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Suspicious activity is worth a call to 911

When should you call 911?

Most people know to call this emergency number when a house is on fire; a violent fight has broken out, and after hearing the crunch of a car crash.

Some people call 911 for the wrong reasons, such as a very minor health issue, a civil dispute or even loneliness. But, many more don’t call when they should, according to local law enforcement.

Protecting your home from burglars has been the topic of our column for the last two weeks. Today we want to extend that idea to being a watchful person and not being shy to call to report suspicious activity.

“It is an ongoing concern that people don’t report on non-emergency types of calls,” said Steve Shumate, the new Aberdeen Police Chief, who worked for many years as the chief criminal deputy at the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office.

“Another problem is that sometimes when people do call to report suspicious activity there is a delay in reporting it,” he said.

Neighbors noting people traveling from door to door without an obvious legitimate reason or seeing a lot of unusual activity at a house with many cars coming and going are two examples of times a neighbor should call the 911 dispatch center. In addition, seeing unfamiliar cars at your neighbor’s house – especially when the neighbors are on vacation – or noting a vehicle that seems to follow the mail carrier or the package delivery service are other reasons to call.

When dialing 911 the dispatch center answers and asks, “What is your emergency?” you simply state that you are noticing suspicious activity. That way, if dispatchers are in the middle of handling some other pressing need, they know how to triage the calls. Usually, however, dispatchers will have the time to ask you more right then. Try to have as many details as possible of what your concern is. For instance, it’s great to have a make, model, color and license plate number of a car that seems suspicious as well as what time you saw it and exactly where it is.

However, even if you don’t have all those details, often a call about a black pickup with two suspicious-looking men making the rounds in your neighborhood is enough for officers to look into. Sometimes a sheriff’s deputy or a police officer is nearby and can look into the situation very quickly. In fact, sometimes they are looking for those folks already!

Another option if you see something suspicious that isn’t an imminent emergency is to simply call the non-emergency number – (360) 533-8765 – which still goes to the E911 center, but let’s the dispatchers know what priority to put on the call.

Again, calling as soon after seeing something troubling or suspicious is quite helpful. Often it’s calls like that that help officers find someone they’re looking for.


Speaking of helping officers find someone they’re looking for, there’s something easy you can do to help law enforcement and emergency personnel help you. It’s to make sure your house numbers are clearly marked at the beginning of your driveway and on your mailboxes and also on the outside of your home.

“This really helps when responding units are quickly trying to find a residence – especially at night,” said Brad Johansson, the Grays Harbor County chief criminal deputy.


We here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor primarily talk about housing-related issues as well as personal finances. That’s why we also want to mention the uptick in vehicle prowls the local police agencies have noticed.

Fixing a broken car window, possibly having burglars lurking near your home and dealing with the loss and hassle of personal items taken is a big headache at the least and potentially a trauma and great loss.

This particular crime typically increases during the summer and early fall when people are out and about and perhaps more carefree.

Vehicles with unlooked doors or open windows are especially vulnerable. In addition, any time valuables are visible, thieves are attracted as a bear is to honey.



Nowadays, many burglaries of homes and vehicles are by thieves looking for quick money to support their drug habit.

This is what is likely happening with the copper theft at PUD substations throughout Grays Harbor, said Johansson.

Recently the Sheriff’s Office sent out a list of copper thefts in our county to the Neighborhood Watch Groups to alert citizens to the problem and elicit any information about what is happening.

“Please do keep an eye out for any suspicious person or vehicles and remember to observe, report and document,” said Johansson.

“Timely reports of suspicious activity will be key to solving these crimes. If you are safe to do so, please get a good description of the suspects and any associated vehicles, to include a license plate number or photo if possible,” he said.

The dates of discovery of the copper thefts include:

  • April 16, 1400 block of Westport Rd., Aberdeen;

  • April 19 – 600 block S. Adams St., Hoquiam;

  • April 19 – 90 block of U.S. 101, Hoquiam;

  • April 19 – 3900 block of U.S. 101, Neilton;

  • April 23 – 300 block of U.S. 101, Hoquiam;

  • April 26 – milepost 79 on U.S. 101, Cosmopolis (This was theft of wire from cable company.)

  • May 20 – 2200 block of Valley St., Aberdeen;

  • June 8 – 400 block of W. Scott St., Aberdeen;

  • June 20 – 200 block of Powell Rd, Hoquiam;

  • June 21 – 2300 block of SR 109, Ocean City;

  • June 22 -- 300 block of U.S. 101, Hoquiam;

  • June 25 – 600 block S. Adams St., Hoquiam;

  • July 25 – 300 block of US 101, Hoquiam;

  • July 31 – 3900 of U.S. 101, Neilton;

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