Marin residents use Nextdoor app to complain about “monumental” crime

Andrew Hout

Recently, use of the app “Nextdoor” has given Marin County residents an outlet to complain about the daily problems they face. I view Marin as a bubble that does not see as many threatening circumstances as the average community would.

Keeping in mind that Marin does have crime to a certain degree, the problems being discussed via the app are narrow-minded compared to the major problems (crime, poverty, pollution) many communities have to face daily, which makes us look inconsiderate. When this complaining mentality takes root, it makes parents believe that Marin is a less safe community than what it actually is, which results in needlessly strict safety policies for their kids.  

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Now, do not misinterpret my view on the app Nextdoor. This app is based off of a very convenient and effective idea. The app’s purpose is to provide a “multi-family” garage sale-type media that allows locals in the area to sell items without having to go through the unwanted process of meeting a distant stranger through Craigslist, for example. The app also provides the opportunity to discuss any current community topics with other interested parties. Most of the time residents use the app for its intended purpose.  

My problem stems not from the app’s intended purpose, but rather from the overly dramatic use of the app as a channel to complain about the almost nonexistent crime in the community. The complaints that I am addressing consist of bike thefts and raccoon sightings that prompt long conversations about the monumental problem of “rising crime” residents face on a daily basis.

Since there is no major problem, these complaints are pointless and denounce Marin’s police force without any evidence to support their claim. They also frighten parents into making new safety rules for their kids when nothing has actually happened.  

Marin County has a population of around 250,000 and had 524 violent crimes during the year 2012, according to the FBI website. This gives Marin a violent crime rate of 2.09 per 1,000 persons which is one of the lowest in all of California. The entire San Francisco County area has a crime rate of 7.56 and Napa County has a rate of 4.28. Both of these comparisons exhibit how low of a crime rate Marin actually has.

Recently, on the Nextdoor app, I read about an allegedly stolen bike that had been found. Prior to its finding, the supposedly stolen bike sparked a massive debate about the “immense” problem of bike thefts in the area that needs to be solved or else… Residents came to the conclusion, without any evidence, I might add, that the crime rate has escalated these past few years.

In actuality, Marin County’s crime rate dropped from 541 violent crimes in 2012, which is already a very low number, to 490 in 2013, and has remained consistent since then. Marin does not have too much to stress about above bike theft when it comes to daily crime.

When certain residents complain about these issues they point to theories that streets are not safe anymore as evidence. During a conversation about a bike theft in the neighborhood, a resident stated, “Some people are afraid to walk down the street in broad daylight.” A select number of people create these exaggerated conclusions and state them as if everyone can relate to them. The fears voiced are not detrimental to all residents’ well being and should not be affecting how crime is viewed in Marin as a whole.

Correlations are drawn between the most far-fetched problems. “Last week, I found a red box full of used hypodermic needles someone had thrown over our fence. And I’m supposed to let my kid walk to school?” These ridiculous parallels are stressed and it gives the impression that locals have no idea what kinds of serious problems we actually have, such as the struggle that occurred with the five teenagers who recently overdosed on cough syrup.

Even though there is no actual informative data behind these conclusions, they still seem to get over 30 “thanks,” which are equivalent to likes on Facebook.

Though only a small percentage of this app’s use is for these purposes, these few absurd claims trouble me into thinking that many residents will read the app’s comments and actually believe that there are substantial crime problems. When residents think there is a crime problem it creates a mentality of fear in the community which takes attention away from more serious global issues. Mill Valley has a crime rate of .85 while San Rafael has a crime rate of 3.25. This might seem like a significant difference, but compared to our nextdoor neighbor, Oakland, which has a crime rate of 19.93, these are very low numbers.

Every community has crime to a certain degree. Solving these issues is something that people should worry about. However, using an app like Nextdoor to bring up these problems seems irrelevant and ludicrous because nothing is being solved through complaining. The app was created to allow easier access to local items for sale, not as a group chat where problems can be vented for all to see and ponder.

The distressed parents who populate this site need to stop grumbling concerns they have about the community and focus on more prevalent problems like stopping whatever is prompting teenagers to drink cough medicine.