"Am I witnessing a crime?" Most of us have found ourselves wondering this at some time or other. However, because we are not sure, we tend to ignore what we have just seen and, hoping it was not so, we continue about our business.

Some Signs and Behaviors that may be suspicious:
  • A person running would be suspicious if he or she were looking about furtively, as if he or she were being observed or chased.
  • A stranger carrying property at an unusual hour or location, especially if the items are stereo equipment, office machinery, laboratory equipment, or a locked bicycle.
  • A person going door-to-door in an office building or a residential area may be looking for an opportunity to steal. One of the leading crimes here at USC is theft of unattended property from unsecured offices.
  • Any person forcibly entering a locked vehicle, especially at night and in one of our parking areas, is highly suspect.
  • Business transactions being conducted from a vehicle, especially near primary schools, high schools, or parks. You may be witnessing an illegal drug sale or a sale of stolen property.
  • One or more persons sitting in a parked car closely scanning the area around them may be lookouts for a burglary or robbery in progress, or for a crime being planned.
  • A juvenile or female being forced into a vehicle may be a kidnapping.
  • A person exhibiting unusual mental or physical symptoms may have been injured in an accident, be under the influence of drugs or medications, or otherwise need medical or psychiatric assistance.
  • Unusual noises, including gunshots, screaming, sounds of fighting, abnormally barking dogs, or anything suggesting foul play, danger, or illegal activity.

If you witness one of these things or some other suspicious activity, call Public Safety immediately at UPC (213) 740-4321, or (323) 442-1000 on the Health Sciences campus. If you are away from campus, call 9-1-1.


Depending on the situation and considering your personal safety, take a good look at the suspect, so that you will be better able to describe the suspect later. These are some of the things to look for and to report upon:

  • Sex, race, age.
  • Height (estimate in 2 inch blocks; for example 5' 8" to 5' 10"
  • Weight (estimate in block of 10 pounds; for example 130 to 140 pounds
  • Build - large, medium, small, sticky, fat, slender, thin, plus any distinguishing features on parts of the body (tattoos, eyeglasses, etc)
  • Hair - color, thick, thin, balding, fully bald, sideburns
  • Speech Characteristics (accents, lisp, etc)
  • Mustache or beard - describe including color
  • Complexion
  • Clothing - type color, style (start at top and work down: hat, coat, shirt, pants, shoes)
  • Weapon, left or right
  • Nationality


Be attentive to the details of vehicles. Try to make note of the following features and report them:

  • Color, make and year
  • Body type - sedan, two-door, convertible, sports utility vehicle, truck, van, motorcycle
  • License number (specify State)
  • Other identification - exterior attachments, damage, bumper stickers, window decals, etc.
  • Direction of travel and estimated rate of speed
Example: A black, late model Plymouth, four-door sedan, Florida license number ABC 333, large dent on rear passenger door, and Florida Marlins decal on rear window.
Trust Your Instincts
  • You know when something does not look right. You may not know why, but somehow it is out of character and arouses your suspicion. Call It In! The police would rather respond to your suspicions than miss the one that is real.
  • Stay on the line - the complaint officer will ask you a number of questions, which are necessary prior to sending a police officer. Be patient and provide whatever information is requested.
  • If you are reporting a suspicious vehicle or person, or a vehicle was broken into and the suspects fled the area, or are in fact dealing with a crime that may be committed in the future or a crime that has already been committed, call your local police department.

Program these numbers into your cell phone

DPS Emergency (213) 740-4321, DPS Business (213) 740-6000,

LAPD (911)