You look out for your neighbors, you call the police when you see something that looks wrong, and you have joined your Neighborhood Watch. Good for you. Now contemplate your limitations. You are not the police. Think now about how you will handle situations in your neighborhood.
Some of my long term part time jobs are doing property inspections for mortgage companies and the occasional insurance company.
The mortgage company wants to know what is happening with the property they finance. For those folks who make their payments on time, a photograph, once or twice a year, of the front of the property is sufficient.
When people fall behind on their payments, monthly visits are common.
The requirements for the photographs they want are, at a minimum, as follows.
A street sign showing I was on the correct street.
A house number showing I was at the correct property.
A picture of the front of the property.
A picture of the neighborhood, i.e., a view along the street showing other homes in the neighborhood.
Some inspections require more, especially when the property is abandoned, or the lender wants to know if the property is occupied.
I have lost tract of the number of times I’ve been challenged by a local resident, or even the property occupant, with the demand, often in a belligerent tone, “What are you doing”. The answer now, having dealt with this too many times, is, “I am about my lawful business” and saying no more. I’ve found, trying to be “civil”, simply leads to more questions. I’m not a diplomat, and I’m not wasting my time with chest puffers and self important blowhards. In fact, what I am doing from a public street or sidewalk is none of their business. I do refrain from saying, “Look asshole, if you paid your damn mortgage on time, I wouldn’t be here”.
The point here is this. If it is not your property, the activity seems suspicious, you don’t see clear evidence of a crime being committed, and you are not a sworn or reserve police officer, keep you distance. Call 911 and be prepared to be a good witness. You are neither trained to handle crime nor are you empowered by law.
Just to show I’m not totally stupid, I have a small sheet printed up with my name, picture, picture of my vehicle(s), and license plate number(s). When I’m in an area with several locations to visit, or an area I am in regularly, I make a visit to the local police office and drop off one of my information sheets. I have extras to give to any officer who stops me as I make my rounds.
“Yes, we know who he is and what he is doing. No laws are being broken. Thank you, though, for calling us”, is a whole lot easier on everyone.
So folks, use your head, and don’t become the next George Zimmerman.