Murky business is afoot in the neighborhood
June 8, 2016 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Some of my neighbors and I have noticed suspicious characters regularly and discreetly picking up small packages off of my neighbor's porch. Our first impulse is to call the police, but that thought is complicated by two things: 1. The neighbor is himself a cop who works in an evidence room. 2. We live in a place where corruption is well known. What should we do in this case?

I'm in the United States. Clearly, this is circumstantial evidence, not ironclad proof--it could very well be the world's shadiest Amway distributor, for example. At the same time, it seems reasonable for the matter to at least be looked into. That said, my hunch is that if we simply called the police, they wouldn't do anything, since the potential suspect is one of their own.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't touch this with a ten-foot pole unless it is in some way making your life tangibly worse. Because getting involved could make it tangibly worse in about a dozen different ways.
posted by something something at 9:25 AM on June 8, 2016 [44 favorites]

He's leaving stuff on his porch to be picked up? No cop is going to leave contraband sitting around on his porch. It might be cookies that his wife makes for these guys' kids for all you know. Leave it alone.
posted by greta simone at 9:27 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Why do you need to do anything? Have you had packages stolen from your porch? How do you know the neighbor cop didn't request a friend of theirs to hold packages for them?

I would mind my own business unless and until it affected me personally.
posted by a strong female character at 9:27 AM on June 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

What is your concern, exactly? Are these people threatening you, doing damage to the area properties, disturbing the peace at all hours? And what makes them "suspicious"?

I don't see how having a string of regular visitors automatically makes anyone involved a criminal. You haven't given us much to go on.
posted by cabingirl at 9:27 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Safely and discreetly record these activities if you want. It might be Girl Scout cookies.
posted by yesster at 9:28 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

These "suspicious characters" can't be so discreet if you and your neighbors have been noticing them for a while now -- i.e., they're probably not going to terribly great lengths to hide anything because they're probably not doing anything wrong. Don't do a thing; just go on with your life.
posted by holborne at 9:29 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

The cop can more than take care of himself if he is somehow being victimized. If he is up to something shady the last thing you want is him knowing you have so much as a inkling of something odd happening.
posted by griphus at 9:33 AM on June 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

If it were me, I would do nothing now. If you want to do more than that, maybe hang a few of those neighborhood watch signs and have a neighbor train a camera on his porch.
posted by AugustWest at 9:37 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

My neighbors across the street from me are drug dealers. My life got a lot easier once I hung up a huge Chicago flag in my window so I couldn't easily peek out through my blinds any more.
posted by phunniemee at 9:39 AM on June 8, 2016 [20 favorites]

I think I would take a video of a pickup or two if I could be sure of it not being noticed. Then I would ignore it.

If I did feel the need to report it, I would either do it anonymously (without the video, of course) or to the state cops. Or anonymously to the state cops.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:43 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

If the cop is shifting evidence (such as drugs, guns, or cash) to people by letting them pick these items up disguised as parcels in broad daylight, I'd place good odds on his being discovered without your intervention... if it's the proverbial girl scout cookies, or his stool samples being picked up by the lab's scruffy couriers, it's NOYB. I'd leave it alone.
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:47 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

A lot of Facebook buy/sell eBay-type groups do porch pickup on the honor system. For what it's worth.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:48 AM on June 8, 2016 [15 favorites]

You could edit and cut and paste this query from here, print it and mail it to the address of the house.
posted by Freedomboy at 9:52 AM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you called the police, what do you think they'd do? Do you think they would set up a stake-out based on your call? There's absolutely no evidence of any wrong doing here.

Just to toss out a possible legitimate reason, every now and then my wife and I go on a de-cluttering binge and post a bunch of stuff to Freecycle. For a week or so we'll often have "suspicious characters" (whatever that means... are they wearing hockey masks or shirts that say "henchman"?) show up at our door and take packages.

I'm with the others that say mind your own business.
posted by bondcliff at 10:09 AM on June 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

I can't think of any way that "doing something" about this would be beneficial to you other than satisfying your curiosity about what's going on.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:09 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I live in a neighborhood where - delightful as it is in almost every way - sometimes some pretty dodgy stuff happens. I mind my business unless it seems like someone is getting hurt or significant, intentional property damage is happening.

If I saw a cop doing something so obviously shady that I could pick up on it from afar, I would assume not that he was going to get caught out of his own foolishness but that he was so protected that he wasn't worried about getting caught. (That, or it's something trivial that just looks odd.) I would not mess with this.
posted by Frowner at 10:13 AM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

you can submit tips on public corruption here. use a fake name + address from the same area, and do it from some public wifi spot, connecting over tor if you're particularly paranoid. maybe it will be discarded or maybe it will sound like some known pattern of behaviour that's suspicious. either way, you've reported it and done so anonymously.
posted by andrewcooke at 10:15 AM on June 8, 2016

What? No, do nothing. Anyone telling you to do something is not really understanding this situation as it is: you are next to someone who has the legal authority to arrest you and shoot you, who has access to the evidence room at your local police station, and whom you think might be corrupt.

