Know your neighbors. Looking out for each other starts at home, on your block. If your neighbor knows you work during the weekday, they will be suspicious of movers at your house on a Tuesday afternoon. If that neighbor has your phone number, they can check to see if you’re home, or if your house is getting sacked. That neighbor can call 911. You should be that neighbor.
Cops call this “Eyes and Ears”. Nosy neighbors have long been characterized in a bad light, but actually, it’s all part of being a good neighbor. Bad stuff happens in our neighborhood at all times of the day, it’s important that we look out for each other.
Dog Walkers: You and your dog are your block’s best front line against crime. If you walk a “beat” on a daily basis at about the same time of day or night, you both know your route well. If something isn’t right, you’ll be the first to notice it.
And if the situation is dangerous, you’ll feel it in your gut. Trust that feeling.
First thing to do is be safe.
Never approach a suspicious situation. Hang back, cross the street, approach a house and ring a doorbell if you must.
Then call 911.
What is Suspicious Activity
Any time you see the following, you may be watching a crime unfold:
- A vehicle circling your block
- An occupied vehicle that’s been parked for a while
- One or two people running
- A large group of people running
- Use of abandoned property
All of these situations could be perfectly harmless, or not. That’s where your gut comes in. The survival part of your brain (the amygdala) receives far more information much quicker than the thinking part of your brain. If you witness an “off” or dangerous situation – your amygdala will make you feel it. The hair on the back of your neck might stand up, or your gut will twist.
Here are some more obvious examples:
- Individuals who appear to be “casing” cars or residential doors
- Individuals who appear to be “nodding off” or “high”
- Children who appear to be at risk, under the care of individuals who seem altered, non-responsive, or high
- Drugs being sold
- Fights or altercations
Stay calm. Stay safe. Start observing.
Where are you? The first thing the 911 operator is going to need to know is where you are. Being aware of cross streets, what block you’re on, or the direction you’re facing is an important habit to cultivate while you walk your dog. You can also report where you are by noticing landmarks or the house numbers. This will make reporting your location much easier.
It’s important, since not all responders know the neighborhood well.
Note the time of day. Responders may not arrive right away. Knowing the time of day helps police find video footage of the incident when canvasing private security cameras.
What does the vehicle look like?
If you’re reporting a situation which involves a vehicle, then let’s face it, the guys are much better at it. But, there’s a lot more to vehicle than it’s make, model, and whether or not it was on Top Gear.
Besides color and whether or not it’s a truck, here a few more things to note:
- clean or dirty
- bumper stickers
- tinted windows
- any other distinguishing marks
What does the perp look like?
You can describe your suspicious character by moving from head to toe:
- male or female
- height & build
- skin tone
- hair color, style, length
- eye color
- skin imperfections
- facial tatoos
- facial hair
- pronounced adam’s apple
- cleft chin
- ears (do they stick out?)
- undershirt (perp may remove outer garment as they make escape)
If a weapon is involved you’ll need to describe it. Here’s the difference between a pistol and a hand gun:
Police cannot emphasize enough that you must call 911
if you see suspicious activity.
Your direct reporting is the only way the police know what’s going down in your part of the neighborhood. The dispatch operator is the first person to get your complaint. Here’s something I didn’t know: dispatch operators are not members of the police department. They are civilians like you and me, trained to prioritize calls so that police can respond to serious crimes first.
It’s important to realize this when calling so that you can use phrases that will move your complaint up the hierarchy of their prioritizing system. If a crime is in the process of happening, you’ll get a quicker response.
The example above of a child appearing to be under the care of a sleeping junkie would only by prioritized (highly) if the report were phrased as so, “child is in custody of a non-responsive adult”.
However you phrase it, your calls are recorded. These records help make a strong case for action by police later.
Our neighborhood is the reluctant host to activity spilling over from the Goldman Methadone Clinic at 8th and Girard. This “750-bed clinic” draws addicts from all over the city for treatment. Unfortunately, many patients buy additional drugs after taking their methadone dose. These transactions result in the (sometimes belligerent) zombies you see along Girard from 9th to Front Streets. They also result in more criminal activity happening in the neighborhood.
When calling 911 for situations created by clinic patients please do the following:
- Keep a detailed record of the call.
- Ask for and record the Operator’s Number.
- Describe the situation in detail. Use the term “high” or “unresponsive adult.”
- Along with the specific location and detailed description of the perpetrator and incident, mention your proximity to the Goldman Clinic at 801 Girard Ave, and your suspicion that the perpetrator is a patient.
- If you or your neighbor make multiple calls, ask the operator if the previous calls were recorded. It’s important for the operator to properly record calls so that Stg. Massi can identify problem areas and make a case for action.
- If the situation persists and you feel you need officers on the scene; call again.
- If, no action is taken, and you feel the station warrants it, say you want “a supervisor, for lack of service.” Sgt. Massi tells us that should raise the call’s priority and he should get word of it immediately. (Officer Massi asked neighbors to use their best judgement and not abuse this maneuver.)
Be persistent. Keep records of your and your neighbors’ calls.
Roll Call Complaint
If the situation is persistent, and enough reports come in, it will be added to the Roll Call Complaints – police will be informed about it during roll call, and be more vigilant.
So remember, being a little nosey about your neighbors is not a bad thing. Get to know them. In the City, we actually live on top of one another. For this reason, if we to band together, we will have an impact on the quality of life for all.
Northern Liberties Town Watch
7pm at the Community Center, 700 N. Fairmount (N.3rd & Fairmount)
Several neighbors have expressed interest in attending a Town Watch training, for patrolling and “eyes and ears” awareness.
Up For Discussion:
- Town Watch patrolling basics
- Dog-Walkers, the front line of neighborhood safety
- What is “suspicious activity”
- How & When to call 911
- Volunteer needed for social media posts
Are you interested too? Contact NLNA board member Jeremy Lindemann, firstname.lastname@example.org or just show up!