What kinds of crimes do police ignore?
December 30, 2016 4:20 AM   Subscribe

In the experience of MeFites, what kinds of crimes get little if any police attention? Asking as part of research for fiction, not as a knock on law enforcement. Thanks.
posted by charris5005 to Law & Government (37 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Highly dependent on the area, but public drunkenness and recreational cannabis are often neglected purely from a practical "jeez, we can't arrest EVERYONE".
posted by askmeaboutboardgames at 5:02 AM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Depending on jurisdiction (and I think many answers will), minor drug/alcohol offences often end up being "tip it out and we'll say no more". Or do you mean more (less) 'investigative' attention, like maybe a home robbery versus a bank robbery?
posted by quinndexter at 5:03 AM on December 30, 2016

many if not most shoplifting incidents are prosecuted by private stores, not the police (and they don't tend to be reported in the media, at least anywhere near to how common they are).
posted by likeatoaster at 5:08 AM on December 30, 2016

Also, it's important to note the time period you are discussing. Criminal justice has shifted dramatically in the last 20 years or so. Once, DUIs and domestic calls were very frequently ignored and/or dismissed with a warning; that is no longer the case, with mandatory minimums in the case of DUI and mandatory arrests in the case of domestic calls.
posted by likeatoaster at 5:09 AM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: OP here. To clarify. Time frame is present, and I'm most interested in crimes against people, wherein the victims want / expect police intervention but the police (for whatever reason, including workload issues, etc.) merely go through the motions or let it slide entirely. Thanks.
posted by charris5005 at 5:19 AM on December 30, 2016

Missing persons? Unless there is evidence of an abduction, don't police just assume the adult left of his/her own accord? Teenage runaways, too.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:23 AM on December 30, 2016

Rape kits can take over a year or even 2 to be tested, so in cases without an active suspect, victims may feel like the cases are ignored or dropped altogether. (Although in cases with an active suspect, that person is likely sitting in jail for over a year waiting on DNA results, so it kindof makes sense why those would be the priority from a law enforcement perspective.) Further, in cases of rape that are reported more than a few days after the fact (including allegations of child sexual abuse), stale and/or lack of physical evidence can make putting together the case more difficult, and law enforcement will sometimes not prosecute or pursue cases that they feel they cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt (for example, if there is no physical evidence or corroborating witness testimony). My hunch is the popular conception is that police ignore rape cases.
posted by likeatoaster at 5:24 AM on December 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Harassment is overlooked where I live, I had someone repeatedly driving past my house, following me around town and calling me dozens of times a day and video of everything from our security camera and they did nothing.

(This has since been resolved via restraining order from the courts, don't worry!)
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 5:26 AM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Where I live, the police only make a report of vehicle break-ins. Nobody comes out and looks around unless something of high value was taken, or unless there was a streak of break-ins (like, 20 in one night in one neighborhood).

Like julie_of_the_jungle said above, harassment is ignored unless there's a direct threat of bodily harm.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:43 AM on December 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

Stolen bicycles?
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:47 AM on December 30, 2016 [8 favorites]

Massive financial fraud. Has anyone ever been prosecuted for that?

Probably not what you're looking for, though. More realistic options:

-Bike theft. Some bikes are pretty damn expensive, but police rarely care.
-Crimes committed by other police officers. Officer-involved shootings are in the news these days, but there are other forms of police crime, and they're likely to be swept under the rug. Supposedly things like domestic violence are pretty common.
-I've also heard that crimes against homeless people aren't taken as seriously.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:48 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Drivers who hit people with cars.
posted by ferret branca at 5:52 AM on December 30, 2016 [9 favorites]

ANY property crime is going to result in the police coming to the scene, writing it up, and handing you a copy of the report so you can file insurance (or perhaps you have to go somewhere and pick it up later these days). Absent an occasional situation where they catch someone red-handed and/or someone pesters someone at city hall into investigating a particularly bad rash of crimes (such as air conditioner or car thefts) in a given area, ZERO investigative work gets done.

Traffic enforcement is another area - perhaps counter-intuitive because lots of people think they get hassled by the cops a lot and get tickets, but...

- they don't go after reckless or aggressive drivers, enforce a lot of equipment violations, or do much about chronic problem areas.
- they'll abandon car chases if they pull out after someone who is speeding and they run (which is probably good policy, but it seems like they could take dashcam footage and try to track people down later, and I'm not sure they do).
- on the odd chance you do lose your license, no problem - lots and lots of people are driving without them. (or current tags, or insurance, or tires with tread...)

Where I live (Alabama), there is a window tint law on the books, and yet there are window tint shops putting on tint which doesn't meet the requirement every day. They charge even MORE to remove it on the off chance you do get pulled over (usually for speeding) and the cop does write you on the tint.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:04 AM on December 30, 2016

Was about to say property crime. Even if they know who did it, you usually have to buy your own stuff back from the pawn shop.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:07 AM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Violence of any kind against women - domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, stalking, etc. Homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women.
posted by melissasaurus at 6:07 AM on December 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Along with the pedestrian example above, most anything where a car hits a cyclist, up to and including death. Part of the movement to calling them car crashes instead of accidents. The assumption is always that the cyclist must have been doing something wrong.

