Do you call the police for a crime in progress?

You’re a Private Investigator. You’re on surveillance. You see a crime in progress. Do you call the cops?

Over the years, I’ve honed my answer down to three times I tend to call the police both on surveillance and otherwise.

Larry’s Three Benchmarks

1. Some Crimes of Violence

I’ll call the police for some crimes of violence. Not all of them.

If I see somebody get a smack in the head but they handled it well and the problem is deescalating, they’re disengaging, and they’re fine, I’m not calling the cops on that.

Some crimes of violence I will call. If there is a victim or somebody who needs help, yeah, absolutely I’ll call on that.

2. Some Felonies

Another time I’ll call the police is on some felonies. Again, not all felonies.

There are a ton of property crime felonies and other felonies where no one is in danger and it doesn’t need to be dealt with in the moment. Especially if I’m recording and have video of the person and the crime.

So, even if it’s a felony, but no one’s getting hurt, it’s not urgent, and it can all be put together later, I don’t necessarily call the cops on that.

3. Always When a Weapon is Involved.

I do call if I see a weapon is involved, usually a gun or a knife. I will call the cops on that because it can turn very serious very quickly. Even deadly. I’ve seen it happen.

Other Considerations

If you like those three little rules, they may be a helpful guide for you, but you do have to take some other things into consideration, including…

Client Needs

What does your client need need? How does this play into what you’re being paid to do?


Also, consider liability. Your liability and maybe your client’s liability!

What you see is probably going to come to light later. Right? You’re doing surveillance. You’ve got to write a report and submit the video.

It’s not like this is going to be hidden away forever. Somebody else is probably going to find out.

Is there any liability in your not acting? Should you have acted and called the police?

On this, and a lot of things in life, I ask myself: What’s reasonable?

Would a reasonable person call the police?

If I’m following somebody and they throw an empty soda can out their car window, I am not calling on somebody for littering! That’s not reasonable.

Consider what’s reasonable in the circumstances you’re involved in and you’re witnessing.

The Totality of Circumstances

Finally, take into consideration the “totality of circumstances”, including the location, the time of day, and cost of acting or not acting.

Some things are more normal at certain locations than others.

For Example: Some corners in the city are “dope corners”. There is a lot of drug sales going on all day. If you see a dope deal there, you might not call given the totality of circumstances. But, the same dope deal on a school playground may merit a call to 911!

Another Example: At an expressway off-ramp, there’s a guy panhandling. He gets angry with one of the drives and pounds or slaps his palm against the driver side window. Is this something you call the police for?

Well, they’re safe in the car, the light changes, and they drive on.

If you call the police it’s likely nothing’s going to happen to the panhandler anyway, so the totality of circumstance may not warrant a call to the police.

But… let’s think about the next driver. If this panhandler is so drunk or mentally unstable that he’s behaving like that, maybe somebody with their window rolled down is going to be a real victim. Do you call or not?

Honestly, I’m still not going to call on that. But I’m still considering the totality of circumstances… It’s daylight, cars are moving, people are kind of safe in their cars, and there are other people around in case something does happen. (Though, just because other people are around that doesn’t necessarily make things safe.)

In the meantime, this is Larry Kaye reminding you to do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.

Committed to your success and safety,
Larry Kaye, P.I.

P.S. – And, of course, don’t miss my special report titled… If You Want To be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things. You can get it right here…

Get Instant Access to Your FREE Private Investigator Report!

* indicates required

Don’t be a follower. Be a student! Study my ideas. Study other experts’ ideas and make a decision for yourself! Don’t just follow anyone’s advice blindly!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *