Virtual neighborhood can increase safety in central Florida

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. -  In an age where many people don’t know their neighbors, some people are using social networking to keep criminals away from their homes.

Orlando resident Sima Patel started using NextDoor.com after someone tried to break into her house while she was on vacation.

Her back door was shattered and she said getting help was difficult because she didn’t really know her neighbors.

Nextdoor.com is a virtual neighborhood watch, recently approved by Orlando Police and now put to use inside Patel’s neighborhood.

The site is designed to do what people don’t have time to do –- get to know all their neighbors.

Patel created the page for her west Orange County neighbors. They can communicate about anything, from their next homeowners association meeting or a lost-and-found item.

It’s already working. One day someone in the neighborhood dropped their iPhone while walking their dog. A neighbor who later found the phone posted on the website. The phone was returned.

The website can also prevent crime by sending out urgent crime alerts.

"It is a night and day difference," said Ron Blessing, a board member who uses the networking site.

The area had 12 burglaries in just a few months, but recently they haven't had any.

Blessing said they can post about seeing a suspicious vehicle and it goes up in real-time.

Eyewitness News found out subdivisions as far east as Wedgefield to Lake County have signed up.

“It makes me feel safer as to who lives in my community,” Patel said.