Just as preventive measures can be enacted to help protect against the commission of crimes, reactive measures taken by civic-minded persons can increase the chances of recovering property or achieving justice after the fact. While most people never consider how to be a good witness for police before the fact, a small amount of education and self-training can make the average citizen a powerful tool for police to utilize in tracking down criminals. The first step is making the decision to become involved and call the police. The second step is to get legal representation for criminal defense

Report the Crime Immediately

While it may seem so much a matter of common sense as to go without saying, it is of critical importance to report the crime as soon as possible without sacrificing one’s safety. Seconds count, here. The best time to report a crime is before it happens; the second best is while it is in progress. In the crucial moments after a crime, police can respond to the scene and use an accurate description to identify and apprehend a fleeing criminal.  After the critical minutes have passed, this opportunity evaporates.

In deciding whether or not to report observed activity to police, stay mindful that no harm can come from reporting suspicious activity or a perceived crime that proves not to be such, but unlimited harm could result from the decision not to report.

A recent, real-life case involved two young women who woke to find a burglar in their apartment. The burglar, startled by the roused women, fled the residence on foot. The two women later testified to police that they sat bedside for approximately 15 minutes, lamenting the intrusion and consoling one another. It was not until one of them noticed that computer and stereo equipment was stolen that they decided to call the police. The vital moments during which the offender was running from the scene on foot were squandered, and the chance to apprehend him as he fled was missed.

Use a Description Template

When providing a description of a person to police, first identify the following characteristics in the following order: gender, race, approximate height, approximate weight or body type, (build) and skin complexion. Then go on to describe clothing starting from the head and work down to the feet. Describe both color and type of clothing. If the offender is fleeing the scene, give the direction of travel and describe the car if one is involved. Identify any weapons used or displayed.

If you find yourself in close proximity and are able to scrutinize the offender’s face, gain as much detail as possible. Go beyond the basic descriptive efforts and give thought to the finest of details regarding particular characteristics. Consider details regarding all parts of the face including eyes, nose, and mouth. Address questions such as the following examples: Were both eyes present? Were all teeth present? Were some teeth cracked or yellowed? Did the offender smell like liquor or cigarettes? Did the offender speak with an identifiable dialect, drawl, accent, or other identifiable characteristic of speech? The finer the level of detail, the greater the chance of later identification and apprehension.

Being prepared to provide a usable description to police after an observed crime, or a crime that victimizes you, personally, begins with the understanding while it is unfolding, that you will be asked for the description later. Attempt to consider the characteristics of the offenders while you observe them in real time, and remind yourself of the details prior to actually communicating them to police.

Get Legal Representation

If you or a loved one has been involved in a criminal act, whether offender or victim, protect your rights. Identification techniques by police such as show-ups, line-ups, and photo arrays must be conducted in accordance with constitutional parameters and failure to comply with procedural rules prohibits them from being used as evidence in court. Contact the criminal defense attorneys at The Nahajski Firm at (206) 621-0500 for a free and confidential initial consultation.