask for recommendations on professional services (like for good plumbers and accountants), look for missing pets and seek resources from others.

While not all members are personally acquainted with one another, the group has fostered an online sense of community that has even assisted newer members in becoming more acclimated to the area.

“[Everyone] is sharing information and so welcoming and friendly,” said Valerie Robinett Joico, who just moved to Sparr Heights from San Francisco. “It has helped us with our daily lives as well as our social lives. As far as neighborhood watch is concerned, it gives such good info and everyone has each others back … that helps me sleep at night.”

Additionally, the Facebook group has served as a platform for members to organize donations for a family whose house burned down a few months ago, as well as donations for a needy family last Christmas.

The Sparr Heights Neighborhood Facebook page is open and visible to the public, and although privacy has long been a concern with the networking site, Gore doesn’t think the issue is something to worry much about. He hasn’t seen any evidence of abuse and pointed out that people can adjust privacy settings so as to share only specific information.

For Gore, one of the more positive outcomes of the way Facebook works is that he has developed acquaintances with people in the neighborhood who have recognized him from his profile photo.

The group has been up and running for a year now and users continue to use it as a means of informing fellow members and seeking information.

“I’ve asked for information, referrals, ideas and never been disappointed with the results,” group member Renee Brandt said. “I know the people offering input and trust it.”

http://www.crescentavalleyweekly.com/news/08/04/2011/neighborhood-uses-facebook-to-keep-watch/

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