Reporting suspicious drug activity in your neighborhood can sometimes feel like a waste of time. You may feel that nothing is being done, or that police are not paying attention.
Tips about suspicious activity often go unrecorded in police databases, admitted Detectives Dustin Marshall and Samuel Wolf of the Salt Lake City Police Department’s Community Intelligence Unit. This is essentially because of limited personnel and a large volume of incoming reports.
When a citizen report is not "actionable," meaning that it cannot be acted upon immediately, and is vague or difficult to verify, the information will likely not be recorded. So, even if multiple complaints are made about the same location, from multiple sources, if they are not “actionable,” no correlation will be made.
However, police can ‘flag’ a location for special attention. They are likely to do so when multiple detailed reports are received. Effective citizen reporting should not be vague; it requires information that builds a history. And results don’t happen right away; action in drug crimes may take time.
The SLCPD publishes a booklet, “What is Suspicious Drug Activity” that is available at the Pioneer Police Precinct (1040 W. 700 South) and the Public Safety Building (475 S. 300 East) and it will soon be available on their website at www.slcpd.com. The booklet describes effective crime reporting and includes an incident log (filing a report with multiple incidents is recommended).
Also provided is a list of suspicious activities to help citizens recognize and record various types of drug-money exchanges. Examples include: more than 2-3 return short-term visits by the same person, a quick exchange through a car window, a series of short car rides, or drugs hidden in a pickup location.
The detectives strongly recommend using the online reporting system at www.tipssubmit.com for reporting suspected drug activity. This method provides information in the format that the department favors, and also gives residents control over the information recorded.
For residents without online access, calling the Drug Hotline at (801) 799-DRUG (3784) is an alternative reporting method. Messages are reviewed weekdays by an administrative assistant who forwards a typed report of selected calls to the Narcotics Unit sergeant, and discards the remainder.
Calling or emailing the Community Information Officer attached to your city council district is the simplest way to make contact with an officer. (Refer to the SLCPD website at www.slcpd.com.) Attending community council meetings provides an opportunity to speak with the CIO in person and to discuss concerns with neighbors. To find the schedule for your local community council, go to the Community Bulletin section in The West View.
The detectives stated that for non-emergencies, calling police dispatch, 801-799-3000, may give residents valuable help in routing a call to the right unit, but people should not assume that they will be able to speak with an officer immediately, or that each call will be logged into a database and linked to an address. Dispatchers do have access to prior reports included in the database, but they also have discretion as to whether to review that history. Again, this decision comes down to whether the address is ‘flagged’ and to the call volume.
Detectives Wolf and Marshall also recommend that residents join Next Door.com, a free, private, social network for neighborhood discussion of crime and other issues.
Opportunities for direct citizen involvement with community protection are Neighborhood Watch or the Volunteer Corps. Neighborhood Watches are tied to Community Council districts; Volunteer Corps members choose which areas of the city to patrol. Refer to www.slcpd.com for details.