If You See something, Say Something

wiscoaster

Well-known member
I've been hearing something lately on a local radio station what I take to be a new ad campaign. Its tag line is "if you see something, say something" and its message is "if you see suspicious activity, report it to your local authorities." I have problems with this message, for these three reasons:

1) Police don't want to deal with "suspicious activity" anyway ... they've got their hands full dealing with actual crimes, accidents, emergencies, etc. If they had to respond to every suspicious activity report they'd need to triple their manpower.

2) Ordinary citizens aren't qualified to recognize what genuine suspicious activity is. Everyone knows of some Nervous Nelly that's suspicious of everything that happens in the neighborhood. Perfectly ordinary activities of law-abiding citizens can be the same activities that are the prelude to a real crime. And what one person views as "out-of-place" may be seen as perfectly normal by another.

3) I don't want us to be turned into a nation of tattle tails. It's that kind of mind set that organizations like the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB and the Guonbu find most helpful. People who have an ax to grind can take it out on the object of their enmity by a false report. Everybody will end up not trusting anybody. A certain amount of trust is necessary in society.
 

roscoe

Active member
This has been around since 2010:

Parodied in an episode of 30 Rock:

A well-established method:

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WrongHanded

Well-known member
I suppose the alternative would be "If you see something (that may look like groundwork for terrorism or other potentially harmful criminal activity), keep it to yourself so everyone can watch it on the news later."

Tips help LE head off terrorist activities, which is what I've always assumed such messages were directed towards.
 

wiscoaster

Well-known member
I suppose the alternative would be "If you see something (that may look like groundwork for terrorism or other potentially harmful criminal activity),...
Except the point I made is: what exactly is that activity and who's qualified to interpret it as such?
 

WrongHanded

Well-known member
Except the point I made is: what exactly is that activity and who's qualified to interpret it as such?

The activity would be anything that any Tom, Dick or Harry thinks could be signs of terrorism. And those qualified to interpret it would be the professionals receiving the information.

when you cast a fishing net, sometime you catch things you don't want. Same thing with information sourced from the general public. But the government is asking for it, so they must be willing to deal with unhelpful "tips".
 

wiscoaster

Well-known member
... And those qualified to interpret it would be the professionals receiving the information.
Well, you know the reliability of unqualified witness statements. Five witnesses and five different stories and so five sets of "eyewitness facts". This is why we have trials and juries and due process. I'd rather leave both interpretation AND gathering to the professionals.
 

WrongHanded

Well-known member
Well, you know the reliability of unqualified witness statements. Five witnesses and five different stories and so five sets of "eyewitness facts". This is why we have trials and juries and due process. I'd rather leave both interpretation AND gathering to the professionals.
Asking people to report "suspicious activity" is one way the professionals are gathering information to interpret. They're not just taking random citizens at their word and throwing people in prison based on it.

Here's an example: You see a young woman get forcefully ushered into a vehicle by what appears to be an angry man who's pointing something at her which you can't quite make out. Kidnapping? Maybe. Maybe not. It's your choice whether or not to report what you saw.

Now if that were you, trying to get you drunk teenage daughter into the car to get her home and you were gesturing at her with your cellphone in your hand; getting pulled over by the cops because someone reported the activity might annoy you.

Conversely, if your teenage daughter was just kidnapped at gun point by someone who meant to do her harm; you might be glad someone reported it to the cops.

I don't think there's anything wrong with reminding people that they can be more than just bystanders. If we, the people, won't take on some responsibility to help uphold the laws of our society, how much law and order do we really deserve?
 

wiscoaster

Well-known member
I don't think there's anything wrong with reminding people that they can be more than just bystanders. If we, the people, won't take on some responsibility to help uphold the laws of our society, how much law and order do we really deserve?
I agree with that more than you think, but my vision of taking on responsibility to uphold laws goes way beyond just reporting. But ... there is still the problem of activity that's open to interpretation. What is "suspicious" is just so relative. The example you cited above involves behavior that goes way beyond suspicious because it's so obvious that unusual, confrontational and forceful behavior is involved. But what if you loaded a truck with fertilizer and then parked it outside a Federal office building in a major city? Is that suspicious behavior? Citizens wondering what a truck load of fertilizer is doing in the city? You might just be going in to deal with some government paperwork. A waste of time to dispatch law enforcement to check it out. Multiply that and the law enforcement manpower requirements grow enormously. The Nazis solved that problem with an organization called the "Hitler Youth". I don't think you want that.
 
