Reporting Suspicious Activity

In instances of certain crimes, such as a burglary to a home, police officers will “canvass” the neighborhood around the location of the crime to look for any potential evidence or witnesses. In many canvasses, officers will find a neighbor or a witness that heard or saw something suspicious or unusual, but didn’t take the time to call police, or waited until the next morning to report the incident. In one instance, a resident saw an unknown man crawling into the window of his neighbor’s home but waited until after he ran an errand to report it to police.

Trust Your Instincts

If you see or hear something out of the ordinary and it crosses your mind, even for an instant, to call the police, then call immediately! Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to make that call. Police officers will check on the matter and ascertain what is occurring. If your suspicions prove to be unfounded, that’s okay. Police would rather check out an occurrence that turns out to be nothing, than launch an investigation into a crime such as a burglary. That one immediate call to police could stop a criminal act, prevent someone from getting hurt, or even save a life!

Below is a guide to help you determine what is suspicious and what kind of things you should be reporting to the police.

Suspicious Persons

  • Individuals going door to door in a residential area: This is especially suspicious if you see a person walk to the side or the rear of the home after not getting a response from the front door.
  • An unknown person waiting in front of a home or a closed business: Ask yourself if this person is waiting for a bus, if he or she is on a lookout, or if this person is casing a home to burglarize it
  • Forced entry into a home: Call police immediately if you see someone you don’t know crawling into a window or breaking into a home.
  • Persons exhibiting unusual behavior: This type of person may be injured, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or may be in need of psychiatric help.
  • Carrying unusual property: If you see someone carrying something unusual down the street or sidewalk, call police immediately. Examples are a person pushing a lawnmower down the sidewalk, someone carrying an armload of clothes or electronics, or an adult walking a child’s bicycle.
  • Heavy human traffic to and from a certain residence: This isn’t a necessarily suspicious activity unless it occurs on a daily or very regular basis, especially during late or unusual hours.

Suspicious Vehicles

  • Certain moving vehicles: Especially if slow moving or driving without lights at night or, if the route followed appears aimless or repetitive. This is suspicious anywhere but particularly around schools, parks, and playgrounds.
  • Certain parked, occupied vehicles: Especially if seen at a late or unusual hour of the day.
  • Abandoned vehicles: In many cases, these vehicles end up being stolen and abandoned.
  • Unusual property in vehicles: If you come across a vehicle and it contains valuable property such as electronics, money, auto parts, or other property that is not usually just left unattended, notify police.
  • Business transaction involving vehicles: If you see, on a regular basis, a vehicle park in front of a business or residence and another person going up to that vehicle and making some type of exchange with the driver or other occupants, report it.

Other Unusual Situations

  • Property in homes, private garages, and storage areas: Suspicions arise if accumulations are large or otherwise unusual (such as several TV sets in a garage) and if the items are in good condition but not being used.
  • Open or broken doors or windows.
  • Unusual noises: Loud bangs or slams, screaming, arguing or fighting, breaking glass, unusual barking dogs, or anything else suggestive of foul play, danger, or illegal activity.

Remember that some of these occurrences may have a simple explanation or may turn out to be nothing. Don’t take the chance; call the police and make sure it gets checked out.