Imagine you’ve just dropped your children off at school. As you pull out of the school parking lot, you see two individuals exchange what appears to be drugs for money. You slow down to make sure you are seeing things right, and you observe one individual handing the other individual a small pill bottle and then the second individual reaching into their pocket, pulling out money, and giving it to the other person. As soon as the transaction ends, they separate. The individual who paid gets into their vehicle carrying the pill bottle and drives away. The other individual walks into the house directly across from the school. You’re sure you’ve witnessed a drug sale, and it’s right across from your children’s school. What should you do? Is there anything you can do? You fear the children at the school could be in danger due to the drug activity going on at this location.
You might feel shocked, angry, even frightened by the account you witnessed. Luckily, you can do something about it. In fact, you can report this activity and remain anonymous, filing a report online or making a call.
Reasons for Reporting Drug Activity
There are reasons why you may want to report drug activity in your neighborhood, including:
- Being the landlord of the property and agonizing about the legal issues that may ensue.
- Worrying about the safety of others, including children, who may live in or near the house where you suspect the activity is taking place.
You may also have reasons why you don’t want to report drug activity, including:
- Worrying about the safety of your family from potential retaliation.
- Not wanting to get a loved one, who is misusing substances, in trouble with law enforcement.
- Misusing substances yourself and not wanting legal troubles of your own.
You’re not alone. Personal safety and legal prosecution scare people from reporting drug activity.
Options for Reporting Drug Activity
If you are concerned about someone using or selling drugs, you should report the activity. There are several ways to do it anonymously. Each state and jurisdiction may offer a local tip line or process to report drug activity online or in the area.2 However, there are national organizations and programs that collect anonymous tips, too.1
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
If you see what appears to be the growing, manufacturing, distributing, or trafficking of controlled substances—federally regulated substances—you can fill out the tip details on the DEA’s website, which includes the date, location, and description of the activity. You can also chose to provide your contact information or not.3
Crime Stoppers is a national organization that provides a network of local programs throughout the United States that allows individuals—who witness illegal drug-related activities—to fill out an online form or make an anonymous call to file a report.2,4
If the event you witnessed poses an immediate threat to the safety of others, you should report it to your local police or law enforcement agency. Each police department may vary in the types of information they require from you. For instance, some local online forms ask for your personal information, such as name, address, and email address. If you’re not comfortable submitting that info, call your local law enforcement office instead.
Things to Consider and Prepare
When reporting a suspected drug crime, it’s important to have as much information as possible, which may help the authorities prevent further drug activity. Details that can help, include:
- The date and time you witnessed the drug activity.
- The address where you saw or suspect the drug activity.
- Details about the activity you witnessed.
- Description of the person(s) you witnessed participating in the drug activity.
- Related vehicles—make, model, license plate.
Can I Report Drug Misuse?
You can report someone’s drug misuse. Typically, if the offense does not involve a violent crime, the individual goes into a drug court. These courts provide offenders facing criminal charges—usually for drug use and possession—the opportunity to enter a supervised treatment program instead of going to jail.5
Does the Person Need Help?
If you know someone who is using drugs—perhaps a loved one or a friend—the best option may be to help them seek rehab voluntarily. Some of the signs that your loved one may need help include:6
- They take a substance in greater amounts than they intend.
- They attempt to cut down or stop using the substance but have not been successful.
- They spend a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the substance.
- They crave the substance and cannot stop urges to use it.
- They cannot manage responsibilities at work, school, or home due to substance use.
- They continue to use the substance even when it creates interpersonal problems.
- They stop attending or participating in important activities because of substance use.
- They continue to use the substance even when it has put them in danger.
- They carry on using the substance despite it making their physical and mental health decline.
- They take more of the substance to get the desired effect (also known as tolerance).
- They develop withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the substance.
When a loved one is struggling with substance misuse issues, it’s normal to feel helpless. Luckily, substance misuse hotlines exist for people in your position. These completely confidential calls allow you to talk to educated advisors about treatment options—detox, inpatient rehab, and outpatient programs—better understand the admissions process, and get resources such as a referral to rehab.
Substance Misuse Text Line and Chat Options
If you are not ready to talk to someone on the phone, there are a few alternatives. American Addiction Centers offers personalized text support as well as an addiction chat on the site.