What are some tips for reporting a crime and/or suspicious activity?
For years one of the cornerstones of Neighborhood Watch has been the reporting of suspicious activities and individuals to the police. Over the years, citizen have stopped countless crimes and saved lives by becoming actively involved in protecting their communities through Neighborhood Watch or by just being an involved witness when crime strikes the neighborhood. It has often been said that the level of response from your police department and the efficiency by which they operate is directly tied to community involvement.
As the additional “eyes and ears” of law enforcement, citizens can help to reduce crime, improve safety and increase the quality of neighborhood life by knowing what to report and how to report it.
Now more than ever, with Neighborhood Watch’s new emphasis on both crime and terrorism, citizens are needed to come forward and provide valuable information. Remember: don’t be shy – your job is simply to report, and law enforcement will take your call seriously and check out the situation. What you see and report may be invaluable and may save lives.
Sometimes it can be confusing about what to report and when to report it.
What exactly is a “suspicious activity”?
Suspicious activities can refer to incidents, events, individuals or circumstances that seem unusual or out of place. Some common examples of suspicious activities include:
A stranger loitering in your neighborhood or a vehicle cruising the streets repeatedly; someone peering into cars or windows; a high volume of traffic going to and coming from a home on a daily basis; someone loitering around schools, parks or secluded areas; strange odors coming from a house or building; open or broken doors and windows at a closed business or unoccupied residence; someone tampering with electrical, gas or sewer systems without an identifiable company vehicle or uniform; sounds of breaking glass, gunshots, screaming or fighting; strangers removing license plates or loading valuables into vehicles from a residence even if the moving truck looks legitimate.
Remember – A quick and accurate description of events, vehicles, and persons can make all the difference in apprehending a potential criminal. Any type of activity or circumstance that seems unusual should be reported.
There are four general categories to consider when determining what to report. As an officer you should make note and constantly be scanning for situations in these four categories. Citizens should generally report:
- Suspicious activities, people and vehicles
- Illegal activities
- Unusual events or incidents
- Dangerous situations
By reporting these types of suspicious activities citizens can help police make their communities safer and more secure, reduce violence, minimize victimization, reduce crime and violence and improve the overall quality of life.
How do I report suspicious activity?
When reporting suspicious persons, provide as much detail as possible. Start with the basics and get more specific. One reliable method to consistently make good suspect descriptions is to begin at the head and work your way down. For example: “He was a white male with blonde hair. He was wearing a brown shirt, blue jeans and sneakers.” or “She was a black female about twenty years old, short hair, thin build and wearing a red cotton dress and sandals.”
Here is a list of items you can describe when providing a suspect description:
- Sex – male or female
- Race – white, black, Asian or Hispanic or other
- Height and weight
- Hair color and style
- Complexion – skin tone, imperfections
- Speech – accent, slurred, vulgar
- Scars – tattoos, facial hair, glasses
- General appearance – dirty, well-groomed
- Clothing – color, style, shoes, jewelry
When reporting suspicious vehicles, provide as much information as possible about the vehicle, its occupants, the license plate or any identifying marks or characteristics, its activities and direction of travel. If you have a paper and pen or pencil handy, write down the information so you can read it to the police.
Review this list of items to report:
- Make – (Ford, Chevrolet, Honda)
- Model – (Escort, Impala, Pick-up truck)
- License plate number and state
- Bumper stickers, damage or dents, lettering
- Direction of travel – (“east on State street”)
- Occupants – (“one male and one female about high school age”)
When reporting locations of suspicious activities, provide as much information as possible. An exact location and specific address of the suspicious activity is always best if possible. Make sure the incident called in is recorded by law enforcement on the address that the suspicious activity is occurring.
To assist law enforcers in responding to your request:
- Provide exact address if possible
- Provide cross streets or closest major intersection
- In rural areas, provide county road numbers or mile markers along state or federal highways.
Provide landmarks that can be recognized by law enforcers or emergency responders. Describe the location with as much detail as possible.
When you have an organized, methodical reporting system you start to talk the language that law enforcers understand and react to. Calling the Police to just say that there is a suspicious person on my street does not constitute dispatching an officer. You need specific, timely and relevant information so that the appropriate response can be achieved.
