All too often citizens are confused about what they should report and why, so it is important to train citizens through a variety of reporting activities. After reviewing this section, participants will be able to appropriately use the who, what, when, where, and how of reporting. Often citizens ask officers “Why should I get involved?” or “How am I going to benefit by reporting suspicious activity?” Although the answers may seem obvious, it must be clearly communicated to the public that they are an essential component in protecting our communities. Sometimes our citizens receive mixed signals regarding what to report and when to report it. Other times they simply do not know what is expected of them. It is important to learn specific definitions and details to provide Watch volunteers with clear and concise information. Begin with defining “suspicious activity.” Suspicious activity can refer to any incident, event, individual or activity that seems unusual or out of place. Some common examples of suspicious activities can 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.
• Strange odors coming from a house, building or vehicle.
• Open or broken doors and windows at a closed business or someone loitering around schools, parks, unoccupied residence, or secluded areas.
• Someone tampering with electrical, gas or sewer systems without an identifiable company vehicle or uniform.
• Persons arriving or leaving from homes or businesses at unusual hours.
• Multiple persons who appear to be working in unison and exhibiting suspicious behaviors.
• Signs of forced entry or tampering with security or safety systems.
The effectiveness of the police and sheriffs’ offices efforts is enhanced by active participation on the part of citizens. By calling to report suspicious persons or activity, you not only aid the police you make you community a safer place to live. Some people fail to call because they are not aware of activities that might be suspicious. Others may notice suspicious activity and hesitate to call for fear of being labeled a “nosy neighbor”. Still others take it for granted that someone else has already called or will make the 911 call. Always report suspicious activity and all crimes because police don’t know there’s a problem unless they are told.