How to report suspicious behavior

Police, administration encourage students to say something at the first sign of danger

Nur Awkal and Mackenzie Olmstead

Growing up with access to multiple sources of contact such as email, texting, and social media gives people many advantages over others that never grew up with this quick access. However, with advantages come many disadvantages. With the resources available, it has become easier for predators to contact their targets. These predators can easily track where their target is and what they are doing at a specific time to follow them. Predators are everywhere these days and the internet makes it much easier for them.

The more people post about themselves or make information accessible on their social media accounts, the easier and simpler it becomes for anyone trying to target or harass them. It becomes a simpler task for them. In addition to the ease social media brings to the world of harassment, it also causes an increase in the amount of inappropriate behavior and people looking to violate and harass children. There are ways to make a social media account private or even post less. There are many influencers that are almost risking their lives by posting every day and showing where they are. Many kids that are not influencers will also do this without any supervision and get caught by a predator, resulting in serious danger.

Teenagers and children are often the target of inappropriate behavior online. Adults seeing younger people going through anything stressful or just trying to get through growing up, realize the vulnerability and take advantage of that. Taking advantage of a vulnerable teen is very easy, depending on their situation. Their situation can be something that is happening at school, home, or anywhere else.

With the rise of social media, even more vulnerable people will become subject to the harassment not only in person, but online, as well. People with wrong intentions are seeing how much easier it has gotten to access whatever they need to hunt their prey, as well as how easy it could be to get away with it. However, it is only easy to get away with if they are smart enough to cover their own tracks.

There is great importance in reporting anything uncomfortable that has happened or even anything suspicious, to prevent it from continuing. Every day, teenagers and children are getting harassed and nothing is reported. Children should not have to go on this way, suffering or feeling violated. The best way to help is to report these cruel acts. To report something, simply going to any trusted adult will suffice. This could be parents/guardians, a teacher, or any school administrator.

If a student is being harassed by an adult in or out of school it is always good to report it, because if it is not reported, someone else can begin to be harassed.

This is how predators are formed. They do not get caught the first time so they continue to do it over and over again. They think it is okay and that they aren’t harming anyone, so they continue harassing people. Stopping someone from continuing to use disgusting tactics on people could save lives.

The school also has their own officials that can help a student report anything that is making them uncomfortable. Students receiving unwanted attention are encouraged to talk to an adult at the first signs that something isn’t right.

A misconception students might have is that, if they don’t have evidence, they can’t report disturbing behaviors. In situations like these, specially trained police officers can step in.

According to Shelby Township Police Officer Jim Malczewski, there are many ways to obtain evidence, including working with victims to set their predator up, whether that means meeting up with that person supervised, or through text messages.

“There is always a way to control a predator and to ensure that they get caught by staying one step ahead of them,” Malcezewski said, “and remaining in contact with a trusted adult or police officer through everything.”

Malczewski has seen his fair share of suspicious and unwanted behavior.

“If students even think it’s kind of out of flavor, not quite right, something kind of creepy about it, then definitely let the school resource officer know, or let a teacher know, or something like that, even if you’re not quite sure,” Malczewski said. “If you’re even thinking about it, that means there’s probably a red flag there and it should be looked into because what we find is, once somebody comes forward that gives us, which we need, probable cause to open investigation and maybe to pull phone records and things like that.”

Suspicious behavior is often reported by friends, who are concerned.

“It takes one person to give law enforcement that probable cause to go ahead and investigate it, and then typically my experience tells me where there’s smoke, there’s fire in this thing,” Malczewski said. “If you were to complain about someone that made you feel a little creepy, chances are there’s about 10 other students experiencing the same thing from that person.”

Malczewski is one of the many adults around the school who is a good person to look to for help.

“Talk to your school resource officer or a police officer, or you could go to teachers,” Malczewski said. “Teachers are a mandated reporter actually. The teacher would be obligated by law to report it to the police.”

Anyone working in a school is always a mandatory reporter. This means that if they are told information by a student about another adult harassing or being inappropriate to the impressionable, they are required to report anything that student tells them if it is afflicting pain to someone they know or themselves.

Junior Brooklyn McLaren thinks it’s very important to report these wrong actions.

“I think it’s extremely important to report it,” McLaren said. “You’re not only reporting for yourself, you might also be standing up for past victims, or preventing it from happening in the future.”

Malczewski is in agreement with McLaren on whether reporting an uncomfortable incident is important or not.

“It’s important to report it,” Malczewski said. “Number one, there could be a statue of limitations. Number three, you don’t want to get yourself in a situation where this guys’ trying to be inappropriate with you. Number three, which is equally as important to that, is if he or she is hitting on you, or being inappropriate to you, chances are you’re not the only student that they have done this with or that they are currently doing this with.”

As the principal, Thomas Lietz said that if a complaint were to be made against a staff member, the school would follow a similar process.

“We would afford [the staff member] all due process that they were given,” Lietz said. “We would make sure that we took statements from all parties that were involved. Then we would do our best to be as non-biased in the evaluation of the facts and determine what an outcome should be.”

Both law enforcement and school officials agree in the importance of reporting inappropriate behavior as soon as it begins, whether it’s in the classroom, workplace, or even in the home.