Ask a Cop?: When should I call?


—–Original Message—–
Sent: Saturday, November 21, 2009 10:01 AM
Subject: When should one call the cops?

What guidelines would you suggest for calling the police? I once got a "smart" response from a dispatcher because I waited 20 minutes to report something I thought "looked" suspicious. I gave a completely thorough description of the man and his bike, but not timely evidently… but it made me think, "How does Jo (Anne) Public know when and when not to call the police?"

Our Reply:

Thanks for the question…

I am sure my partners will also submit replies it’s just been a really busy week…

Personally I would never fault someone for calling on anything that strikes a person as suspicious or illegal as long as the caller has rationalized the situation. I can cite you many examples of what I mean by this but as a general rule more citizens help to stop crime than cops ever could based on the fact there are more eyes in the general public than on your local police force.

I remember a call where we were asked to give additional patrol to an affluent community in my area because a citizen there thought a man was casing her house. There is a good potential this could be a crime solving tip so we responded and after a few days and some additional tips from this person, mainly one that he runs by the house daily, we finally were able to find out who this person was and why in the end the call was one to be remember yet for all the wrong reasons. The person running by her home was a very respected Dr. in the neighborhood, he was not casing the home of the citizen that called, he was simply taking his morning jog and from what we could figure the only reason the person called was because his skin color (in this case black) made her feel uncomfortable. We handled the call as we do all of the calls myself and my partners go to in a very professional manner and even the Dr. got a laugh out of it.

That said I have seen many calls end tragically because the person was afraid to call.

It’s all about common sense. Also in the situation is a non emergency situation please feel free to use the standard business line that goes to your local police department – commonly referred to as the non- emergency number. You can usually have someone call you back like a detective etc that might be able to answer if what you have seen etc might be more than just what it appears.

Additional Replies:

Basically use common sense. If something raises your suspicions or just doesn’t look right, call the police. If it’s an emergency dial 911. If it’s suspicious but not an emergency, call the non-emergency number for your local police department. It’s great you called in a suspicious circumstance but time is very important. A suspicious person will usually be gone in 20 minutes, burglars will be done ransacking a home and gone in 20 minutes, people selling or using drugs in a car will be high and gone in 20 minutes, etc etc. Police would rather get a call and find out it’s nothing rather than get dispatched to a burglary or other crime and find out someone saw something suspicious 20 or 30 minutes earlier but didn’t call. You know your neighborhood, if it looks suspicious then follow your instincts and call right away. If you realize it was a mistake, you can call back to cancel the response.

Thanks for being a concerned citizen!

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