What to Report

What happened? When? Where? Is anyone injured? What is the vehicle license number and description? What is the direction of travel? What is the description of persons?

What Is Suspicious?

Basically anything that seems even slightly “out of place” or that is occurring at an unusual time of day or place could be criminal activity. Some of the most obvious things to watch for and report include:

  • A stranger entering your neighbor’s home when it is unoccupied may be a burglar
  • A scream heard anywhere might mean robbery or assault
  • Offers of merchandise at ridiculously low prices could mean stolen property
  • Anyone removing accessories, license plates, or gasoline from a car should be reported
  • Anyone peering into parked cars may be looking for a car to steal or for valuables in the car
  • Persons entering or leaving a business place after hours could be burglars
  • The sound of breaking glass or loud explosive noises could mean an accident, burglary, or vandalism
  • Persons loitering around schools, parks, secluded areas, or in the neighborhood could be sex offenders or child molesters
  • Persons around the neighborhood who do not live there could be burglars

Strangers vs. Criminals

Not every stranger who comes into your neighborhood is by any means a criminal. There are many perfectly legitimate persons who may come to your door, including delivery persons, repair men, and servicemen, but criminals do take advantage of this by assuming the guise of legitimate business representatives. After all, if a criminal looked like a criminal, no one would have any trouble spotting them. Here are some situations involving people you might see and what their action might mean:

  • Someone waiting in front of a house or business if the owners are absent, or if it’s a business and the business is closed. This might be a lookout for a burglary in progress inside
  • Someone going door-to-door in your neighborhood. Watch for a while, if after a few homes are visited, one or more of the persons tries a door to see if it is locked or goes into a back or side yard, it could be a burglar. Such action is even more suspicious if one person remains in a car following a few houses away. Call 911 immediately; do not wait for the person to leave
  • Anyone forcing entrance to or tampering with a residence, business or vehicle
  • A person running if inappropriately dressed, especially if carrying something of value, or if they appear to be looking behind them
  • Someone carrying property if it’s at an unusual hour or in an unusual place, or if the property is not wrapped as if just purchased
  • A person exhibiting unusual mental or physical symptoms may be injured, under the influence of drugs, or otherwise needing medical or psychiatric assistance

Much human traffic to and from a certain residence is not suspicious unless it occurs on a daily or very regular basis, especially during late or unusual hours.

Things To Watch For Involving Vehicles

  • Any vehicle moving slowly and without lights or following a course that appears aimless or repetitive in any location, but particularly so in areas of schools, parks, and playgrounds. Occupants may be looking for places to rob or burglarize
  • Parked, occupied vehicles containing one or more persons if it is an unusual hour. They could be possible lookouts for a burglary in progress, even if the occupants appear to be legitimate
  • Vehicles being loaded with valuables if parked in front of a closed business or unattended residence, even if the vehicle is a legitimate commercial vehicle
  • Apparent business transactions being conducted from a vehicle, especially around schools or parks. If juveniles are involved, it could mean possible drug activity
  • Persons being forced into vehicles, especially if juveniles or females, may mean a possible abduction
  • A “delivery man” with an alleged wrong address, or asking if someone else lives there

Other Unusual Situations You Should Report

  • Open or broken doors and/or windows at a closed business or residence whose owners are absent could mean a burglary in progress, or one already completed
  • Unusual noises, such as gunshots, screaming, sounds of fighting, abnormally barking dogs, or anything suggestive of foul play or danger of illegal activity

How You Can Help

While some, if not all, of the suspicious situations described could have innocent explanations, the Highland Park Department of Public Safety would rather investigate a potential criminal situation than be called when it is too late to prevent it. Your call could save a life, prevent injury, or stop a criminal act.