Just Saw Potential Robbery-- What to do?
July 31, 2010 9:35 PM   Subscribe

I just saw a couple of kids who seem like they have a two-man robbery scheme going on in the subway. I didn't see them actually rob anyone. What should I do?

So I just got out of the subway-- it's 12:30 on a Saturday night in Brooklyn. My stop was pretty deserted-- the only people who got out of the train were myself and an elderly man. This is what I saw:

As the train pulled into the station and stopped, one kid-- maybe about 16 or 17-- ran down the stairs and then stood there and sort of looked around. The train doors opened, but he didn't get on the train. (There's only one train at this station.) The doors stayed open for a while, and the kid just kept looking around. Something about this didn't feel right to me, so I waited until the elderly man neared me before I walked up the stairs.

When I reached the top of the stairs, I saw another kid, same age, walking back and forth outside the turnstiles, just kind of wandering around, looking at me, and looking at the elderly guy. My spidey sense was going bonkers now, and I slowed down again so the elderly guy was pretty near me, then exited the turnstiles and booked it up the stairs.

Having been mugged once before, this seems like a classic two-person job-- two dudes hang out at a deserted station, one guy's the lookout on the platform, the other guy grabs the money as the lone person exits the train.

Question: having not *seen* anything go down, is there anything I can do? Can I report this to anyone? The MTA? The cops? I know it sounds like I'm being paranoid, but this smelled really wrong to me. Any thoughts?
posted by airguitar2 to Law & Government (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Call 311.
posted by hermitosis at 9:40 PM on July 31, 2010

Call the local precinct's non-emergency number. 311 will not be able to help you except to give you the local precinct's non-emergency number, this is not a 311 issue.
posted by micawber at 9:46 PM on July 31, 2010

If you see something, say something:
The vigilance of all New Yorkers has kept MTA buses, subways, and railroads safe.

The MTA thanks our passengers and reminds them to:

* Be alert to unattended packages.
* Be wary of suspicious behavior.
* Take notice of people in bulky or inappropriate clothing.
* Report exposed wiring or other irregularities.
* Report anyone tampering with surveillance cameras or entering unauthorized areas.
* Learn the basics of safe train evacuation.

And remember, if you see something, say something. Alert a police officer, train or bus operator, station personnel or call 888-NYC-SAFE (888-692-7233).
posted by msbutah at 9:51 PM on July 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sometimes you have to go with your spidey senses.

If there's someone at the token booth, let them know. They can page nearby cops to look into what's going on. Or call 311 - my experiences with 311 have all been positive. This seems like a case of "if you see something, say something".
posted by ladypants at 9:51 PM on July 31, 2010

It is not a 311 or local precient number issue. In NYC if you need to summon the police, even to report a property damage only car accident, say, you need to call 911. Where people get confused is when they call 911 to summon the police for a non-police matter (e.g., complaint about street lights) and then are told they should have called 311. If you call the precient, once the desk sgt. has determined it is safe for you to do so, will ask you to hang-up and call 911.

In the future, when you get the 911 operator on the line, just say you want to report suspicious activity, and then give the descriptions of the two guys (You did get a good description, right? Race, age, height, weight, hair style, clothes, anything else that stood out).
posted by mlis at 11:07 PM on July 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't know what things are like in the city, but living on a shady corner in Seattle (next to a boarded-up building) I've dealt with the police many times. I've also asked, several times, about when it's appropriate to call 911 vs the non-emergency number, especially when I haven't seen a crime but just think something is up. In every case they've said that if you see something suspicious, call 911.

The dispatchers will take your info and then prioritize what you've reported. If it's a busy night they may not get to something they deem low priority. In this case, the police may decide you've seen two unrelated people. On the other hand, they may realize that a similar looking pair was involved in a robbery an hour before at a different station, and take action.

My one caveat is that about 1 call in 10 I get a dispatcher who's having a bad day, which can be stressful. Usually they're very professional and courteous even when I feel like a schmuck.
posted by rouftop at 11:17 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

By the way, thanks for sticking with the old guy.
posted by dzaz at 4:54 AM on August 1, 2010 [9 favorites]

Yeah, let the 911 people do the prioritizing. Don't beanplate about what an "emergency" is. Emergency just means a situation that is "emerging; coming into view or into existence; nascent; new." If you think something bad is happening or is about to happen, they are the right people to call. From your perspective as a concerned citizen, look at 911 as almost a high priority telephone operator. You tell them what your issue is, they hook you up with the appropriate responder.

One tip for calling 911. Say what you are calling about first, and let them lead the conversation. They have electronic forms they need to fill out, and it goes much quicker and easier for them if they can ask you what they need to know, rather than having to filter and collate what you are saying.

Operator: "911, what is your emergency?"
Caller: "I would like to report some suspicious behavior that I'm seeing."

Now the operator knows what the call is about. They can ask the questions they need to answer first. If they need to put you on hold, or tell you to hang up and call someone else because there are murders going on, they can. If you over estimated and 911 isn't the right place to call, you've wasted almost no time, and quite honestly, there is some slack built into the system to account for these kinds of calls.
posted by gjc at 7:02 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

this seems like a classic two-person job

Indeed. Reasonably, what possible reasons could someone have to loiter around a subway stop? You're either there to catch a train, or you're there coming from a train, in which case you exit the station. But just hangin' 'round, 'cause you know what an awesome hot spot the G station is at half-past midnight? Yeah, I don't think so.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:06 AM on August 1, 2010

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