There was that awful example in the news yesterday about the cop arresting the black woman because she called the police when a white man assaulted her kids for littering. So as with all of these depressing examples, anywhere there's a power differential where the victim has less power, there will be awful examples of injustice.
posted by ldthomps at 6:23 AM on December 30, 2016 [6 favorites]

Cyclists ignoring the rules of the road or riding on the sidewalk, specifically in pedestrian-heavy areas where it preeents an actual danger.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:31 AM on December 30, 2016 [8 favorites]

Generally, offenses that require greater expertise or resources than a local PD has to offer tend to go unpunished. Earlier this year, someone called us a few times and attempted to social engineer their way to sensitive personal information about my father-in-law that would have allowed them to steal his identity and/or commit social security fraud. Local police basically said, "Oh, yeah, that happens a LOT in this area. Yeah, pretty shitty. But, hey, what can you do?" (We tried to report this to federal authorities, too, FWIW, meaning we filled out a form on a 1990s-ass website, hit submit, and never heard anything about it again.)
posted by duffell at 6:34 AM on December 30, 2016

Scams, especially when the scammers aren't local.
posted by Melismata at 6:35 AM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Noise polution, stray dogs, jaywalking, minor speeding, panhandling, yard sales without a license.
posted by Beholder at 6:38 AM on December 30, 2016

Robbery of sex workers, stalking of sex workers, sexual assault against sex workers, and other violence against sex workers. Society can't decide whether our profession makes us victims or criminals, which complicates the attitudes of many police departments.
posted by Peppermint Snowflake at 6:46 AM on December 30, 2016 [14 favorites]

Credit card fraud
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 6:48 AM on December 30, 2016

In pretty much every bar altercation (even ones that haven't escalated to the point of actual punches thrown) I've ever seen the cops get involved in, their #1 priority is breaking the thing up - they don't care who started it, or why, or who's right or who's wrong, whatever. Usually they just throw everyone involved out of the club and chase them out of the neighborhood with threats of arrest. So I've seen lots of instances where one person or group of people are hoping that the arrival of the cops means that they'll get to make a case that they're the victims and instead they wind up out on the street with everyone else.

Even if people actually get arrested, often those arrested are the ones most pissing off the cops rather than the instigators of the fight, and unless there're serious injuries the arrestees just spend the rest of the night in jail and maybe get hit with a fine and probation, no further jail time.

(I may have seen an unusually high number of instances where cops get involved in bar fights, because here in Cleveland lots of cops moonlight as bouncers and security at bars and clubs, often in uniform. I have no idea how common this is in the rest of the US.)
posted by soundguy99 at 6:52 AM on December 30, 2016

Online harassment, up to and including rape and death threats.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 8:17 AM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Purse snatching, pickpocketing, any kind of low-dollar grab-and-run crime because, despite what you may see on tv, there usually isn't a cop anywhere near to chase-down the robber, and there's really no good way to get anything back.

Unfortunately, a lot of domestic violence gets ignored/lip-service, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:56 AM on December 30, 2016

In addition to everything stated above, car crashes where there's no injury. They literally tell you not to call them. (Edit - I suppose this isn't necessarily a crime).

Basically, my view on this whole thing is unless someone's bleeding, they're not coming.
posted by cnc at 8:58 AM on December 30, 2016

Drivers who hit people with cars.

yep, traffic laws are just so passe. Or so it seems.

If you count running stop signs as crime, that's pretty much ignored in my town. I've had a couple of near misses crossing streets and I've seen many more. When they are around, the cops just don't seem to care. I don't know why people are suddenly treating stop signs as an option, but it's dangerous as hell.
posted by james33 at 9:09 AM on December 30, 2016

harassment, stalking, domestic violence, identity theft and electronic fraud, a sex offense where the victim is an adult woman esp. a sex worker of any kind, any criminal activity committed by someone in law enforcement, and low level stuff like muggings and purse snatching etc where a weapon is not used and no serious injury occurs.

i have lived in places where a) no one came if you called 911 or b) someone came, and needed to be bribed right away, usually in cash, in order to do anything. although america hasn't gotten to that point yet...stay tuned.
posted by zdravo at 9:10 AM on December 30, 2016

I had an experience with asking a pair of cops their car for protection from an angry mob that had been brawling with my small group moments before and were half a block away shouting threats at us. The cops looked at the situation and just drove off. It was a small town, so maybe brawls were common, and they felt outnumbered?
posted by Joe Chip at 9:36 AM on December 30, 2016

Definitely assault against women, verbal and physical.

Women are groped, yelled at, spit on, threatened and otherwise assaulted all the time in cities.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 9:54 AM on December 30, 2016

Noise complaints. The police advised me once that they would not respond in any way to a (very legit) noise complaint unless I was willing to appear in court to testify against my neighbors.

Property damage, theft. Harassment and threats.
posted by a moisturizing whip at 10:52 AM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

2nd noise complaints. They'll make a report if it's repeating frequently, but there's not a lot they actually do about it other than go tell the person someone complained.

Small thefts, like a bike or iPhone or something that doesn't involve a home burglary. Sure, they'll make a report, and there are cops looking for organized rings. But people think the cops are going to go search for their item specifically, and they're just not. If it turns up during one of their big busts, you might get it back.
posted by ctmf at 12:20 PM on December 30, 2016

Domestic violence and noise complaints, IME. Noise complaints matter, man.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:23 PM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Police in my town were very responsive to noise complaints. I was impressed.
Not so much when people stole plants off of our front porch
posted by SLC Mom at 1:42 PM on December 30, 2016

Petty crimes - minor break-ins of homes and cars. We had a rash of break-ins and burglaries a few years ago. The police came and dutifully took reports, but there was no serious investigation, and the crimes weren't solved. Neighbors were told to pay more attention and be sure to lock their doors.
posted by clarkstonian at 1:45 PM on December 30, 2016

People parking / driving in the bus lane or bike lane?
posted by batter_my_heart at 5:56 PM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Crimes committed by family members/friends/members of the police.

And the big fish in small ponds.
posted by porpoise at 2:30 PM on December 31, 2016

« Older Shopping for a heavy duty protective case for an...   |   What Malthusian catastrophe reverts to middle ages... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.