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Reporting Suspicious Activity

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Reporting suspicious activity or behavior can help prevent crime and keep our community safe.  Reporting suspicious activity immediately by dialing 911, allows officers to respond quickly and provide assistance or interrupt crimes in progress.  Below are some helpful reminders of what suspicious activity is and when/how it should be reported.  For additional information, please contact Cpl. Jenny Schwartz at (314)290-8424 or jschwartz@claytonmo.gov.

What is suspicious activity or behavior:

If it's suspicious to you, it's worth reporting it to 911.  Examples include:

  • Unusual noises, including screaming, sounds of fighting or breaking glass
  • People in or around buildings or areas who do not appear to be conducting legitimate business
  • Unauthorized people in restricted areas
  • Vehicles driving slowly & aimlessly through neighborhoods, around schools or parking lots
  • People peering into parked vehicles that are not their own
  • People who change their behavior when they notice they have been seen
  • People dressed inappropriately for the weather or occasion, (i.e., heavy coat in warm weather)
  • Abandoned packages or other items in unusual locations (i.e. in a lobby or elevator)

When to report suspicious behavior:

We urge you to call 911 when:

  • You believe someone is in physical danger
  • You believe a specific crime is happening
  • You believe something is suspicious

What makes it suspicious:

You will need to be able to explain to the 911 call taker why the behavior you are seeing/hearing is suspicious.  Ask yourself, what gives you the feeling that a crime is in progress or about to occur? Don't doubt your instincts.  Call 911 and let our call takers evaluate and respond to the information you provide.

What to think about when you call:

  • Where are you? Take a quick look around to make sure you know where you are.  It is best if you can give an exact location or nearest intersection.
  • What just happened? Think about what you are trying to report & be prepared to say, "I'm reporting a (crime, emergency or suspicious activity)."
  • What information do I need to tell the call taker? Take a second to think about the people or vehicles you may need to describe.

Making the call:

Witnesses are sometimes reluctant to call 911 about behavior that they feel is suspicious because they believe their call will be a burden or unnecessarily tie up police resources.  The 911 call takers will be able to quickly determine if your call is an emergency and will dispatch the call accordingly. 

Tell the call taker you are reporting a crime, emergency or suspicious activity, then allow the call taker to control the call and questions.  The 911 call takers have a system and format they follow in order to get the most accurate information from you to send to the dispatchers and officers.  Allow them to follow their format and the call will go much more quickly and smoothly. 

If a question is asked for which you do not have an answer, it's okay to say, "I don't know."

Call takers may ask you if you wish to have contact with an officer. Saying "yes" can be a great help to investigating officers, enabling them to briefly call you or contact you in person to gain or confirm valuable details about a possible suspect in a crime.    

Please stay on the line with call takers until they tell you they have what they need and say it's okay to hang up.

Above all, try to remain calm.  Callers sometimes give incorrect information because they are stressed about the situation. 

What the 911 call taker needs to know:

The 911 call taker is focused on what you are reporting at that moment.  Information the call taker may ask for includes:

  • What is happening?
  • Where is it happening?
  • Where are you in relation to what's happening?
  • What made the person's actions suspicious?
  • What did the person(s)/vehicle look like?
  • Did the person say anything?  If so, what?
  • Were any weapons displayed or was there threat of a weapon?
  • What was the person's last known location and direction of travel?

Describing people:

When giving a description of a person it is important to first describe things that cannot be easily altered:

  • Race/skin tone, gender, age, hair, scars, marks, tattoos (i.e. White male, 30's, brown hair, heart tattoo on left bicep)

Then describe their clothing from top to bottom & inside to outside:

  • Blue hat, white t-shirt, black jacket, blue pants, white socks, grey tennis shoes.

Describe characteristics that make the person stand out:

  • Walks with a limp, missing teeth, sweating profusely

Give the person's last known location and direction of travel; where are they/which way did they go?

  • Was heading north on 23rd Avenue South from South Walker Street

Describing vehicles:

If you are reporting a suspicious vehicle - or a suspicious person in a vehicle - please provide as much information about the vehicle as you can. 

  • Color- If you don't know, give shade (Light colored - Dark colored)
  • Year-If you don't know, a rough guess is helpful (newer model, 90's model, etc.)
  • Make-If you are unsure, you can say "It looked like a (Pontiac, Hyundai, etc.)."
  • Model-(Grand Am, Sonata) if you don't know, you can skip it.
  • Body - Sedan, SUV, Pickup, 2 door, 4 door, hatchback, etc.
  • Accessories - Roof Rack, Tinted Windows, Fancy Rims etc.
  • License number - Writing it down is helpful but if circumstances won't allow it, try to remember as much as you can. 
  • State- If the license plate is from out-of-state, please say so.

Be sure to include information about anything that makes the vehicle stand out, such as damage and the damage location, stickers, antennae balls, etc.  Lastly, if possible, provide the call taker with the vehicle's last known location and direction of travel.