Seeking more information?
If you would like more information please consult the Rochester Police Department website.
If you are seeking specific crime prevention information go to Crime Prevention.
Problems with the police?
If you have any problems reporting any crimes and/or suspicious activities etc., to the police go to File A Complaint. Please follow up your complaint by contacting Mike LaPlante, Eastside Pioneers Neighborhood Association (ESPNA) at 507-244-1898 or at email@example.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dealing with Problem Neighbors?
What can I do if I have a problem neighbor? I know that sometimes people have problems with their neighbors. Given this I tried to compile a list of steps that could be taken that might help to resolve problems with their neighbors. I found a Reader’s Digest article on-line entitled, 12 Steps to Dealing with Bad Neighbors, that I thought offered some constructive solutions to dealing with problem neighbors. I have added a few suggestions, etc., to the 12 steps that could be taken locally to bring some constructive resolution to dealing with problem neighbors.
12 Steps to Dealing With Bad Neighbors
Many neighbor disputes end up in court because of poor communication. If something’s happening that’s dangerous or illegal, the police are the obvious answer. But if problems arise that are a bit more gray, communication is the best way to save money and hassle. Here’s the best way to be a good neighbor and deal with a bad one.
1. Get to know each other. Being a good neighbor doesn’t mean taking family vacations together. Just knowing them well enough to say hi, or maybe borrowing a cup of sugar or loaning a gardening tool, can build trust and understanding. Issues are much more likely to escalate among strangers than even casual acquaintances. Some additional suggestions for getting to know your neighbor might be by offering to help them sometime, like shoveling their sidewalk in the winter, or maybe invite them to a National Night Out (NNO) Party. These NNO parties are usually held the first or second week in August. If you belong to a neighborhood association or some other such organization, invite them to go to meetings or maybe invite them to association parties.
2. Head off problems before they’re problems. If you are throwing a party at your place, go to all neighbors who might be affected and offer them two things: a verbal invitation to the party and a card with your phone number. If the noise escalates or there is another problem, your neighbor can call you instead of the police.
3. Document the problem. When an issue comes up, start keeping notes – times, dates, and photos if necessary. This can help in three ways. First, it helps you evaluate the seriousness of the problem: Looking at it on paper, you may realize it’s not as big a deal or you might see a solution. Second, you have information to back you up when you explain the situation to your neighbor. And finally, if push comes to shove, good record-keeping can show those that you might want to bring into the loop regarding your problem, such as your homeowner’s association or neighborhood association, if you belong to one or the other, or the authorities that you’re serious and organized, not emotional and whiny.
4. Talk it out. Tell your neighbor what’s bothering you – don’t assume they know what the problem is. Be open and direct, not passive-aggressive. Ask for their input, and wherever possible, propose a solution that splits the difference and demonstrates a willingness to compromise. Stay cool and positive, even if they’re not.
5. Look for advice or solace. If you belong to a neighborhood association or a homeowner’s association call them or contact them on-line. Explain the problem. They will help you to find a positive solution. If you do not belong to a neighborhood association and would like to start one or if you don’t know if you belong to a neighborhood association contact Rene Lafflam, executive director, RNeighbors at 507-529-4150 or at email@example.com If you do not want to consult a neighborhood association, etc., or do not have one to consult sites like Neighbors From Hell have message boards where people discuss their issues and help each other. This one’s free to view and is full of common issues and good advice, but registering will cost $50 if you want to ask about a unique problem. If you just want to vent, try sites like AnnoyingNeighbors.com.
6. Check with other neighbors. See if anybody else on the block is having similar issues – they may be willing to help resolve it. If one of the neighbors is closer to the troublemaker, have them come with you when you talk it out. Again if you belong to a neighborhood, homeowner’s or condo association or a neighborhood watch contact them, this would be a good place to start.
7. See if anyone else will side with you. If talking doesn’t work, try getting more help. If you’re part of a neighborhood association or a condo or homeowner’s association, speak with them about the problem and see if they can resolve it more easily (and cheaply) than you can.
