A neighborhood watch program is one of the simplest and most effective ways to help deter crime. In areas that have a neighborhood watch in place, the crime rate drops as much as 16% compared to control areas. Regular patrols can help deter crime in the area simply through presence, but catching criminals before or during illegal activity is also an important part of overall crime reduction.
If you spot suspicious activity in your neighborhood, you may be wondering how you can report what you’ve seen, and to whom.
Call 911 if you think someone is in danger
If you hear someone screaming for help, glass breaking, or see a crime in progress, you should call 911. Although you may hesitate to call thinking you will take time from a 911 dispatcher who could otherwise be helping with a “real” emergency, your quick action could help save a life or prevent a crime from happening.
By calling 911 promptly, law enforcement can intercept a crime in progress, or even capture a criminal before a crime has occurred, which is always better than afterwards.
When you call, you’ll want to have the following in mind so the operator can help you properly:
• What do you see or hear that is suspicious?
You need to explain to the operator why you think what you are seeing is suspicious. It might be easy to convey your concerns if you hear screaming or glass breaking, but sometimes suspicious activities are less obvious. If you see a stranger wearing heavy layers during summer, peeking into car windows that don’t belong to them, you need to explain what you are seeing clearly so the operator can understand.
• Where is the suspicious activity?
The 911 operator will not be able to send help if they don’t know the location. If it’s not at an actual address or you don’t know the address, specific cross streets are very helpful.
• Do you need to describe people or cars?
If you are watching suspicious activity take place, note what the people look like, or what their car looks like.
Your 911 operator will ask you questions based on what kind of suspicious activity you are reporting. It’s important to listen carefully to what they are saying and answer all of their questions to the best of your ability. If they have specific instructions for you to follow, such as going inside or locking your doors, you should do so.
Need to report something else?
Sometimes we see evidence of crime that is clearly not an emergency. This could be finding graffiti on your wall or an abandoned vehicle. If you know you and everyone else is safe, then calling your local non-emergency number is the best course of action. The non-emergency number is useful for reporting suspicious behavior when no lives are at risk.
Reporting suspicious activity is important. Police rely on tips from citizens in order to help them stop crime faster. A criminal won’t be arrested if they are not caught, and many times a call like yours is how their crimes are stopped. CWP