I recently helped solve a crime. All because I knew when to call the police.
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?
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. http://amityville.com/when-to-call-the-police/
Literature on point:
Lebenslange Haft für Alexandras Mörder, http://www.internetcologne.de/cms//artikel.php/8/2306/uebersicht.html/10992/30/uebersicht.html
Text (c) Ann Marie Ackermann 2014; all photos from morguefile photos.