How to spot suspicious behaviour in your community

How to spot suspicious behaviour in your community

You don’t need to be a professional investigator to spot criminal activity in your community, however, knowing what to look out for makes it easier to spot activity that could be of interest to Police. Here are some things that could be cause for concern.

1. Large or heavy bags

Be alert to people you see carrying a large, difficult to carry bag. Maybe it’s a backpack that seems a lot heavier than it should be or a bag that would look unusual to go travelling with.

We all know what backpackers or holiday travellers look like, so use your best judgement when it comes to someone carrying a large or heavy bag.

If catching public transport, be especially conscious of any attempt by a person to store a bag in another compartment, other than the one they are travelling in.

2. Bulky loose fitting clothing worn in warm weather

If everyone’s wearing t-shirts but you see someone with a large jacket on, that’s unusual, right? Are they trying to conceal something?

The way someone is dressed can be a powerful indicator of whether they are up to no good. I’ll give you an example. Late one afternoon as I was walking out my door, I noticed 3 teenagers walking down my street. Logic would argue these kids were walking home from school but their clothing said otherwise. Instead of large pack backs for their textbooks, these kids had very small, lightweight bags that looked empty. They were all wearing joggers and lightweight clothing that looked easy to run in, or should I say escape in. Two had baseball caps on with the brims covering their eyes, and one had a larger hat on that would not look cool in the playground.

It turned out my instincts were right as these boys tried unsuccessfully to break into a home across the road. Sometimes you need to trust your gut if something doesn’t feel right.

3. Signs of tampering

Be aware of exposed wiring, strange smells or electronics that look like they have been tampered with. Nothing should be out of place when it comes to public property such as an electrical box, so if something looks out of sorts, report it.

4. Purchasing supplies

Be aware of people who buy suspicious items in bulk. There’s a big difference between someone buying 20 packets of potato chips for a birthday party and someone purchasing 20 cans of paint thinner.

5. Unattended bags

This goes without saying, but no bag should ever be left alone, especially in a public space, so please report it.

6. Suspicious social media use

Extremist groups use social media to recruit ordinary citizens. Keep this in mind if you notice a family member, cousin or friend engaging in radical content online.


There are signs to look out for when it comes to spotting suspicious behaviour or criminal activity in your community. The general rule is to be alert to things that are out of the ordinary and trust your instincts.

We looked at 6 things to be aware of. They are:

  • Someone carrying a large, heavy bag
  • Someone wearing bulky loose fitting clothing in unusual weather
  • Signs of tampering such as exposed wires, strange smells
  • Unusual purchases, particularly items bought in bulk
  • Unattended bags in public spaces
  • Suspicious social media use

Remember, if you spot strange activity, report it the Police immediately.; the University of Tennessee at Knoxville “8 Signs of Terrorism;” “See-Something-Say-Something Campaign.”