Call the Police if You Observe Something Suspicious!

Call the Police if You Observe Something Suspicious!

police -- morguefile
Call the police about suspicious behavior.

I recently helped solve a crime. All because I knew when to call the police.

bus -- morguefile
Suspicious behavior can occur anywhere. I observed it on a bus.

On the bus, several passengers — about 10 of us — overheard another passenger talking on her cell phone. She mentioned a theft one of her companions had just committed. She even dropped the thief’s name. I surreptitiously observed her group to memorize their physicial features and clothing. As soon as I got home, I reported the conversation to the police and gave a description. I didn’t think anything more about it until I went to orchestra practice several days later. The trombone player who sits behind me works for the police. He told me that on behalf of the entire department, he wanted to thank me for an extremely helpful tip. He couldn’t say more about the case because it is still in investigation, but I learnt that the detective was able to identify the group on the bus.

But that is not my main point. I asked the trombone player how many of the other bus passengers had called the police and was shocked to hear that I was the only one. That is almost upsetting as the original crime.

Why is it, do you think, that people don’t bother to report?

call the police -- morguefile
You are the police’s eyes and ears!

This post is a departure from my usual historical true crime topics, but I feel strongly enough about it to make an exception. It’s my plea to everyone out there to report anything suspicious. Law enforcement would rather have too much information than too little. For everyone out there that ever thought it would be fun to be a detective, please remember that you already are one. The police can’t be everywhere, and we are their eyes and ears in places where they are not present.

Here’s a recent and dramatic example. An observant visitor to an indoor swimming pool in Germany didn’t hesitate to pick up the phone when he observed a man ogling children at the pool. That act that helped solve a murder case. Police searched the voyeur’s apartment and uncovered evidence linking him to a horrible crime. He had abducted a six-year-old on her way to day care, murdered her, and burnt her body. But the police hadn’t yet been able to solve the case. The voyeur was convicted and sentenced to a life term. Who knows if that case would have been solved without that tip from the swimming pool?

When in doubt, please pick up the phone. The Amityville, New York Police Department offers excellent advice on when to call the police. Its website discusses suspicious behavior and the importance of making that call. It’s worth familiarizing yourself a list of behavior that could indicate criminal activity and what details police need most when you report it.

call the police  -- morguefile
911 in North America and 112 in Europe!

Literature on point:

Lebenslange Haft für Alexandras Mörder,


Text (c) Ann Marie Ackermann 2014; all photos from morguefile photos.

Written by
Ann Marie
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  • Good Work, Detective Ackermann!

    I would ask that only highly intelligent people follow your advice, since incorrect tips to the police can ruin lives.

    It’s a sad thing, but in many countries (including my own), there are many people who’ve adopted a policy of “Never Call The Police.” The most recent case I read about, a woman was acting strangely and her family got worried, and decided she should check into a mental hospital to be helped. The police came, handcuffed her and put her in their car. She acted up, the police pulled her out of their car, slammed her down to the ground, her head hit the sidewalk and it killed her. It seems there are thousands of similar stories.

    • You have a point, Brian. If someone has a negative experience like the kind you describe, I can totally understand their reluctance to call the police again. But I think in most cases, the damage done by not calling the police is greater than the damage done by police error.

      I suspect that a more common reason for not making the call is fear of appearing like an idiot if the reason for the call turns out to be nothing. Law enforcement wants those calls anyway.

  • I agree on only smart people calling the police… here’s an excerpt from our recent police blotter:
    “A resident on West Meadow Lane NW, Alexandria reported seeing flashing red and green lights in the sky at 11:10 p.m. and was concerned it may be connected to the terrorist group ISIS. A deputy responded and said the lights appeared to be from a plane.”
    Yes, they walk among us.
    Seriously though, there are definite times when authorities should be notified. While some police of late are over-reacting, there are times when, if only someone who knows a person in the midst of turmoil would have called, horrible things in other people’s lives could be prevented.

    • Your story, Jami, brings up an interesting point. People do call the police about ungrounded or ridiculous suspicions. It sounds like the caller who reported the lights of a plane was suffering from a paranoia. Outside of medical treatment, there is nothing that we as a society can do to keep such people from expressing their fears. But the police take that in stride and would rather investigate an innocent situation than not be called at all. Law enforcement should be the ones to separate the chaff from the wheat.

      I think of the time that my neighbor’s home was burgalized during the daytime while she was at work. Another neighbor across the street observed the whole thing and refused to call the police. She later said she didn’t want to get involved. That was a crying shame.

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