Good Witness

By: Amy Kehm
By: Amy Kehm

A crime goes down, and you're in the wrong place at the wrong time. You could be the key to solving the crime. But would you be a good eyewitness?

We put some criminal justice students to the test. During class, we sent in an exterminator to spray for bugs. After he leaves, instructor Jack Tucker waits a few minutes, then begins to ask students about what they saw.

"It was blue hat," yell out several students.

"The eyeglasses were like really big," said another.

These students are studying how to be a good witness. But the things they learn could help you, too.

"There's a lot of detail in everything, how much of it do you really take in?" said Tucker.

Students work to come up with a description of our bug killing suspect.
They reach a consensus, and moved on to re-create his face.

The main tactics to use are: take in the whole picture, not just one area or one particular person. Look people in the eyes, taking notice of facial features. Take notice of clothing colors. Write things down, especially license plate numbers. And finally, don't be afraid to help.

"For a person facing a crime, your first thought is that you want to survive it," said Tucker. But if you survive it, you'd like to be able to say I got even by getting that person caught."

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What Should You Do if You Witness a Crime?

  • Dial 9-1-1 or call your local police station.

  • Dial 9-1-1- if:
    • There is a danger to life.

    • There is a risk of serious injury.

    • A crime is in progress or about to happen.

    • An offender is still at the scene or has just left.

  • If an incident involves violence, you should never intervene. Don’t waste time, call police immediately.

    What Will the Police Want to Know?

    • Your name and address.

    • The telephone number you are calling from.

    • A main contact number (home number, cell phone).

    • The exact location of the incident you are reporting.

    • The nature of the incident

    • Descriptions of the people involved. (i.e. height, hair color, hair style, clothing)

    • Descriptions of objects that may be involved. (i.e. car, weapons)

    • If you are currently witnessing the crime, have witnessed the crime or are reporting it for someone else who witnessed the crime.

    • If you are witnessing the crime, while talking to police you may be asked to stay on the line to provide details of the situation as police travel to the scene.

    Source: A collection of Web reports contributed to this report.


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