Hot Tips

Witnessing a Crime

When a crime happens, most people will act like Clark Kent, not Superman. That's okay; dialing for help and reporting what you're seeing is heroic too. “If you see a crime occurring, call 911. Don't intervene,” says Jenny Shearer, a spokeswoman with the FBI's national press office in Washington D.C. “You have to keep your personal safety in mind too. Don't take the undue risk.” “Observe what you can. Could you identify that person again? If there's a car involved, can you make out the license plate, make, or model? Any information you can provide helps.” Witnesses unwilling to “get involved” can always report crime activity anonymously, said Michelle L. Boykins, communications director for the National Crime Prevention Council in Arlington, VA. Many police departments have anonymous-tip telephone hotlines or cell phone texting options for witnesses, she said. “In talking anecdotally to law enforcement, we know people are using these anonymous reporting mechanisms,” Boykins said. “They are happy to get those tips so they can bring perpetrators in.” Do take care before you use your cell phone’s camera during a crime. “The best eyewitness is a live witness so the council does not recommend you put yourself in harm's way to snap a cell phone picture of the criminal,” Boykins said. “If you can safely snap a picture of a license plate, that is great, but you must do so without putting yourself at risk.”

 What to do if you see a crime happen

 1.Call 911 if a crime has occurred or is in progress, if you recognize a wanted criminal, and for all vehicle crashes.

 2.Stay calm, speak clearly.

 3.Give a brief description of the crime.

 4.Provide time of the crime.

 5.Share your exact location.

6.Tell the operator the extent of injuries or damage.

7.Provide descriptions of the suspect (s), including race, height, weight, clothing, hair color, hair style, facial hair, scars, marks, tattoos.

8.Give a description of any weapons used.

9.Provide a description of suspect's vehicle, including make, model, color, and tag numbers.

10.Tell direction of flight (east, west, down an alley or street) and mode of transportation (car, bike or on foot).

11.Do not hang up until the call-taker tells you its okay.

12.Know the telephone number you are calling from.