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.

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; screaming or fighting; strangers removing license plates or loading valuables into vehicles from a residence even if the moving truck looks legitimate.

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 and glasses. He was wearing a brown shirt, blue jeans and sneakers.”

Here is a list of items you can describe when providing a suspect description: Sex, race, approximate age, height, weight, hair color and style (long, short, etc.), glasses, skin tone, general appearance (well groomed, dirty), clothing description (color of pants, shirt, shoes, jewelry, glasses, hats, etc.), scars, tattoos, and if you spoke to the person – their speech (accent, slurred). If the person left the area take note of their direction of travel.

When reporting suspicious vehicles, provide as much information as possible about the vehicle such as the make, model, color, approximate year (older model, newer model), license plate (and state) its occupants, or any identifying marks or characteristics (dents, bumper stickers, lettering, etc.), and direction of travel.

When reporting locations of suspicious activities, provide as much information as possible. An exact location and specific address is always best if possible. If not, is there an identifiable landmark nearby (store, restaurant, cross street, etc.)?

The phrase “If you see something, say something” is a good rule, regardless of the nature of the offense. You should never assume that the information you have is either trivial or insignificant, or that someone else has already reported it to the police. Many crimes are solved when information is gathered from multiple sources, and is evaluated collectively by the police department. They become parts of the puzzle that may lead to the successful conclusion of an investigation.