Neighbors for Neighbors: Identifying, dealing with and reporting suspicious people

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A suspicious person can usually be identified by their behavior. Often times it’s not the person who is suspicious, it’s the person’s behavior. Are they acting nervous or look tense? Are they loitering or seem out of place? Are they wearing dark clothing? Are they wearing loose-fitting or oversized clothing or appear to be concealing something under their clothing?

Is the person going door to door, looking in windows or over fences? Are they carrying tools that could be used to break into a car or home? Are they carrying property, such as stereo equipment or a locked bicycle? Are they trying to conceal their face? Are they hiding in the shadows or behind objects in an attempt to not been seen?

Does the person seem to be in a hurry or as if they are running away from a scene? Do you hear unusual noises, such as screams or glass breaking? All of these are things to consider when trying to identify a suspicious person.

If the person is in a vehicle, here are some things to observe. Does the vehicle appear to be moving slowly, driving by several times or have the lights off when it’s dark out? Is the vehicle sitting in front of a home for a long period of time or appear to be “casing out” homes?

Dealing with suspicious people

Generally, you should not engage with a person who is acting suspiciously. Always put your safety first. However, if you feel it is safe to do so, ask the person if they need help. If they need help, they will appreciate the offer. If they don’t, they will know they have been noticed, which may prevent a potential crime from happening.

If you don’t want to approach the person, make a noise. This will draw the person’s attention to you and let them know they’ve been seen. Most criminals won’t commit a crime with a witness around.

Reporting suspicious people

Often times, residents will not contact the police because they are not aware of what seemingly innocent activities might be suspicious. Others don’t report it because they assume someone else already did. Fear of coming across as a nosey neighbor or being wrong are other reasons that keep people from reporting suspicious people.

You’d be surprise how many people don’t call the police because they feel they might be “bothering” them. Not wanting to bother the police should never be an excuse for not reporting suspicious people or suspicious activity.

Reporting suspicious people can help to reduce crime, and make our community safer and more secure. If you remain suspicious after observing the person’s behavior, trust your instincts and don’t hesitate calling the police, even if the person leaves the area. Don’t assume someone else already reported it or worry about being wrong. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and your neighbors will appreciate you looking out for them.

A quick response and an accurate description can make all the difference when reporting suspicious people to the police. When compiling a description of a suspicious person, a reliable method is to start with the head and work your way down. Try to remember as much detail as possible.

If you don’t have a good memory, write it down so you can refer back to it when you talk to the police. Here is a list of things you should observe and report:

Gender

Race

Age

Height, weight and build

Hair color and style

Facial hair

Clothing and shoe type and color

Other descriptions (i.e. glasses, tattoos, scars, jewelry, weapon, hat, coat)

Description of the suspicious behavior

Lastly, know location of the person and the direction they were traveling. If a vehicle is involved, include the color, make, model and license plate number. If a bicycle is involved, include the style, color and size.

Who to call

Observing and reporting suspicious people and activity in our community is a shared responsibility; it is what helps to keep our community and its residents safe. If you hear, see or feel something suspicious, report it.

Suspicious persons should be reported to the police. Do not call Community Patrol first. Community Patrol is limited in the action that can be taken. However, it is a good idea to also inform Community Patrol while you are waiting for the police to arrive. Community Patrol can follow the person until the police arrive. Their presence can also help to detour the person from committing a crime.

Residents are not required to give their name when calling the police or Community Patrol. The police would prefer you to give your name and number in case they have questions for you later, but it is not required and you can remain anonymous if you choose to do so.

Important phone numbers

For emergencies, dial 911

Police Department Main Line: 951-201-1000

Police Department Non-Emergency Dispatch Line: 951-776-1099, ext. 5

Canyon Lake Community Patrol: 951-244-6841, ext 410

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