One of the more common calls we receive during the course of every shift is a report of “suspicious activity.” Examples would be a strange vehicle in the neighborhood, someone loitering about, an alarm sounding, an odd item left somewhere, breaking glass or even a dog barking at an unusual hour.
I encourage residents to report this type of activity when they believe something doesn’t seem right. It may be human instinct or that “sixth sense,” but reporting suspicious activity could actually stop a crime before it ever happens. Don’t assume someone else will report what you have seen or heard; quite often no one calls about suspicious activity.
Truthfully, unusual things happen in our community on a regular basis and many are not criminal or malicious. Reporting suspicious activity can help police locate and identify a criminal through witness observations.
Although you may not wish to be involved, fear retaliation, overreaction or even you won’t be believed, it’s often a good idea to call. It may turn out the strange car you see contains a pizza delivery person who’s trying to find a home, but it could also be someone who’s looking for home to burglarize.
Don’t worry if your observations turn out to be wrong; it’s always better to have a false alarm than to get a call later reporting a burglary, vandalism or other crime.
Determining how to report the suspicious activity can also cause some confusion. For instance, you may not believe the scenario is a true emergency and hesitate to dial 911. You may not have a business number handy or perhaps wish to remain anonymous. Dispatchers will encourage you to provide your name and number, but it’s not required.
A good rule to follow is: should you feel police are needed right away, dial 911. A call to 911 on a landline phone is quicker as the call is answered by the closest dispatcher. A 911 call on a cellphone will be answered by a regional dispatcher and transferred to the local department.