Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Neighborhood Watch - What To Look For

In my blog post, Neighborhood Watch -- How to Organize A Neighborhood Watch Group, I talked about how to get a Neighborhood Watch started. So now, let's talk about what to look for as a member of a Neighborhood Watch group. 

First, we must remember that an important responsibility of Neighborhood Watch members is to accurately report crimes in progress and suspicious activities to their Police Department or County Sheriff’s Office. Below are a few examples of situations that need to be reported. 

When observing a suspicious person, vehicle, activity, or crime in progress, do not hesitate to call your Police Department or County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line to report suspicious activity or call 911 to report emergencies.

  • Someone going door-to-door or looking into home windows and parked cars.
  • People stripping an abandoned car.
  • A person having no purpose wandering in the neighborhood.
  • Any unusual or suspicious noise that you can’t explain, such as breaking glass, pounding, or general noise from somewhere where it shouldn’t be.
  • Vehicles moving slowly, without lights, or with no apparent destination.
  • Business transactions being conducted from vehicles by strangers who don’t live there.
  • People offering to selling stolen property either door-to-door or from a vehicle.
  • Observing property being carried by persons on foot at an unusual hour or place, especially if the person is running.
  • Someone out of the ordinary running from a car or residence.
  • People stealing contents from mailboxes and/or packages from porches.
  • Property being removed from closed businesses.
  • Squatters entering residences that are known to be unoccupied or boarded up.
  • A stranger entering a neighbor’s home, either on vacation or unoccupied.
  • A child resisting the advances of an adult.
  • Fire coming from a building or a place where it should not be.
  • Someone screaming for help or in trouble. Especially if you can’t determine what the screams are for.

Before and after reporting a crime or suspicious activity:
  • If you can see the person committing the crime, try to keep him or her in view and monitor their movement to report their location and what they are doing.
  • Keep your safety in mind and don't attempt to apprehend a suspect.
  • If in your home, keep a pen and paper near the phone.
  • Have your neighbors’ street addresses available.
  • Properly identify the locations you are reporting.
  • Stay alert and aware of activities in your neighborhood.
  • Pay attention to particulars and be as specific as possible in your reporting.
  • Know your neighbors, what kind of cars they own, and their activities.
  • Neighborhood Watch works best when everyone is informed, concerned, aware, and cooperative.
  • Deputies need to have accurate information as quickly as possible about suspicious activity or crime in progress. 
  • Only alert your neighbors to the crime, after you call 911.
  • Your 911 call goes to a computer that identifies the telephone number from which you are calling, including your name.
  • Your call is automatically relayed to the emergency agency.
  • The dispatcher determines your emergency needs and verifies the address of the emergency before prioritizing your call.
  • Be ready with as much information as you can offer when the 911 Operator takes your report.

The 911 System is designed to handle the following types of situations: life-threatening emergencies, medical emergencies, and/or crimes in progress.
  • Please do not call 911 if there is no emergency.
  • The 911 Operators are specifically instructed to handle only emergency calls.
  • When you call 911, the operator will assess your situation and may instruct you to call back on the non-emergency line.
Please do not let this deter you from calling. Remember, sometimes there are only two to three 911 operators that can only handle so many calls at a time.
  • Use the non-emergency number to report something that is NOT an emergency.
  • When you see suspicious activity, CALL THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE OR YOU POLICE!
The operators are trained to decide whether your situation warrants a Deputy response.
  • Calls are dispatched on a priority system, with emergencies dispatched first.
  • Even if a deputy is unable to respond as quickly as you would like, it is still important for you to report suspicious activity.
  • If a Deputy is going to respond, the dispatcher will decide when to send them to your location.

Remain calm and give the dispatcher your information slowly over the phone:
  • Identify yourself by name, address, and telephone number.
  • Identify the type of incident (burglary, assault, suspicious person, vehicle being stolen, etc.).
  • Describe if the activity is a crime “in progress” or something that “has already occurred”.
  • Be sure to note the time of occurrence.
  • Describe location. Be as specific as possible. Try to have an address for the dispatcher when you call in your report.
  • If an address is not available, have the street name, names of cross streets, intersecting streets, and/or a specific description of the house or area.
  • Give as complete a description as possible of a vehicle that may have been used by the culprit(s) in the commission of the crime you are reporting, including cars, motorcycles, bicycles, etc.
  • Give as complete a description as possible of the culprit(s) involved.
  • Give as complete a description as possible of any associates also observed.
  • Give as complete a description of any weapons that might have also been involved.
  • Give the direction of travel (north, south, east, or west) which they fled, if so.

