Modern-day block watch: How the digital age is changing our neighborhoods

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Neighborhood watches look much different in the digital age, but is technology helping? (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Neighborhood watches look much different in the digital age, but is technology helping? (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Do you know your neighbors? In this digital age, neighborhood watches look much different. We take a closer look at whether technology is helping.

"Four days in my neighborhood, we have all these crimes," north Phoenix resident Eric Cashman said.

Times sure have changed since Cashman lived in a small Wisconsin town, where he used to leave his doors unlocked.

[RELATED: Neighbors alerting each other to crime, suspicious activity through social media]

His home in Phoenix was burglarized in 2013. Since then, he's installed an alarm. But he still believes the best defense comes from the same place as a spare cup of sugar.

"There's benefits to personally knowing your neighbors," he said. "That will never change."

While some neighborhoods have block watches that patrol and meet, many have turned digital.

[RELATED: Phoenix man notices suspicious trend on NextDoor app]

"When the company was founded in 2010, new research came out that said 28 percent of Americans couldn't name a single neighbor by name," said Kelsey Grady of Nextdoor.

They call themselves a private social network for your neighborhood. Grady said nearly 3,000 neighborhoods in the Phoenix metro area are using their app. She said the problem with people not knowing their neighbors is also the solution.

"While technology is a bit to blame for this, the reality is technology is here to stay," said Grady.

But only 10 percent of the posts on Nextdoor are related to crime. The rest are recommendations for a handy person, for example, or classifieds. But Grady tells us, thanks to the app, several crimes have been solved, from home burglaries to mail thefts.

"Getting that information, understanding what's going on in your neighborhood, helps you create a safer environment," said Grady.

"When we can get on there and interact with them, we can start to gain intel from the community," said Sgt. Scott Waite of the Glendale Police Department.

Waite said there are certainly things you don't want to disclose on Nextdoor since it is still a public forum.

"Generalize your address," he said. "Instead of using your exact address, round it off to the nearest hundred just to protect yourself and your own identity."

Waite also said if you see something sketchy in your neighborhood, the more details in a description, the better.

While Cashman admits that getting crime updates daily and checking Nextdoor makes his wife more alarmed, he believes it makes them more vigilant. 

"Knowledge gives you more suspicion," he said. "It makes you not automatically assume that every person out there is with good intent."

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