ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar) – Neighborhood watch programs have been an effective method to keep communities safe for years.
But over the past decade, the rise of social media has taken the concept of ‘neighbors keeping neighbors safe’ to a whole new level.
“It’s huge. We can’t be everywhere at once as officers, and so we rely on the public to help solve a lot of these crimes,” said Cpl. Steve Lesueur with the Odessa Police Department.
On Facebook alone, there are dozens of pages where people around the Basin can share information.
Daphne Sullivan is one of the founding members of the Facebook page called Odessa-Midland Nosey People. It started back in November and has already racked up more than 5,000 members.
“These days you don’t know your neighbors as well as you did in the past, so this is a group that helps us get to know our neighbors again, and we kind of look out for each other that way,” said Sullivan.
On this page people can post anything. From surveillance video of a robbery, to photos of a missing dog, or even just a restaurant recommendation.
“It’s kind of a central location and being as nosey as I am, it’s kind of a one-stop-shop.”
There are many other pages like this as well. The Odessa-Midland Police Scanners page has more than 16,000 members. There, anyone can share or read about local crime news with a click of a button.
“We’re always watching. Taking care of our neighbors, and our children too,” said Sonia Nieto, a Midland resident.
Nieto has lived in the area her whole life, and says while she’s always paid close attention to what’s going on in the area, online platforms like Facebook and Nextdoor make this job a lot easier.
“Our families are always texting each other saying ‘oh there’s been a big accident’ or ‘oh this is what’s going on in the community.’’
While social media can be a great tool for anyone to get information to thousands of people at once, local officers say it has to be used responsibly.
Cpl. Lesueur says you should always report a crime to police before sharing it online, especially if you’re posting surveillance footage.
“There have been some circumstances where things have been shared on social media. It might go viral and then possible suspect names might start popping up, and we might have some people that are wrongfully accused.”
With surveillance videos being such a resourceful tool to preventing and solving crimes, Cpl. LeSueur encourages everyone to think about ramping up their security systems.
“Whether it’s surveillance footage or lighting, we offer security assessments for free. Whether it’s a residence or a business or church, we look at all those things. There are so many things that people don’t even realize are huge deterrents to crime.”
If you’d like to get more involved in local crime watch, you don’t just have to participate online. The Odessa Police Department still holds monthly in-person neighborhood watch meetings.
They take place at the Odessa Police Department on the fourth Tuesday of every month.
The next session will be May 26th at 7 p.m.