Most of us walk around with our phones in our pockets or backpacks (if not in our hands) and don’t think twice about snapping a photo or sharing a video, offering friends and family a snapshot into our day-to-day. But too often, police say, our fingers freeze when it comes to dialing 911 or reporting concerns when we see something disturbing or even dangerous.
“I think there are a variety of reasons for this,” said Commander Mark Heyart of the University of Colorado Boulder Police Department (CUPD). “In some instances, we assume someone else has shared the information already. In other instances, it might be that people are afraid to say something, or may not have recognized the severity of the situation.”
Our comfort level with social media plays into the dynamic. It may seem natural (and safe) to share suspicious activity with friends, but that probably won’t get the correct reaction or fastest response. “The right reaction is for the quick arrival of informed first responders. By reaching out quickly to 911, you can become the voice for others who may not be able to communicate,” Heyart added.
One way to get fingers moving away from social media apps and toward dialing 911 is to understand that ultimately, notifying authorities of situations of concern is the best way to help. Police recognize that students may be hesitant to get involved and say anonymous reports are accepted. The most important thing is to make the call.
“By calling authorities, you ensure an accurate picture is being painted. Be sure you’re aware of your surroundings, including landmarks police might be able to use to identify your location,” said Heyart. Other tips: Try to speak clearly and don’t hang up on dispatchers who may be trying to gather more information.
There are multiple ways to alert authorities of suspicious behavior or activity: Call or text 911 in an emergency, or call CUPD’s non-emergency number at 303-492-6666. Not sure if what you’re witnessing is an actual emergency? Don’t worry… 911 dispatchers are trained to guide you through the conversation to determine the level of response that’s needed.
“The idea is that by taking a moment now, it may make a big difference later,” said Heyart. If you’re considering reporting a behavior or incident of concern but not quite sure the best route to do so, you can also explore these options.