Minneapolis block club leaders have a new way to get in touch with one another.
East Harriet Neighborhood Association (EHNA) President Matt Perry recently launched a cyber block club network with the help of fellow board member Chris Gallaty and Longfellow resident Wade Stebbings. The network, based at www.mplsblockclub.org, allows block club leaders throughout the city to share crime trends, safety tips and other information with each other via e-mail.
Perry said he came up with the idea two years ago at a community meeting about crime, where he realized that he didn’t know who any block leaders were or how to get in touch with them.
“We have this great model of the block club that works tremendously well,” Perry said. “And then you get above that and there’s no way for that same sort of communication and collaboration and awareness to happen between block club
Perry said the cyber network is limited to police-trained block club leaders only. Subscribers are being identified with the help of Minneapolis Police Department crime prevention specialists (CPSs). Participants can communicate with individual neighborhoods, neighborhoods throughout the 5th Precinct or neighborhoods throughout the entire city, Perry said.
The base site provides crime prevention and safety tips and links to city crime statistics. It also features resources for National Night Out planning.
CPS Tom Thompson of the 5th Precinct said the new network could be a great way to energize block clubs, which are a valuable tool in preventing crime.
“Any way that we can increase communication and participation and get block clubs active is a good thing,” he said.
CPS Luther Krueger, who works in the 1st Precinct, has been involved in the development of a number of e-mail networks since the mid-1990s and said the block club network could be an asset if it is managed well and the community is active. If a community gets lazy, doesn’t meet regularly, doesn’t do block patrols or participate in other community-building efforts, the neighborhood won’t be any safer, he said.
Gallaty and Perry said the network is not intended to replace physical interaction, but it will allow busy block club leaders to quickly and easily share information and respond more quickly to any problems that might come up.
“The main point here is to have communication with your neighbors,” Gallaty said.
Scott Engel, community coordinator for the Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG) said block clubs in the neighborhood would probably be interested in the network, but was concerned that they might lose interest if it stretches beyond Southwest.
Josie Shardlow, community organizer for the Whittier Alliance, said block club leaders in her neighborhood might use the network if they can receive information not already included on CPS e-mail lists. But she was worried about their busy schedules and the possibility of them getting bogged down with e-mails.
Perry said the block club network was purpose built and is like no other local e-mail list.
East Harriet NRP money and donations from businesses funded the creation of the site, which Gallaty is hosting and plans to moderate with Perry. Subscribing to the list is free and participants can be removed if they wish.