Crime Watch

Public Safety and You!

Know How to Report Suspicious Activities.

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For years one of the cornerstones of Neighborhood Watch has been the reporting of suspicious activities and individuals to the police. Over the years, citizen have stopped countless crimes and saved lives by becoming actively involved in protecting their communities through Neighborhood Watch or by just being an involved witness when crime strikes the neighborhood. I have often said that the level of response from your police department and the efficiency by which they operate is directly tied to community involvement.

As the additional “eyes and ears” of law enforcement, citizens can help to reduce crime, improve safety and increase the quality of neighborhood life by knowing what to report and how to report it.

Now more than ever, with Neighborhood Watch’s new emphasis on both crime and terrorism, citizens are needed to come forward and provide valuable information. Remember: don’t be shy – your job is simply to report, and law enforcement will take your call seriously and check out the situation. What you see and report may be invaluable and may save lives.

Sometimes it can be confusing about what to report and when to report it.

What exactly is a “suspicious activity”?

Suspicious activities can refer to incidents, events, individuals or circumstances that seem unusual or out of place. Some common examples of suspicious activities include:

A stranger loitering in your neighborhood or a vehicle cruising the streets repeatedly; someone peering into cars or windows; a high volume of traffic going to and coming from a home on a daily basis; someone loitering around schools, parks or secluded areas; strange odors coming from a house or building; open or broken doors and windows at a closed business or unoccupied residence; someone tampering with electrical, gas or sewer systems without an identifiable company vehicle or uniform; sounds of breaking glass, gunshots, screaming or fighting; strangers removing license plates or loading valuables into vehicles from a residence even if the moving truck looks legitimate.

Remember – A quick and accurate description of events, vehicles, and persons can make all the difference in apprehending a potential criminal. Any type of activity or circumstance that seems unusual should be reported.

There are four general categories to consider when determining what to report. As an officer you should make note and constantly be scanning for situations in these four categories. Citizens should generally report:

Suspicious activities, people and vehicles

Illegal activities

Unusual events or incidents

Dangerous situations

By reporting these types of suspicious activities citizens can help police make their communities safer and more secure, reduce violence, minimize victimization, reduce crime and violence and improve the overall quality of life.

When reporting suspicious persons, provide as much detail as possible. Start with the basics and get more specific. One reliable method to consistently make good suspect descriptions is to begin at the head and work your way down. For example: “He was a white male with blonde hair. He was wearing a brown shirt, blue jeans and sneakers.” or “She was a black female about twenty years old, short hair, thin build and wearing a red cotton dress and sandals.”

Here is a list of items you can describe when providing a suspect description:

Sex – male or female

Race – white, black, Asian or Hispanic or other

Age

Height and weight

Hair color and style

Complexion – skin tone, imperfections

Speech – accent, slurred, vulgar

Scars – tattoos, facial hair, glasses

General appearance – dirty, well-groomed

Clothing – color, style, shoes, jewelry

When reporting suspicious persons, provide as much detail as possible. Start with the basics and get more specific. One reliable method to consistently make good suspect descriptions is to begin at the head and work your way down. For example: “He was a white male with blonde hair. He was wearing a brown shirt, blue jeans and sneakers.” or “She was a black female about twenty years old, short hair, thin build and wearing a red cotton dress and sandals.”

Here is a list of items you can describe when providing a suspect description:

Sex – male or female

Race – white, black, Asian or Hispanic or other

Age

Height and weight

Hair color and style

Complexion – skin tone, imperfections

Speech – accent, slurred, vulgar

Scars – tattoos, facial hair, glasses

General appearance – dirty, well-groomed

Clothing – color, style, shoes, jewelry

When reporting suspicious vehicles, provide as much information as possible about the vehicle, its occupants, the license plate or any identifying marks or characteristics, its activities and direction of travel. If you have a paper and pen or pencil handy, write down the information so you can read it to the police.

Review this list of items to report:

Make – (Ford, Chevrolet, Honda)

Model – (Escort, Impala, Pick-up truck)

Year

Color

License plate number and state

Bumper stickers, damage or dents, lettering

Direction of travel – (“east on State street”)

Occupants – (“one male and one female about high school age”)

When reporting locations of suspicious activities, provide as much information as possible. An exact location and specific address is always best if possible.

To assist law enforcers in responding to your request:

Provide exact address if possible

Provide cross streets or closest major intersection

In rural areas, provide county road numbers or mile markers along state or federal highways.

Provide landmarks that can be recognized by law enforcers or emergency responders. Describe the location with as much detail as possible.

When you have an organized, methodical reporting system you start to talk the language that law enforcers understand and react to. Calling the Police to just say that there is a suspicious person on my street does not constitute dispatching an officer. You need specific, timely and relevant information so that the appropriate response can be achieved.

One Response

  1. gordon says:

    Excellent and detailed explanation. We have an app for neighborhood watch groups and their public safety. Check it out http://www.Guardianwatch.com it includes a suspicious activity safety guide.