When do you report “strange” people?


Years ago, I sat near someone that often spouted fiery anti-American sentiments during a college class. Sure, he frustrated some and angered many, but week after week he just ranted irately. Did that make him dangerous? Some of us were a little concerned, but we didn’t report him.

Currently, commentators are criticizing people who came in close (and regular) contact with the Arizona gunman for not reporting him to authorities. I’m not sure their criticisms are fair because some confusing variables come into play here.

One of his former college instructors said he kept a close eye on the him during class because he wasn’t “sure what he would do next”. Additionally, a classmate went so far as to say she would sit near the door because she feared him. She even emailed her concerns to a friend.

He even had several run-ins with trained professionals and campus security.

So, the question is: should someone have reported him to city police also? Hindsight is 20/20. But would that have been excessive based on the behavioral indicators exhibited at the time?

For example, how do you know when to excuse eccentricity and when to report it? What is the litmus test?

We all come in contact with people- at work, church and even in our families- that seem mentally disturbed. Should we just “turn in” all those that “weird us out” or make us uncomfortable? I’m still on the “fence”.

What do you think?

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  1. I wonder the same thing. Also, if reported, how seriously would the police take the report? Do they have time to take out of catching at hand criminals to look into someone that is reportedly “irrational, different, a ranter”?
    It would be nice if they came up with some other specific characteristics that should raise red flags and inform the public. I doubt I would have reported him to anyone, just because I was scared of him.
    Interesting and thought provoking post!

  2. Thanks, Brandy. Just never know. I’m working somewhere that a person seriously thinks they are a the reincarnation of a famous dead person. Not causing any trouble, so what do you do? Difficult. As always, we gotta trust God in this crazy world.

  3. What’s sad is that when you report strange behavior the questions that are asked are “is the person in immediate danger” or “is someone in immediate danger because of the person”. If the answer is NO then no one is going to do anything about it. I had my fair share of working with the Department of Mental Health. While the signs are visible, the person has to come close to harming themselves or someone else in order to some SERIOUS help.

  4. such a tough one, I’m not sure there is any right answer. All I can hope is that when I pray for discernment that the Holy Spirit will impress on me when to be silent and get out of dodge, and when to act, and whether or not there is something I need to speak to authorities – very thought provoking post indeed!

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