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Case Study: Community Membership Websites Help to Keep Neighborhoods Safe

Lori Halley 16 February 2009 1 comments

When a series of home and auto burglaries hit the community of Seven Oaks, Florida,  last summer, Andy Denbo of EdgeLineTech.com responded by launching a new website, SevenOaksWatch. The site’s main focus was to gather information, keep residents informed of crimes in the neighborhood, and possibly to help establish a community Crime Watch Patrol.

screenshot of MySevenOaks.com community websiteRevamped with a members-only login system to ensure its users’ privacy, the website took off — and soon grew into a full-fledged multi-purpose community membership website: MySevenOaks.com. The Crime Watch Patrol was a success as well, and Denbo’s company used Wild Apricot tools to build a separate website to help Crime Watch Patrol volunteers communicate and schedule events and patrol time.

Now, with 370+ members generating an average of 10,000 page views per month, the success of MySevenOaks.com has served as the inspiration for MyMeadowPointe.net, a similar membership site created to serve the nearby community of Meadow Pointe.

To learn more, we contacted Andy Denbo with questions —

How did you spread the word to residents of Seven Oaks and Meadow Pointe about their new community websites?

The site grew from a list of about 25 email addresses of neighbors, all the way to our current list of over 500 members from both sites.  People like a consistently updated site; and using mass email updates and community alerts, we gained an average of 4 members a day by word of mouth.  One of our Member Sign-Up fields asks the user, “How did you hear about us?”  Most reply that they heard from a friend at the community pool or from a neighbor at a party.  It also helped us to discuss the site with our Community Associations as well; this was another connection that led to our success with the sites.

What did residents tell you about what they want from a community website and how they want to use it?

Our company has a good deal of experience in designing Community Websites already; we simply used our expertise and applied it with the technology offered from Wild Apricot to make the site a success.  We also know that the residents appreciate a well-designed site layout, which is why our company makes use of CSS and other coding to make a fine-tuned “theme” that fits the community and the people who reside in it.

Can you describe MySevenOaks.com in terms of its features (public and private), and how those features are being used by members?

The site allows non-members to browse a Classifieds area, learn about the site’s history, and join for a new membership.  We find that restricting almost all content to members only converts to more sign-ups.

Once a member signs up, they have access to tons of great features that our Edge Line Tech design team has put together — from 3D visual tours of the community, to forums and polls.

Our most popular feature is our Crime Alerts. In an emergency situation, time is of the essence.  If you have a burglary at your home, or a stolen item, or even a missing child or pet, the more people who know about it, the better. Our emergency alert system can notify every resident member of our site within seconds.

We can dispatch email alerts to all our members to inform them of situations, or breaking news that affects local residents.  Also, an e-bulletin is automatically posted in the forum so that members can reply with any relevant information.  This system has been used several times with great success.

All members are permitted to send out alerts, and the alerts can include pictures, video, and more!

Who updates and maintains your community websites?

Our company, EdgeLineTech.com, does all of the behind-the-scenes work on the site so that the residents do not have to bother.  We do allow certain board members from the community associations and members of the Crime Watch Patrol to access the pages from an administrative point of view, giving them the ability to add content.  Most of the updates are done by us, however, and we update the sites at least once per day.

What about the cost of these websites — how is that covered?

This was a trick, but we decided not charge for member access, but to sell advertisement space on the site.  Using some resouces of our company, we developed a way to sell banner-style ads that range from $45-$90 per month, which generates a profit for the design team.

Charging for member access significantly reduces the number of willing participants and frustrates homeowners.  The key to a good site is enough ads to generate revenue, but not too many to annoy users.

How do residents of these communities benefit from the membership websites?

The residents LOVE the sites.  We have residents who donate $25-$50 at a time in thanks for it!  We feel we have brought a way for everyone in the community to feel aware of their surroundings.  They always know the upcoming events, the latest news, trends, and what to look out for.

People like being in the loop, and that is what they are with our community sites.

Here are some quotes from residents via the comment card we send out:

“Feel as if it keeps me up to date on an crime activity or other neighborhood activity that my family needs to be aware of. As well, I feel more tied into the community because I feel as if I know what is happening around the entire community.”

“Feel the speed in which criminal activity and suspicious activity is communicated is outstanding. I have even implemented some of the home protection recommendations mentioned on the site just to ensure my familes safety. I think before I started getting info from this site I was more naive about the criminal activity in and around all neighborhoods. Now I am more aware of my surroundings and the people in them, which I think just leads to being a proactive member of a community.”

“Very informative and keeps things in perspective. A very important website for those living here in Seven Oaks. People should be involved, and get to know what is happening, and the website serves that purpose.”

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 16 February 2009 at 8:28 AM


  • Mike P said:

    Thursday, 26 February 2009 at 8:06 AM

    What a great use of technology. The way things Are going today, more communities need this type of service.

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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