Remain calm and give the dispatcher your information slowly over the phone:
  • When reporting a crime in progress, ask yourself if there is potential for harm or injury, and if it is in the process of taking place at that moment? If so, then describe what is happening at that moment.
  • Describe who is involved, if known, what is taking place, be as specific as possible regarding the location where it is taking place and include whether a weapon is involved.
  • If it is something that has already taken place within a short period of time, describe whether it was against persons or property, if there is a possibility of quick apprehension with a Deputy response, or if you believe that there is the need for a Deputy to respond to prevent further acts of violence.
  • Let 911 know if you can see the person committing the crime or still have them in view, their location, and what they are doing. 
  • Finally, try to remain on the telephone and assist the dispatcher as much as possible until you are no longer needed. The more information you give the dispatcher the better.

Neighborhood Watch Members need to gather and relate accurate information and descriptions when calling in a report to 911. To do this, Watch Members need to use their powers of observation to help gather as much information as possible to help them give the best report possible when calling in either suspicious activity or an actual crime in progress.

To better assist Neighborhood Watch Members, here are some of the most important identifiers that Dispatch and your law enforcement professionals may need to know to assist them in apprehending criminal suspects.

This information can give your Police and Deputies accurate descriptions of a criminal or criminal incident that you may observe. This should assist you in your efforts to produce accurate descriptions and reports when calling 911 or a non-emergency line.

  • Observe where you are and the exact location of the crime or suspicious activity.
  • If the suspect left the scene, note the direction that he went.
  • Was the suspect on foot or in a vehicle?
  • If in a vehicle, were there others in the vehicle?
  • Was the suspect vehicle a car, truck, van, or motorcycle?
  • If it was a vehicle, did you get its license plate number? Or was the vehicle missing its license plate?
  • Vehicle color, make, model, condition?
  • Was it dirty or damaged, had a loud engine or muffler, did it have distinctive decals. tinted windows, etc.
  • What direction was that vehicle going?
  • Note the time as precisely as possible.
  • Since the term "trans" means nothing, was the person a male or female?
  • Was it a man dressed as a woman or a woman dressed as a man?
  • Was the suspect carrying a weapon, tools, a club, a tire iron, containers of liquor, etc.?
  • If it is a weapon, was it a handgun, rifle, shotgun, knife, club, piece of pipe, or some other weapon?
  • Ask yourself if you’ve ever seen that person in the area before. Was he alone or with others?
  • What was his Age (estimated)"
  • What was his Height (estimated)? Use comparisons with your own height to assist you.
  • What was his Weight (estimated)?
  • What was his Race, Color, or National Origin?
  • What was his Build? Was he fat, husky, slim, muscular, sickly thin?
  • What was his Speech like? Did he speak with an accent? Did he use some sort of slang?
  • Was he sweating? Out of breath? Was he running and in a hurry?
  • Did he appear angry, intoxicated, or confused, was he screaming at someone or no one?
  • Did you see any distinctive tattoos? What was it? How Big? Where was it? What part of the body was it located?
  • What color was his hair, hairline, and style? Was he bald? Did he have a shaved head?
  • Was he wearing clear glasses or dark glasses?
  • Did his face have piercings, nose or eyebrows, or lips pierced?
  • Did his ears have earrings, holes, or piercings?
  • Was his complexion dark, pockmarked, with acne, and visible scars?
  • Did he wear a beard? What color was it? How long was it?
  • Did he have a mustache? What shape was it? Did he have a goatee?
  • Was he clean-shaven, or unshaven, did he have large sideburns, or a beard and no mustache?
  • Did he or she have facial tattoos?
  • Was he a man in women's clothing or a woman in men's clothing?
  • Was he wearing a hat? What color, type, and style was it? Was it a ball cap?
  • Did he wear it forward, backward, or to one side?
  • Did his hat have ornaments, or business or sports logos?
  • Was he wearing a coat or a jacket? What color and style was it?
  • What color, design, and sleeve length of the shirt, blouse, or dress?
  • Was it a no-collar t-shirt? Was anything on it, front or back?
  • Did his shirt have a sports logo or something political or something else that made it distinctive?
  • What color and style of jeans, trousers, slacks, or skirt?
  • Was he wearing shoes or boots? Color, type, style, condition?
  • Was he or she wearing a sweater, scarf, gloves, or necktie?
  • Was he or she wearing rings, a watch, bracelets, or necklaces?
  • Were his clothing odd colors, patchwork, unusual in some way?
  • General appearance – neat or sloppy, clean, or dirty?
  • Did they appear to be living on the street?

