The Citizen Must Call, Please

The Milton Police Foundation Blog sat down with Milton Chief of Police Mark Langford recently to pick up on his ideas on citizen-police involvement, particularly in the area of crime detection and prevention.

“We’re lucky in Milton,” the Chief began in answer to a general ‘How’s it going?’ kind of question. “The citizens and our police officers have a good rapport. It’s a two way communication. But,” he continued, “if there was one thing I’d really like to see happen, it would be to get folks to call in and report every crime.  I would also like them to call when they see something that might not be an obvious emergency, but just seems suspicious or out of place.”

The Chief went on to clarify he wasn’t concerned that we in Milton don’t call 911 in an emergency. We do, as they do in most communities. “But it’s the situation that seems like a gray area to the caller. Maybe it’s not a break-in in progress, or smoke coming out windows. It just seems less urgent, so the caller isn’t sure about dialing the ‘emergency only’ 911 number. The caller just doesn’t want to be a nuisance and tie up the emergency system. But we really need to hear from them.”

“One of our Sergeants, Nils Luckman, sums it up this way, “We would rather have you call and it turn out to be nothing, than not call and it turn out to be something!”

He went on to describe some observations of suspicious activity that might seem less urgent:

  • Someone waiting in car parked streetside while a passenger approaches neighbors’ homes.
  • A strange vehicle in a neighbor’s driveway.
  • A visitor who makes a lame statement when you answer the doorbell, like asking to see an obviously fictitious resident, then taking a hurried leave.
  • A vehicle following a UPS or FedEx truck around a residential area, especially during the holidays
  • Graffiti
  • Any kind of nuisance activity that detracts from the high quality of life we are seeking to enhance and maintain in the City of Milton.

The Chief went on. “And these incidents probably seem less urgent. But they’re important, and we need to hear about them. The citizen’s observation might help more than they could guess.”

The 80-20 Rule

“It’s impossible to use modern crime analysis and mapping technology if the citizens don’t report,” the Chief said. “The bottom line is, it’s the old 80-20 rule. 20 percent of the crooks commit 80 percent of the crimes. If we can just focus in on them, we can reduce a lot of crime.

“For example, the parking area for the Interurban Trail. We have a known suspect who’s responsible for a series of car prowls there and other areas of our nearby communities. Now, it might not seem like it’s worth the effort to report a car break-in, when maybe some CDs or a purse gets taken…but it is.”

Here, the Chief shifted topics just a little: “People still need to be reminded not to leave valuables in plain sight in their cars.”

He continued with his basic message: “The thing about these prowls, the suspect, who is actually a female in this case, is engaged in identity theft. That’s the target of these break-ins. Personal information. And a timely call to us might get her out of the ID theft business sooner rather than later.”

Alternative to 911

“As I say,” the Chief repeated, “If you see something that seems suspicious, like a strange car in your neighbor’s driveway, it’s okay to call 911. And while it may seem like a waste of time, we’d really like folks to report every crime. Car prowls are a good example. But,” he went on, “if you are not comfortable calling 911 because it’s not an emergency, we have other, non-emergency numbers you can use to reach us.”

He offered these two numbers:

The 24 hour non-emergency number (253-922-6633, ext. 1) and the MPD office number (253-922-8735).

“All our contact information can be found,” the Chief said, “on our web pages.”


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