Have you ever witnessed a crime in progress? Prior to the experience, many people casually believe that they know exactly what they will and ought to do. When it actually happens, however, the statistics show that good intentions don’t guarantee effective action. Following are some things you can do to stay safe and effectively report a tip to the authorities.
Before we dive into the dos and don’ts, let’s consider our skills of observation. Alertness doesn’t just happen; you have to work at it. If you want to protect your home, you’d opt for the best home security system possible. Likewise, if you want to protect yourself and your community while out and about, you need to be vigilant. Make it a habit of identifying existing video surveillance systems and watching for potential trouble zones. Over time, you’re ability to observe and react will increase considerably.
Formulate the Tip
When you do witness a crime, process that information methodically. Prioritize as needed, but try to capture as many details as possible. The police will want you to be specific about what you’ve seen. The more information you provide, the faster the police will be able to reach a resolution. Keep in mind that if you can’t provide enough information, the police may not be able to act at all. Don’t make assumptions about what information they need and what they might already know; sometimes it’s the small details that make the difference.
Submit the Tip
Once you know what you’ll say and how you’ll say it, submit it. The easiest way to do so is by telephone, and most police departments have a tip line set up precisely for this reason. If you have a cell phone, call right then and there but without endangering yourself. If you prefer not to draw attention to yourself, consider submitting the tip by text. You can also choose to provide the tip in person, or you can submit it online via a submission form. The law enforcement website is a great option for non-crucial tips.
If there is an actual emergency, it’s not a tip, so it’s better to call 9-1-1. If you see someone acting suspiciously near your neighbor’s home, call immediately. In addition, don’t assume the police are too busy; they schedule people for precisely this reason. Never embellish on the details. Most importantly, never be a hero. A license plate number, for instance, is good enough; there’s no need to follow the person you suspect of wrongdoing.
How It Works
Each law enforcement agency has its own policy. Generally, the tips are monitored, vetted for urgency and then sent to the appropriate department. A tip about someone tampering with video surveillance systems near a bank would be cause for immediate action. If, on the other hand, you reported a bad vibe you got from a door-to-door salesperson, that would probably take a backseat to more pressing matters.
It Goes Both Ways
We tend to think of tips as one-way communication between law enforcement and us, but it actually works both ways. When a police department posts a wanted poster, they do it for the community’s benefit. In fact, many police forces have started to use social media as a way of keeping the average person in the know.
At All-Guard Alarm Systems, we know home and business owners who invest in security and video surveillance systems are on the right track for protection. However, even the best home security systems can be better reinforced with good-intentioned citizens who are willing and knowledgeable about how to report crime tips to the authorities. If you have information that might help law enforcement bring about justice, we encourage you to report it to the authorities.