Look, let me help you with this by giving you a decision tree:

If he is corrupt: he is bad enough to be corrupt, and is a bad person with a lot to lose
RESULT OF REPORTING/"WISTLEBLOWING": you will have no effect, or you will have made an enemy of a corrupt police officer

If he is NOT corrupt: there is nothing you need to report
RESULT OF REPORTING/"WISTLEBLOWING": you will have no effect, or you will have made life more difficult for your neighbor, and/or your neighbor will now hate you
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:29 AM on June 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

FBI or maybe the state's attorney general? Maybe the Justice Department.

I would not call the local authorities. Obviously. I would buy a burner phone with cash or use a library computer to make the report.

This is my way of telling you that you can easily ignore this, or if you want to report it, you should do so with great effort towards staying anonymous. So really, maybe don't do it? It's up to you.
posted by jbenben at 11:00 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also, honestly, how much "reporting" do we want in society? Only you can decide that, because only you know just how sketchy these people and packages are, just how often the pick-ups occur, etc.

I personally dislike the idea that every irregularity should be reported to the state for investigation and clearance even if no obvious harm is being done. To my mind, I prefer a situation where people leave each other alone absent some obvious wrongdoing, even as I recognize that this means that sometimes some wrongdoing will go unreported.
posted by Frowner at 11:40 AM on June 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

Are you sure he's not doing something like freecycle? I did this a lot before I moved and yeah people would just come to my place and pick up stuff I was giving away. I would mind my own business in this case unless this is somehow affecting you in a tangible way.
posted by FireFountain at 11:42 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

It doesn't sound like you have a concrete concern beyond a handwavy 'something I don't know everything about is happening somewhere'. Leave it.
posted by so fucking future at 12:02 PM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

What should we do in this case?

Start volunteer work at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen immediately. Seriously.

Shitty things happen, and there are ways to help, but attempts at satisfying your own curiosity is not one of those ways. If you don't have time to help people in need (without being nosy!) then you certainly don't have time to get involved in this.

You won't be the one to solve this mystery, so go be a hero elsewhere.
posted by whoiam at 12:13 PM on June 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

Back in the day when we free-cycled a lot more, any nosy neighbors might have gotten themselves worked up snooping at our front porch. I know we're officially in an SEE SOMETHIN' SAY SOMETHIN' era, but I would let this go, personally.
posted by aught at 12:17 PM on June 8, 2016

Another vote for MYOB here. I also Freecycle and it's bog-standard to leave giveaway items on the porch for the picker-upper. Unless you see something that makes you concerned specifically for your safety, let it go.
posted by Miko at 2:34 PM on June 8, 2016

A friend of mine had neighbors who called the cops on her with accusations of drug trafficking because of activity exactly like this. She's a doula with a side business encapsulating placenta for new moms. People were dropping off placentas and picking up their capsules. But the busybody neighbors made assumptions and long story short it made neighborhood interactions very very unpleasant for a long while.

Don't assume things. There are many legit non drug trafficking reasons for this activity.
posted by palomar at 5:21 PM on June 8, 2016

I was also thinking how very unlikely it is to be drugs because people who sell drugs really don't leave them around untended for people to pick up. They're too valuable, too much could go wrong. Drug transactions tend to be face to face.
posted by Miko at 4:27 AM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'll second everyone who said "leave it be". You have no idea what's going on here and your interference could make your life a misery.
posted by james33 at 4:50 AM on June 9, 2016

My general rule when it comes to this sort of thing is that if the owners of the property are okay with the goings-on AND the goings-on have no impact on the rest of the neighbourhood, don't get involved. Assume the neighbour knows what he's doing.

In the even that the goings-on start to impact on your neighbourhood, call the appropriate department to make that complaint and stick tightly to it. Not, "My neighbour has shady people picking up packages all the time and the people picking up the packages are parking on my driveway" but "Random cars are parking on my driveway and I'd like to make a complaint."
posted by VioletU at 1:46 PM on June 9, 2016

She's a doula with a side business encapsulating placenta for new moms. People were dropping off placentas and picking up their capsules.

Well I learned something new today.
posted by OwlBoy at 2:32 PM on June 9, 2016

« Older Quick-fix inexpensive stair railings for...   |   Fashion emergency! Underclothing for see-through... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.