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Online networking helps protect neighborhoods

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Many people use their cell phones to take pictures. In one Nashville neighborhood, a photo snapped by neighbors and a little bit of networking online helped solve a crime.

A south Nashville neighborhood used a social networking site that specializes in connecting neighbors with neighbors to help close the case on a neighborhood crime.

Deborah Duncan logged into the newest crime-fighting tool, a social networking site called nextdoor.com.

"It's like a neighborhood Facebook, and it's exclusively for people that live in this neighborhood," said Deborah Duncan, who is the lead facilitator for her neighborhood.

Last month, Duncan posted about a burglary in the neighborhood.

She said once the online conversation started, it didn't take long before she got word someone may have seen the crime.

In the past, it was a phone call that might help solve a crime. But in this south Nashville neighborhood, it was neighbors taking a picture with their cell phones and then sending it to their neighborhood watch group.

"It's mind-boggling that something as simple as the internet and just networking with your neighbors could solve a crime," said Duncan.

The picture eventually landed in the inbox of Metro police.

Court documents show it helped lead investigators to 19-year-old William Burney, who admitted that he stole a lawnmower in the neighborhood.

Burney and a 17-year-old was arrested for the crime.

"Sharing information is important," said Metro police Community Affairs Coordinator Sgt. Taylor Schmitz. "Knowing what's going on in your neighborhood is important, and friendships can develop from that."

In Duncan's neighborhood, those relationships have grown. She credits the increased conversations online with her neighbors due to nextdoor.com.

"It's like a 24-hour-a-day conversation with your neighbors," said Duncan.

According to jail records, Burney left jail on Tuesday on probation.

More than 180 neighborhoods in Nashville have started Nextdoor websites.

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