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I always thought that sich bei jemandem melden meant to get in touch with someone and that it is used between friends. However, I recently found this example:

Ich muss mich jede Woche bei der Polizei melden.

This sounds like the first use of melden; to report something to someone, e.g.,

Ich melde der Polizei den Unfall.

I simply don't understand the first example. Do I report myself to the police each week? That sounds weird, I can't grasp the meaning of the sentence.

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    People may be required to report to the police daily or weekly, instead of putting them into detention for a suspected offense. If they don't report, they are put on the Fahndungsliste and police forces will look after them … then they are put into detention for being unreliable. – Janka Aug 15 '18 at 20:06
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    There are many more meanings to melden, nicely listed with many usage examples here: dwds.de/wb/melden or, for translations to English there: dict.leo.org/englisch-deutsch/sich%20melden. – Takkat Aug 16 '18 at 6:41
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Reflexive (using »mich, dich, sich, ...«), with the preposition bei and with the object in dative case:

sich bei jemandem melden = to contact someone

but
Non-reflexive, without a preposition and with the object in accusative case:

jemanden melden = to report someone


Some examples:

Ich werde mich am Freitag bei dir melden.
I will contact you on Friday.

This means, that I will call you on Friday, or I walk to your house/office and try to get in contact with you.

Der Verdächtige darf das Land nicht verlassen und muss sich jede Woche einmal bei der Polizei melden.
The suspect is not allowed to leave the country and has to contact the police once a week.

Technically this also means, that the person just has to call the police once a week, but I think what really is meant, that this person has to appear in a police station to prove that he has not left the country.

Ich habe gesehen, wie du das Geld genommen hast. Ich werde dich bei der Polizei melden.
I saw how you took the money. I will report you to the police.

This means, that I will call the police and tell them who took the money.

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    Amongst many possible translation for sich melden I don't think that to contact someone is the best. As already stated a better translation is to get in touch with sb. (friends) or to report to (authorities). – Takkat Aug 16 '18 at 6:16
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another meaning of "sich melden" not yet mentioned here is what pupils in school do when they want do ask the teacher a question or want to indicate that they know the answer to the question the teacher just asked: raise one arm, often additionally extending the index finger.

As an anecdote, in my schooldays we once found the gym locked when heading to a sports lesson, and there was a sign "wenn verschlossen beim Platzwart melden" (when locked contact the groundkeeper). We (about 15 boys) deliberately misinterpreted this, went to the groundkeepers office and stood there with our right index fingers up in the air -- (almost?) every ambiguity can serve as a source for a pun :-)

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