The Casper Police Department has joined an online service that updates and enhances traditional neighborhood watch programs, Sgt. Joe Nickerson said Monday.

"The idea is to try to duplicate the same things we try to do with neighborhood watch through a social media platform," Nickerson said.

People are often too busy to organize a traditional neighborhood watch program with monthly meetings, he said. "But people are on social media."

Nextdoor.com as digitally moved these traditional programs to a virtual platform.

The Casper Police Department is the first department in Wyoming to tap into this tool, he said.

There are about 30 of these virtual neighborhood watch programs across Casper, Nickerson said.

Nextdoor.com claims 64,000 virtual neighborhoods nationwide belong to its website.

To get involved, Nickerson said a person starts the virtual neighborhood by signing up. After logging in, a Google Map will identify that location and the person will identify the boundaries for that neighborhood. The person then needs to recruit at least 10 people to establish the permanent neighborhood on the Nextdoor media platform. More members can be added.

Once established, neighbors can share information with each other as a group or individually, as well as pass along tips to the police department, Nickerson said.

Big Brother, however, is not watching, Nickerson said.

"We can't wee what neighborhoods are posting, only if they specifically send us a message," he said. "But the advantage is we can send messages out to them."

The police department can offer public safety tips, or caution that a string of auto burglaries recently happened, he said.

"And hopefully that interaction and communication between us and the citizens can help us get some crimes solved and increase the quality of life," Nickerson said.

Nextdoor isn't just about watching out for crooks, either, he said.

Simple requests are fine, too, such as asking a neighbor for a cup of sugar or finding a babysitter, Nickerson said.

"The idea is the interaction with the neighbors keeps everyone watching out for one another  and keeping in touch with one another to make the place safer," he said.