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wiscoaster

Well-known member
...so they must be willing to deal with unhelpful "tips".
Actually, in my personal experience, no they're not. To relate the experience: back when BLM and Antifa started burning down cities I went out to run some errands and ended up in traffic behind a car with out-of-state plates: DC plates - something I've never before seen here. The car was a dirty minivan loaded to the gills in the back with stuff covered by a tarp. The front was occupied by two scruffy young males dressed all in black. Something to be noted for sure as "suspicious" by an observant local. A while later after coming out of a store I saw a local PD officer parked in an empty lot next door doing nothing, so I went over to relate my observation to him with the intent of providing information and also gauging whether or not they were on the lookout locally for Antifa personnel here to instigate local "peaceful protests" in our fair city. But he ended up rather brusquely giving ME the third degree like he suspected ME of doing something wrong. It was not a pleasant or confidence-building experience. Basically, I think they just don't want to deal with such stuff.
 

WrongHanded

Well-known member
Actually, in my personal experience, no they're not. To relate the experience: back when BLM and Antifa started burning down cities I went out to run some errands and ended up in traffic behind a car with out-of-state plates: DC plates - something I've never before seen here. The car was a dirty minivan loaded to the gills in the back with stuff covered by a tarp. The front was occupied by two scruffy young males dressed all in black. Something to be noted for sure as "suspicious" by an observant local. A while later after coming out of a store I saw a local PD officer parked in an empty lot next door doing nothing, so I went over to relate my observation to him with the intent of providing information and also gauging whether or not they were on the lookout locally for Antifa personnel here to instigate local "peaceful protests" in our fair city. But he ended up rather brusquely giving ME the third degree like he suspected ME of doing something wrong. It was not a pleasant or confidence-building experience. Basically, I think they just don't want to deal with such stuff.
Based on this experience you've decided that LE doesn't actually want people to report suspicious activity?

I wasn't there of course and don't have all the information, but there's a big difference between approaching an individual patrol cop and calling in to give information. Though it sounds as if he he assessing the source of the information. And with such a politically charged atmosphere surrounding the protests, I can understand why. Sorry you had a bad experience though.

I agree with that more than you think, but my vision of taking on responsibility to uphold laws goes way beyond just reporting. But ... there is still the problem of activity that's open to interpretation. What is "suspicious" is just so relative. The example you cited above involves behavior that goes way beyond suspicious because it's so obvious that unusual, confrontational and forceful behavior is involved. But what if you loaded a truck with fertilizer and then parked it outside a Federal office building in a major city? Is that suspicious behavior? Citizens wondering what a truck load of fertilizer is doing in the city? You might just be going in to deal with some government paperwork. A waste of time to dispatch law enforcement to check it out. Multiply that and the law enforcement manpower requirements grow enormously. The Nazis solved that problem with an organization called the "Hitler Youth". I don't think you want that.

What I described above was intentional vague, because that's sometimes all we get. My wife saw a guy forcefully putting a woman in a car, followed it to get the licence plate and reported it. Who knows what happened in the end. It could have been an abusive relationship, or something worse. But we're glad it was reported.

As far as your truck of fertilizer outside a Federal building goes, I think that's well worth reporting, and I think local LE would rather know than not. Often there isn't an officer too very far away from such a location anyway.

Do you just not want people to report activity they think is suspicious? Or is there some other point you have? You say your vision on taking on responsibility to uphold the law goes way beyond reporting. Yet you don't think people should be reporting anything? If not, what exactly are you suggesting?
 

wiscoaster

Well-known member
I think it should be up to the individual, not something encouraged by and certainly not required by government. Status quo is fine.
 
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