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Good Citizen Or Nosy Neighbor: Would You Report Misgivings On Your Block?

Question Has Arisen In The Wake Of Cleveland Kidnappings

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The case of the women held in captivity for 10 years in Cleveland is making people wonder what they would do if such a thing happened in their neighborhood.

Was there enough information to call police, or was the decade of imprisonment suffered by Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight completely hidden?

CBS 2’s Lou Young talked with experts and New Yorkers on Wednesday, examining that delicate line between being a good citizen and a nosy neighbor.

Suburban police begin by advising residents to check with each other about misgivings on the block.

“You might want to talk to another neighbor,” said White Plains Police Commissioner David Chong, “because they might have the same suspicions you have, and you’re just all kind of afraid to say it.”

In a situation like the one in Cleveland, the hints may have been subtle. And experts said people tend to want obvious clues before piercing someone else’s privacy.

“Today with cellphones, it’s easy to intervene, but you have to know that there’s something wrong. If those people didn’t see anything wrong they’re not going to stick their heads into it, right?” said Iona College psychology professor Paul Martin

Which is where the nosy neighbor comes in — the person willing to ask questions if there’s an unusual noise or a scream, or shades drawn all day, or all of the above. What would you do?

“You call 911 or you bang on the door and say, ‘Is she OK?’” said Anna Masopust of Yonkers. “I don’t think that’s being nosy. I think that’s being a good neighbor. I would do it. I have done it.”

“It’s always OK to be nosy. You have to be. You have to be,” said Karen Ganis of Mahopac. “You have to be able, if you see something that’s not right, you have to say something.”

And what you see is valuable because it’s your neighborhood. Homeowner Joe Donat of White Plains said the decision to call 911 is a simple one.

“I’ve always gone with my gut, feeling,” Donat said. “I would rather have the reward of preventing a serious crime from taking place than live with the regret of not having reported suspicious activity.”

And what if the situation is unclear?

“Maybe you become friendly; get to know them a little better; find out more,” said Wendy Espinoza of the Bronx.

Police discourage freelance investigations and vigilante patrols, but encourage keeping officers posted. A little embarrassment is a small price consider the stakes.

Experience tells police that calls from neighbors are most frequently helpful in cases of domestic violence and child abuse.

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