Suspicious Activity or Behavior

People aren't suspicious... Behavior is

The way a person looks, or if they are unfamiliar to you, does not make them suspicious. Behavior or activity can be suspicious, but people are not. This awareness can reduce bias and assist dispatchers in evaluating the appropriate response. Knowing what to look for before calling police helps call-takers assess the situation and respond appropriately. 

Is the person:

  • Looking into parked vehicles, house windows, mailboxes or trying door handles
  • Making unusual noises, including screaming, sounds of fighting or breaking glass
  • Brandishing a weapon in a threatening manner, pointing a weapon at someone or possessing a weapon in a location where weapons are prohibited by law
  • Following or talking to a child from a parked or moving vehicle or forcibly moving a person into a vehicle or home
  • Moving items out of a home or vehicle and loading them into a vehicle
  • Following a package delivery or mail vehicle, approaching porches or taking packages after the delivery is made
  • Circling the block, driving aimlessly, or repeatedly driving past homes
  • Going door to door claiming to represent a utility or service company without a uniform, company identification, or company logo vehicle
  • Knocking on your door without explanation or asking to speak with someone who doesn’t live there
  • Hiding behind objects or between properties in an apparent attempt to keep from being seen

What to do if you see suspicious activity or behavior:

Sometimes people are 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.  If suspicious behavior catches your attention, call police immediately. The call takers will be able to quickly determine if your call is an emergency and will dispatch the call accordingly. 

  • Call 911 if you believe someone is in immediate physical danger
  • Call 911 if you believe a crime is happening
  • If you are unsure, call the non-emergency number at 713-668-0330 to notify police and see if they would like further evaluation
  • Remain calm. Do not approach or confront anyone exhibiting suspicious behavior
  • Do not report emergencies or suspicious behavior on social media

 What to think about before you call:

  • Be prepared to explain what you saw and why it is suspicious
  • Be prepared to give a detailed description of the behavior, the vehicles, or people involved
  • The 911 dispatchers have a series of questions to get the most accurate information and determine the police response

Some questions may include:

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

How to describe activities, vehicles, and people:

When you call to report suspicious activity, how you describe what you observe is very important. Your information will allow any responding officer(s) to assess the situation and respond appropriately.

Describing activities: Give as much detail as you can about why this activity, behavior, or circumstances are suspicious to you. This will assist the call taker in prioritizing the officer's response to your call.

Describing vehicles: Take note of the license plate, the direction the vehicle is traveling, and vehicle characteristics. One trick that dispatchers use is to describe CYMBALS: Color; Year; Make; Body And License; Special features (dents/ trailer/tinted windows/fog lights)

Describing people: Take note of gender, appearance, hair, scars, tattoos, glasses, facial hair, clothing and anything else that would help police find the person. If you don’t have time to note all of these, pay attention to the things the person cannot change. Also, note the direction the person is headed.