Effective Crime Reporting

If you’ve ever been a witness to a situation where one of the parties was hysterical, then you understand firsthand how important attitude and information are when attempting to get to the bottom of a crisis.

Reporting actual or potential criminal activity to the police follows this same line of thought. In nearly every case, a calm reporting party will be more effective.

If you see something that warrants notifying the police, first determine if you should call 911 or the department’s non-emergency line. When you’re speaking to the police, state your name and address. Then, completely, but concisely, describe what happened, when, where and who was involved. You probably won’t know their names, but you can jot down what each person was wearing, hair color, weight, tattoos, scars, accents and any other odd affectations, such as a walk or mannerisms.

Guessing height can be tricky, but if you can find an object near the suspects to mentally "mark" their heights, then the actual inches and feet can be noted later. For instance, "The short one came up to that branch on the oak tree, but the tall one actually hit his head on it while walking past” or, "The driver’s shoulders came up even with the window of the car, but the passenger’s nose was level with the roof."

When trying to recall the details of a vehicle, there are many things to notice, and, quite frankly, a lot of them look alike these days. So, while you may not be able to get a model or even a make, the best thing, obviously, is the license plate number. Then, try to remember the color.

After the color of the car, the license plate number and the body type (Sedan? Station wagon? Two-door? Four-door?), look for anything that makes the car different from any other car that came off the same assembly line such as bumper stickers, dents, primer spots, an odd license plate frame or missing hubcaps. Even a fuzzy steering wheel cover or a necklace hanging from the rear view mirror can be a clue, as can the kind of music blaring from the speakers. Are the tires whitewalls? Did you see a pair of mud flaps on the back wheel wells? Was there weather-stripping missing from the front passenger door? Anything odd will help.

Cameras and video recorders are not necessary for effective crime-fighting, but if you happen to have a camera, it is always a good idea to inconspicuously snap a photo or two, if it’s handy. The same goes for video cameras.

You don’t have to have perfect vision or hearing, run fast or have fancy video equipment to be an effective crime-fighting aid. Just by staying calm and taking in as much as you can when you see a crime being committed, you can help put the people responsible behind bars.

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