As a kid, I remember my mother sharing how she had once called the police because she found the way someone was wandering around somewhat suspicious. Looking back from today’s perspective I find it an unusual thing to do. Mainly because she did it out of her discomfort more than based on something he had done that was tangible.
It was the difference between him doing something doubtful and my mother being in doubt if things were ok. And in the end, the police came and investigated a bit without finding anything special. And that was the end of the story.
A few days ago, I was reminded of this episode while hearing an announcement inviting me to address the police if one is noticing anything unclear. It was at a train station where there were also lots of signs asking to never leave luggage unattended and to take all of one’s belongings from the train when leaving it.
The way they framed the message made it a simple one to follow under any circumstances.
They suggested that whenever one would see something, one should address the police nearby or send a text message to the local police via a common number. Their promise was, that they would then sort it out. They then summed it up in simple terms: see it, say it, sorted.
It made it sound like a practical and easy thing to do.
What I also noticed was how the way they framed it felt like permission to share my doubts whenever I sensed it might be relevant. It allowed me to disconnect from the fear that I might be accusing someone of wrongdoing. What came up for me was more of an idea that it was common sense and supportive of the community to do so. It felt like the possibility to contribute to safety in general by simply pointing out possible problems. There was no need to know if something was right or wrong. The recipients of my message would take care of finding out.
The audio message was supportive of the signs I was seeing all around. But none of the messages were focused on the problem they were dealing with. All the messages addressed what we could do to contribute to safety and be an aware citizen.
While not everyone will consider all the messages, the chosen approach allows for every message to be considered by someone. Thus making it possible for everyone to choose their preferred way of contributing.