Communicating a crime or possible criminal activity to your neighbors
When to use an Urgent Alert vs. a regular post
How to post your Crime & Safety message to help everyone in your neighborhood stay safe
What behaviors do police consider to be suspicious?
Why is giving a full description so important?
Why does Nextdoor prohibit discriminatory racial code words?
Don't put yourself in harm's way or engage a suspect to gather more details about the situation. Your safety is paramount.
If you think that a crime may be occurring, or that the safety of you or your neighbors may be at risk, don't hesitate to call 911. You shouldn’t worry about using up police time. Calls to 911 will be prioritized based on availability of law enforcement.Even if you are unsure as to what is going on, the best thing to do is to let the police investigate. When the police catch someone in the act of breaking into a home, or stealing something, it is not unusual that one person is responsible for multiple other crimes in a neighborhood, and once caught, crime will decrease.
Post an Urgent Alert if someone's safety or property is at risk and if the issue has occurred within the last 10 minutes. If you just witnessed the behavior, call 911. Then post an Urgent Alert so that your neighbors will be notified of the situation by both email and text message.
Remember that Urgent Alerts are limited to 110 characters, so you'll need to be descriptive, yet concise. (You can add more details later by replying to the Urgent alert, if needed.)
Here's an example of an Urgent Alert that communicates suspicious behavior in a concise way: Man on Main trying to break into car. Wh/male bl/pants rd/shirt, Nikes, scar on cheek - See him, call 911.If it has been more than 10 minutes, post your report as a message in the Crime & Safety category.
- What - focus on the behavior that raised your suspicion. Describe the potentially criminal or dangerous activity you observed or experienced - what the person was doing, what they said (if they spoke to you). Include the direction they were last headed.
- Who - give as full a description as possible of the person, people, or vehicles involved. Include as many details as possible - age, height, weight, hair, clothing, and identifiable marks, not just sex and race. For vehicles, make, model, plate, and direction of travel are helpful.
- Where - location matters. Provide specific streets or intersections whenever possible. If the location is in a large area such as a park, provide a landmark within that location where the incident occurred (e.g. "at Rogers Park, next to the restrooms").
Consider the context. Take, for example, a person sitting in a parked car across the street. During the day, someone might pull over to make a phone call or send a text message and then drive away. At night, the context has changed, especially if the lights in the vehicle are off in a residential neighborhood.
Police associate these behaviors with potential criminal activity:
- Someone walking down the street looking into multiple vehicles and/or trying door handles to see if the doors will open.
- Someone taking a package from someone else’s property (keep in mind that sometimes neighbors leave or pick up packages for other neighbors).
- A person who is not your neighbor walking about your neighbor's home and looking into windows, or trying to gain access by forcing open a window or door.
- A person knocking on your door and asking to speak with someone who does not live there and who may also go to other homes knocking on doors. This is a tactic used by people with the intent to burglarize to see if people are home. (Keep in mind that people may mistakenly go to the wrong home.)
- Someone claiming to represent a utility company who is either not wearing a uniform, does not produce identification upon request, or does not have a company logo vehicle.
- Someone using binoculars or other devices to peer into your or your neighbors' homes.
- At night, a person sitting inside a vehicle that you do not recognize with the lights off for extended period of time.
- A pushy salesperson not producing identification upon your request or asking to come into your home.
- A vehicle you do not recognize that is circling multiple times around the neighborhood.
- An unusually high flow of people coming and going from a particular home and visiting for just a couple of minutes. (NOTE: Police prefer that you report this to them, rather than post about it.)
- If you feel you are being followed when walking home or to a neighbor's home, and you cross the street and back again and the person(s) crosses along with you.
- Sales crews selling products door to door saying they need to make a quota and who refuse to produce identification upon your request. (The criminal activity may not be what you think. These salespeople may be victims of labor traffickers and can be reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline 1 (888) 373-7888. For more information, read this article on new research about this type of crime.)
- It doesn't give your neighbors enough detail to identify the suspect.
- It casts suspicion on every person of that sex and race who may legitimately be in or live in your neighborhood.
Suspicious car in neighborhood: Black male in blue Ford sedan doing drive-bys on Shelby Street, near my house at 52 Shelby. Didn't get a photo of the car. Never seen this car before. Keep eyes open.
If you saw this post, you'd know who to look for. However, there is no information that supports the allegation of suspicious behavior:
Look out for suspicious male: There is a black guy, early twenties, walking up and down Arden Avenue, wearing blue jeans and a black hoodie. Please be on the lookout.
The post below describes a behavior that is known to be consistent with criminal activity (trying door handles of multiple cars) and does a better job of helping your neighbors be on the lookout for a specific person rather than a whole race of people, and makes sure that any other Hispanic male who happens to be walking down the street doesn't get pulled over when the police arrive.
Guy checking door handles on Oak and Main: Earlier today at 3:00 pm, I witnessed suspicious behavior on Main and Oak streets. The guy was walking down Main Street looking into vehicles and trying the door handles of multiple cars. He was a tall Hispanic male and was wearing dark blue jeans, a red t-shirt, Nike sneakers, and had a scar on his right arm. I called 911 and reported what I saw.
Please remember, Nextdoor's Community Guidelines prohibit racial profiling. Racial profiling includes assuming someone is suspicious because of their race or ethnicity, or giving descriptions of suspects that are so vague as to cast suspicion over an entire race or ethnicity. You can read the specific guideline here. Posts that violate Nextdoor guidelines may be removed and the member posting may be suspended.
The heart and soul of Nextdoor are the helpful conversations that happen between neighbors. To this end, it is crucial that all neighbors feel welcome, safe and respected. Therefore we do not allow racial code words that demean members of a given race, such as "AA" for African-American or "oriental" when referring to Asian-Americans, or language that reduces someone's humanity, for example referring to people as "animals" or "scum." Please see our Community Guidelines regarding discrimination and hate speech.