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Recognizing Suspicious Activity

Excerpt from Hidden Valley Homeowners Newsletter, February 2007 issue – Revised December 2013

Over the next three newsletters, we will present tips on Describing and Reporting of Events, Vehicles and Persons as presented by the National Sheriffs’ Association

Studies reveal that thriving NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH communities, where dedicated, enthusiastic residents have been trained to notice suspicious activities and report them, not only to law enforcement officials, but also to each other, helps to lower crime rates. It is based on one of the oldest and simplest concepts known to man — neighbor helping neighbor.

Practicing to develop skill in providing quick, accurate descriptions is needed when reporting to the Sheriff’s Department. In attempting to describe events, vehicles, or persons, write down the details of what you have observed while they are still fresh in your mind, so your descriptions to law enforcement officials will be as accurate as possible. Hidden Valley has recently experienced a daytime break-in, and property and vehicle damage caused by a night time wayward driver.

Recognizing Suspicious Activity

BE ALERT. Anything that seems slightly “out of place” or is occurring at an unusual time of day could be criminal activity. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO APPREHEND A PERSON COMMITTING A CRIME OR INVESTIGATE A SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY. Call the Sheriffs department immediately, and do not worry about being embarrassed if your suspicions prove to be unfounded. Law enforcement officers would rather investigate than be called when it is too late.

The following incidents MAY indicate possible criminal activity and should be reported:

  • Open or broken doors and windows at an unoccupied residence (burglary or vandalism);
  • Unusual noises, such as gunshots, screaming, or dogs barking continuously (burglary, assault, or rape);
  • Sound of breaking glass (burglary or vandalism);
  • A person exhibiting unusual mental or physical symptoms (person may be injured, under the influence of drugs, or otherwise needing medical attention).

Time and accuracy are critical in reporting crime or suspicious events. Use your law enforcement agency’s emergency number to report life-threatening incidents or a crime in progress, and use the non-emergency number for crimes that have already occurred. Your call could save a life, prevent an injury, or stop a crime. The information you provide will be kept confidential. You do not need to give your name, although this is often helpful.

Describing and Reporting of Events

Practice developing skill in providing quick, accurate descriptions of the event in process. In attempting to describe the events, write down the details of what you have observed while they are still fresh in your mind, so your descriptions to law enforcement officials will be a accurate as possible.

Describing Events – When describing events, write down:

  • What happened?
  • When it happened;
  • Where it occurred (note the nearest cross street, home address, or landmark in relationship to the event);
  • Whether injuries are involved (Be prepared to report visible or suspected personal injury. Be as specific as possible – this could save a life!);
  • Whether weapons are involved (this information, whether observed or suspected, is vital to responding officers).

Other articles in this series include: