Reporting crime to the police

One of the critical things law enforcement needs from you is reporting suspicious activity to police and informing your friends and neighbors of the activity as well. This is the cornerstone of Block Watch. So, when do you call 9-1-1, and what can you expect when you call?

Call 9-1-1:

* When you have a police, fire or medical emergency.

* To report a crime that is in progress, or has just occurred.

* When there is a situation that could, or does, pose a danger to life, property, or both.

* When there is suspicious activity involving a person(s), or vehicle, that appears criminal in intent.

But how do you know what's suspicious? We'll cover that in a moment.

Language barriers: Seattle Police 9-1-1 operators have immediate access to interpreters, who can assist them in communicating with callers, and TTY machines at every station. Also, if you are reporting an emergency occurring in another city (i.e., you are talking with a family member in Everett and they start having a heart attack) call 9-1-1 and ask to be transferred to the appropriate jurisdiction. Remember, 9-1-1 calls from pay phones and cell phones are free.

Call the Seattle police non emergency line (625-5011):

* When you want to report a nuisance, such as a noise or parking complaint.

* To report a non-emergency crime, one that did not just occur, and the suspect(s) are not in the immediate area.

* When you have questions about something suspicious occurring in your neighborhood, and you are not sure it is criminal activity.

* With some crime reporting, you may be asked if you are willing to do a phone report rather than having an officer respond. This option frees the officers to respond to other emergency calls. However, if you need or want an officer to respond to your location, call 9-1-1.

What police need to know

Try to remain patient and calm while the 9-1-1 operator asks you questions. They are trained to ask specific questions to quickly determine what is wrong and what type of assistance to send. Please stay on the line until the operator tells you to hang up. When you call 9-1-1 or our non-emergency number, be prepared to answer the following questions:

Is it an emergency? Using the previous definitions, if the situation is not an emergency, please tell that to the operator up front.

What's your EXACT location? This may not always be the same as where the activity is occurring, but from where you are calling.

Where is the suspect activity taking place? If you don't have an exact location, give us the best location you can: ex. near the intersection of Smith Avenue and Jones Street.

What is the time line of the suspect activity? Our response can be based on whether the crime happened five minutes ago, five hours ago, or is currently in progress.

What is the specific activity you're reporting?

Can you describe the suspect? Any information you can provide: clothing, height, weight, age, direction of travel, etc. will be helpful to the responding officer(s).

Are there any weapons involved? If there are, what type?

"Don't tell 'em I told you."

There are several important things to remember when reporting a crime or suspicious activity to the police:

* You do not have to give your name.

* You can remain anonymous.

* You can request that your information not be disclosed

* You can request not to be contacted by an officer.

However, we prefer that you do give your name and contact information, for the lack of witness or complainant information often inhibits law enforcement's ability to properly follow-up and investigate an incident.

Many people don't report crime because of fear of retaliation. In truth, I've been in this business over 15 years and I've never seen retaliation against someone who reported suspicious activity, a property or drug crime to 9-1-1.

Normal vs. suspicious activity

To know what's suspicious, you first have to know what's normal. Think about what is normal for your neighborhood.

But how do you find out what's normal? Get out of your house and engage. Get to know your neighbors, talk with each other and alert each other when something doesn't seem "normal" for you. This is the essence of Block Watch: communicate with each other, agree to watch out for each other and report crime to 9-1-1.

I have found that when neighbors are connected with each other, the more they show they care about their community, those communities tend to have less crime. As a co-worker of mine once said, "Neighborhoods have the level of crime that they tolerate."

Until next time, take care and stay safe!

Marc Solomon is the Seattle Police Department's South Precinct crime prevention coordinator. He may be reached via[[In-content Ad]]