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25 February 2009 @ 09:25 pm
I'm never sure if I've done the right thing  
Came out of the restaurant this evening and heard loud yelling, with lots of cussing involved, coming from the parking lot of the hotel abutting the restaurant property.

Listened for a moment, because, hey, it could have been a couple of drunk guys trash talking. Or, well, shouting.

No, it was definitely things that sounded like accusations, and someone sobbing loudly enough to be heard probably 15 feet away through a hedge. And so I stood there and dithered.

Should I call the cops?

Should I honk my horn and shout through the hedge, "Are you okay? Do you need someone to call 911 for you?"

Should I just go away and pretend it never happened?

What I finally did was drive around the block to the hotel and tell the front desk clerk about it, emphasizing that I didn't care about the noise, I was concerned for their safety. She said she'd call "someone", by which I hope she meant "security". But I dunno. I worry.
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on February 26th, 2009 03:07 am (UTC)
That's the sort of situation that makes me glad that I'm a relatively burly adult white male.

Because I CAN do things like walk TOWARD that sort of situation and expect that I'm not going to be putting myself in TOO much extra danger.

I'm short, but I'm 220 pounds, so I've got some heft to me. Someone smaller than me is putting themselves into danger. A visible minority is in danger of being counted as a contributing problem if he gets involved. Or even worse, she.

So, yeah. I could have walked over there and directly intervened.

Most people on my friends list, however, could not.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on February 26th, 2009 01:40 pm (UTC)
Yeah, "walking toward the situation" wasn't even on my list of options. (Not to mention it would have involved climbing a fence to do so, but even without the fence, so not going to happen.)
browngirl on February 26th, 2009 03:31 am (UTC)
Oh, this is a hard one.

I definetely think you did something better than nothing.
Adrian Turtleadrian_turtle on February 26th, 2009 04:03 am (UTC)
I think you did the right thing. Thank you for doing something. The desk clerk might have heard the noise and been uncertain about whether to call security, and your concern pushed her into action. Or maybe she hadn't heard. If it wasn't a parking lot for someplace with their own security, then it would have been good to call the police. But hotel security should have training in dealing with a variety of problems.

Thank you for not taking yourself into a situation that might have been dangerous, or might have become dangerous...your safety is important. (Unfortunately, accusations and crying can go with many different kinds of problems. They aren't diagnostic of a particular dynamic.)
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on February 26th, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC)
I doubt the clerk heard the noise: I didn't hear it from the front of the lot when I walked in. I'm kind of surprised no one in neighboring rooms had called the desk, but then again, they might have felt as paralyzed as I did.

And, yeah, it could have been a lot of things. I've seen public arguments where I didn't feel any real concern about escalation; something about this one, though.... I dunno. I guess I'd rather be wrong on the side of over-reacting toward safety. And anonymous.
starcat_jewelstarcat_jewel on February 26th, 2009 04:26 am (UTC)
I think you made the best of a bad situation. I wouldn't be able to just walk away from that either, but (as others have noted) getting up-close and personal with it can be hazardous to your own health.

Russ & I have done the equivalent when we witnessed what looked like a nasty argument and possible assault in a mall parking lot -- we found a mall security officer and pointed him in that direction. It's certainly better than doing nothing at all.
Maggiesillymagpie on February 26th, 2009 06:30 am (UTC)
You did the right thing, although it sounds more like a shouting match than a physical altercation.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on February 26th, 2009 11:41 am (UTC)
My concern was that it would escalate.
madshutterbug: Houdini & Imadshutterbug on February 26th, 2009 01:27 pm (UTC)
You done good. You did all you could reasonably do.
drewkittydrewkitty on February 26th, 2009 08:54 pm (UTC)
IMHO, that is a definite and immediate 911 call for a bystander. Let the police figure out who the players are and what the score is. If they're too busy to come out, that's on the police.

If I were a security officer and you told me what you just told me, I would contact my dispatch or control (for my safety) and then approach cautiously but diligently. I probably would not initiate contact with the parties until and unless I felt fairly certain that I understood what was happening. If they were drunken idiots, I would contact them, ask what was going on, and probably trespass them if they were not hotel guests. If I think they're too drunk to be out alone, I'd need PD for that, but not as an emergency.

If it were a crime in progress (including domestic violence) I would NOT make contact unless parties were immediate danger of injury or had already been injured. Instead I would request emergency police response for a crime in progress (through my dispatch) and observe, awaiting developments. Domestic violence situations are dangerous and a joint attack by victim and offender on the intervening party is not uncommon.

That said, there is nothing wrong with you, as a bystander who does not want to get involved or is only willing to intervene briefly from a distance, with shouting or honking or offering to call 911 for the parties. This may break up the situation with little or no danger to you. This may escalate things after you have left, but that is still on the aggressor.

Often there is no way to know what happened, or could have happened. One does the best one can and you go from there.
The Evil Twingrey_evil_twin on February 26th, 2009 10:56 pm (UTC)
If I can see the encounter, I will stop where I am and *look* at them, for a couple of minutes, just so they can see that someone is watching. Usually this is enough. I also take note of what they are wearing and general descriptions. If its woman v man I will look for signs of physical violence ie grabbing pushing smacking, and also try and gauge how intoxicated they both are. If I can catch the woman’s eye I may mouth “you ok?” and me talking on the phone behind the guy’s back, to see if she wants me to call police. If there is violence I will give a “OI!! Back off!” to interrupt immediately while having my phone out speed dialling 000. I wear joggers. I can run fast. I know my neighbourhood. We don’t have guns.

I’ve had to intervene a couple of times. Being grey haired and using the mother voice on drunk people works pretty well. Plus I don’t mind talking to strangers. Sometimes people just get caught up in the moment, and need a voice calmly intervening. Getting sworn at for butting in is something I can hack if it brings them back to reality.

The ones I really worry about are the man v woman fights, because they can escalate so quickly and are one sided and tend to be out of the way and isolated from a crowd. Man v man are usually in group situation, with their mates, which I don’t want to go anywhere near.

I do this because I can think of nothing worse than being in a bad situation and having people walk on by without stopping to help.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on February 26th, 2009 11:01 pm (UTC)
*nods* That all makes sense. In this particular case, I could hear them but not see them -- there was a fence and a hedge separating the two parking lots.

I'm not sure I'd be willing to intervene, even verbally, if there was already violence, but I'd surely be calling 911 (ideally from a not-very-visible location).
The Evil Twingrey_evil_twin on February 26th, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC)
Yup. I think it's a bit different in the US where the potential gun violence is greater. Honking from a distance while in the car = heaps safer.

Calling the police is always a good idea, because even if they get there to find the situation gone, they have an idea of where the trouble spots are, and there is a record of the incident in case it starts up again elsewhere (and goes from bad to worse).