What To Do If a Crime Happens In Your Neighborhood

No matter where one lives, the unfortunate reality is that property crimes can occur. While some neighborhoods are safer than others, innocent bystanders and witnesses can play a substantial role in solving crimes and identifying criminals. If an observer is able to stay poised and alert after witnessing a crime, that can both help the victim recover and aid the authorities in catching the criminal.


There are two types of crimes innocent bystanders can end up involved in: an emergency crime and a non-emergency crime. To put it in layman’s terms, an emergency crime is a crime in progress that poses an imminent threat. Conversely, a non-emergency incident is one that does not involve a crime in progress. A non-emergency crime does not pose an imminent threat to life, bodily injury or major property damage and loss. These types of crimes do not require the immediate dispatch of a police unit.

The Chicago Police Department states that non-emergency crimes include pick-pocketing, theft from an automobile, deceptive practices, criminal damage to property, garage burglary, auto theft and other offenses in which the offender is no longer at the scene or visible. That last part is key, basically, a crime is a “non-emergency” when the crime is discovered after the fact and there is no trace of the criminal.

Many don’t realize this, but most police departments have two phone lines: an emergency line and a non-emergency line. Both lines are typically open 24/7 and a quick Google search can provide one with the proper phone numbers for your neighborhood. It may seem like an unnecessary hassle to have to decipher whether or not a crime is an emergency, but the categories do serve a purpose. As the Chicago PD puts it, “non-emergency calls to 9-1-1 can slow the police response to true emergencies and can reduce the time that beat officers have to work with the community on solving longer-range problems on their beats.” Non-emergency calls made to the emergency 9-1-1 line can take up too much time and inadvertently put a high pressure situation on the back-burner.

In order to learn about the proper protocol to follow when reporting a crime, continue reading below.

Non-Emergency Crimes

If you aren’t already aware of your area’s non-emergency police phone number, a quick Google search should present you with the necessary information. Remember, if the situation falls under the category of an emergency, call 9-1-1 right away, don’t waste time with a Google search. But, if the situation falls under the non-emergency category, it’s safe to take the time to find the non-emergency number and follow through accordingly. By doing this, one would be helping out the local police department by keeping their entire focus on emergency calls while the caller speaks to a non-emergency operator.


One must remember that not every criminal incident is an emergency that requires an immediate police response. The non-emergency line is typically monitored by members of a police department’s “alternate response program.” As we’ve highlighted in the past, reporting crime and being on the lookout in a neighborhood is a great preemptive home security strategy. Use these tips to properly inform the authorities of criminal activity in the area that means the most to you.

Emergency Crimes

One should always call 9-1-1 after witnessing an emergency crime like an assault, robbery or burglary. If one witnesses a crime in progress, it’s always the best option to call the police immediately. As mentioned above, it’s very important to stay as calm and collected as possible when reporting a crime. The more composed and focused a witness is, the more likely they are to help catch the criminal.

emergency crimes

When it comes to reporting emergency crimes, it’s important to let the 9-1-1 operator control the conversation from the start. The biggest mistake one can make when reporting a crime is to attempt to dominate the conversation. Composure is key when calling 9-1-1 and it will work out best for both parties involved if the caller lets the operator dictate the flow of the conversation. As a caller, listen to the questions asked by the dispatcher and answer them as best as you can. The operator has a very specific agenda and a report to fill out; as a result, he or she will have to ask you a set of questions no matter how intense the situation may be.

The best strategy to have as a caller is to listen intently to every question posed by the operator and answer as coherently and informatively as possible. Try to be aware of your exact location and pay attention to the offender as much as you can without putting yourself in danger.

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