Tips on Being a Good Witness

Witnessing a Crime

Remain calm. Concentrate on mentally recording details of the crime and the criminals. Unless you are in mortal danger, do not fight back. Do not talk too much or make any sudden moves. Do not intervene, unless it is safe for you to do so. Look carefully at the criminals — even if they are disguised — and record details. Concentrate on the following:

  • • How tall are they in relation to you?
  • • Do they have any memorable facial features (e.g. facial hair, eye color, prominent nose, etc.)?
  • • If you are close enough, look for unusual dental features (e.g. broken teeth, braces, caps, etc.).
  • • Do they have any recognizable scars, tattoos, piercings or jewelry?
  • • What are they wearing?
  • • Listen to their voice and speech patterns - do they use any unusual words or phrases? Do they have any speech problems (e.g. lisps, stutters), or a recognizable accent?
  • • If there is more than one attacker, and do they use each other’s names? Do they give away any aspects of their relationship?
  • • Try to recognize the smells of the criminals and identify any odor that might give away an aspect of - their lifestyle (e.g. body odor, aftershave, cigarettes, drug odors, cologne, hair products, etc.).
  • • Make a mental note of any weapons involved in the crime.
  • • Look for any vehicles involved in the crime and make a note of the vehicle’s license plate number, color, make, model, year (if possible) and identifiable markings (e.g. dents, scrapes, customized paint jobs, etc.).
  • • Watch the criminals depart and make a note of their direction. Reporting a Crime
  • • Give your name and location and briefly and calmly describe the event.
  • • Tell the operator whether the crime is still in progress or has ended, and whether or not anyone at the scene requires medical attention.
  • • Describe the criminal(s) using the following criteria: Sex, approximate age range, nationality, height, weight, hair color and style, any distinctive characteristics that you noticed while observing the crime, and whether or not the criminal is armed.
  • • Describe any vehicles involved and provide the operator with their direction and any other details you can remember.
  • • Do not touch or handle anything in the area of the crime. Prevent others from disturbing the crime site.
  • • Immediately write down your observations of the crime and encourage other witnesses to do the same BEFORE discussing the crime amongst the group. Discussing the crime with other people will affect your memories. 

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