By getting involved in the Neighborhood Watch group in your community, you can help your family, friends, and community. By being observant, reporting what you see, and being a good witness with written notes, you can be the "Eyes and Ears" that help your Police Department or Sheriff's Office in their battle to fight crime near your home.

  • If you have a Neighborhood Watch program, then your local law enforcement professionals should be available to assist you with implementing crime deterrence, including posting Neighborhood Watch signs and handing out window decals to be put in the window of homes.
  • If you want to start a Neighborhood Watch group, it's a pretty sure bet that your local law enforcement professionals will assist you with starting one.
  • Your local law enforcement agency can encourage participants to recognize crimes and suspicious activity, train participants on how to report suspicious activity, train participants in ways to reduce their risk of being victimized and address security and safety issues in their community.

Neighborhood Watch was launched in 1972 by the National Sheriff’s Association as a vehicle for citizens to organize themselves and work with law enforcement. The concept of Neighborhood Watch can trace its roots back to the days of Colonial Settlements when volunteer night watchmen of Citizen Watch Groups patrolled the streets of towns and cities.

  • Neighborhood Watch works with your local Police Department and Sheriff's Office, but it is not a vigilante force working outside the normal procedures of law enforcement.
  • Neighborhood Watch is not designed for participants to take personal risks to prevent crime.
  • And of course, participation in a Neighborhood Watch program is not a 100% guarantee that crime will not occur in your area.
  • As an association of neighbors who contribute to the safety and security of their neighborhood by working together with your local law enforcement professionals as their “Eyes and Ears.”
  • Neighborhood Watch Groups bring your local law enforcement professionals and the community together to work as a Team to fight crime.
  • The major benefit of Neighborhood Watch is that it increases response to criminal activities while also instilling a greater sense of security and well-being.
  • Neighborhood Watch also helps to reduce the fear of crime in your community.
  • Since we look out for each other by getting involved, your vigilance will help your local law enforcement professionals fight crime.
If there is a critical situation such as a break-in, a neighbor yelling for help, someone in medical distress, and/or shots are fired, call 911 immediately. 

Get involved! Call your Police Department or County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line to report suspicious activities. And please, don't hesitate to call 911 to report emergencies. 

Tom Correa

1 comment:

  1. It helps to have a neighborhood watch. Because let's face it. Sometimes people don't dial 911. It depends on the situation. If you come into somebody's yard armed with a handgun or any other type of firearm the homeowner will waste no time in putting an end to your miserable life. If you're there to rob somebody and you are armed, then there's a pretty good chance that the homeowner will be armed as well. I have thought about making a movie called, "Home Invasion: Neighborhood Watch" where my character has his house broken into and decides that along with his neighbors he's gonna organize a vigilante group and take down the bad guys. That in itself would be interesting. People would pay to see that movie I'm sure. But in the meantime I'm kind of busy. But hey, you let me know if any weirdos come around here. Because what do we always tell ya? Watch out for weirdos. There's a reason why they're weird. Call 911 if ya have to. And if you see something, say something. And if THAT doesn't work, DO something. I hope this helps. Because in the end, no matter what, one thing is for sure. There's always a jail cell just waiting for a criminal to fill it. And the sheriff always gets his man. Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you? Not much, that's for sure. Stay safe. And as always, obey the law. Because if you don't Bubba will make you pick up the soap. Thank you and goodbye.


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