How to Spot Suspicious People in Your Neighborhood

When it comes to keeping your home safe, how can you judge if those you see in the neighborhood are supposed to be there? Whether you have joined a Neighborhood Watch group and are tasked with keeping an eye on the community, or are just trying to watch out for the safety of your own home, it's important to catch suspicious behaviors so that you can report them to the police. It's not just someone spray painting graffiti on a fence or throwing a rock through a window that you have to worry about. Though you may think that you'd immediately be able to tell that something is wrong, this is not always the case. Here are a few ways to spot those who might be trying to blend in as they prepare to break in or commit a crime:

Someone going house to house, ringing door-bells. While there are lots of legitimate reasons to go door to door, there are some burglars who dress up as solicitors or repairmen as a ruse so that they don't look out of place on the porch. If they knock and get no answer, they can assume that the home is unoccupied. If any of the people walking through the neighborhood go to a back or side yard after ringing the doorbell, this is particularly suspect. 

Someone hanging around a home you know to be empty. Whether the owners are on vacation or have moved away, make a point to strike up a conversation with anyone who's around the home. Even if they are simply taking care of the home while the owners are away, you should make an effort to notice them. People hanging around an empty house may be a sign of a burglary in progress.

Anyone carrying anything large out of the home. Sure, it's possible that someone has purchased that TV from your neighbor, or that your neighbor is moving. It's also possible that they are stealing the TV. If you see anything valuable being carried away from a home, go see what's going on. This is especially true if it's after dark, because there are fewer legitimate reasons for carrying large items out of the home.

Look for people constantly coming or going from a particular house. Sure, they may just like to invite lots of friends over, but it may be the sign of a drug house or other vice activities. If you see someone who shows strange mental symptoms wandering around the neighborhood, they may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In both situations, it's best to call the police rather than approaching anyone yourself, as they may behave in unpredictable or irrational ways.

With all of the above situations, move cautiously and with common sense. Don't get in the middle of a violent confrontation or a burglary in progress – instead, call 911 and let the police deal with it. If you feel that you must approach them, or that the situation is not that dangerous, carry pepper spray or a stun gun. That way, if it does take a bad turn, you'll be prepared to defend your safety. While there could be a perfectly innocent explanation for any of these potentially suspicious behaviors, it's also possible that you have just stopped a crime in progress or kept one from occurring.

By James Shaw

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