8. Talk to a lawyer. If you’ve tried everything, you can consult a lawyer and have them write a letter threatening legal action. Warning: This can not only cost a few hundred dollars, but it may also throw gas on the fire. Make it a last resort.
9. Get a mediator. A neutral third party experienced in settling disputes may succeed where you can’t, although it can only work if your neighbor is willing to talk. It’s a lot cheaper than going to court, though – in some cases, it may even be free. Look up a nearby mediation program at the National Association for Community Mediation. If you belong to a neighborhood, condo or homeowner’s association they might suggest this option as well.
A couple of suggested Rochester Mediation Services:
Conflict Management & Resolution
Mediation & Conflict Solutions
10. Write and report. If you suspect your neighbor is violating city ordinances, do a little research, write it up, and submit it to the proper authorities. Again if you live in a homeowner’s, condo or neighborhood association contact them as they will likely have the information you are seeking or know where to get it. No need to re-invent the wheel. You can look up Rochester city ordinances at http://www.rochestermn.gov/departments/city-attorney/city-ordinances
Another useful contact would be Rochester Building and Safety, the city Housing Inspector’s Office. Just go to http://www.rochestermn.gov/departments/city-attorney/city-ordinances
If your neighborly dispute involves code violations, the city might solve your problem for you. But don’t try to anonymously report code violations on your neighbor. Not only does the neighbor usually figure out who “snitched” anyway, but they may resent you for being a passive-aggressive busybody, which can make future situations trickier. Remember you still have to live next to these people.
11. Call the police. If you’ve acted in good faith with no success, involving the police is the next step. You can explain the situation and show how you’ve tried to work it out and kept notes, but realize they probably can’t do much unless a law or ordinance is being broken. This is for things like excessive noise and illegal activity, not a tree limb hanging into your yard. Nonetheless, a police presence might show your neighbor that you aren’t going to let the problem go. Rochester Police, non-emergency, is 507-328-6800. Call 911 if there is an emergency. Again if you contact the police and live in a homeowner’s, condo or neighborhood association let them know you contacted the police as well as they will help you follow up in your efforts in dealing with the problem neighbor.
12. Take it to small claims court. This is much cheaper than a bigger lawsuit (which can cost $10,000 or more) because you can represent yourself. But you must do your homework – you need to lay out the problem, provide evidence, and come up with a reasonable damage estimate that you can justify when questioned. Damages are usually capped at a few thousand dollars, although the amount varies by state. And don’t be Judge Judy material: no exaggerations, no pettiness.
Bottom line? As with any relationship, being a good neighbor – or dealing with a bad one – is all about communication. And remember, if you belong to a homeowner’s, condo or neighborhood association and do not want to go it alone dealing with a problem neighbor call them. If you would like to learn more about Rochester’s Neighborhood Associations go to http://www.rneighbors.org/
If you would like to learn more about the Eastside Pioneers Neighborhood Association (ESPNA), where these ideas and advice originated go to www.espna.us or contact Mike LaPlante, President at 507 244 1898 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
What kind of Parent-Child Resources are available locally?
I tried to pull together a list of links and attachments regarding parent-child resources. This is by no means a comprehensive list but it is a start. I will be adding to it periodically as I learn more. If you have any questions or suggestions contact me and we can discuss.
Eastside Pioneers Neighborhood Association (ESPNA)
Rochester Guardian Angels
507 244 1898
Big Brother Big Sister
What is Alternate-Side Parking?
The Eastside Pioneers Neighborhood Association (ESPNA) volunteered a couple of years ago to create a pilot project area in our neighborhood association to test the effectiveness of alternate-side parking as a winter snow removal strategy. The pilot project area is located north of 4th Street SE, east of 6th Ave SE, south of East Center Street and west of 11th Ave SE. The rationale behind this effort was that neighbors would park on the odd side of the street on odd days and on even sides of the street on even days during the peak winter months such as Nov. 1 to Apr-1. This would allow the snow plows to go through in a clean sweep on one side of the street on one day and come though the next day, when the cars are all parked on the other side and make a clean sweep of that side of the street as well. This would allow for a curb to curb snow removal thereby preventing narrowed residential streets during the winter months, which as many of you know could present serious problems for emergency vehicles.
For more information go to Rochester Public Works