Safe in 60: How To Be A Good Witness
Feb 18, 2019, 7:00 AM | Updated: 7:35 am
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Have you ever witnessed a crime or a traffic accident? Witnesses are often the key to solving crimes.
If you have information about a crime, please stick around and give information to police about what you saw. It could mean the difference between an arrest, or a criminal getting away.
If you witness a crime, make sure you are in a safe location and call 911. Take a deep breath and stay calm so you can share the best information possible.
Crimes happen very fast and it’s easy to forget details. Try to take note of the following:
- Where are you? If you don’t have the address, use landmarks or the closest intersection.
- What happened – or what is happening if it is still going on.
- When did it happen? How many minutes ago?
- Which way did the suspect(s) go? Were they in a car, on a bike, on foot?
- Do you have a description of a vehicle – a plate number if possible, or any unique markings like a bumper sticker, dents etc.
- Were weapons used?
- Who was involved? Start with the most identifying characteristics:
- Male or female?
- Height/weight; if you’re not sure – use yourself or a family member as a frame of reference (Were they taller? Shorter? Heavier?).
- Hair color and style.
- Clothing. Pay special attention to the shoes. It’s easy to change a coat or shirt, but most suspects don’t change their shoes.
- Any identifying marks like tattoos or scars.
- Facial features – including a beard, mustache or glasses.
- If the suspect spoke, was there something unique about their voice, such as an accent?
- What jumped out to you about the suspect? Was there something you noticed more than anything else?
If possible, snap a photo or take a video on your phone. Or take notes or voice record in your phone things that you remember about what you saw. It’s easy to forget details under stress.
Share any small details you remember with police, even if you think they aren’t important. Sometimes it’s the small details that are the key to solving a crime. But if you don’t know the answer to a question police ask you, don’t guess. Only give information you know for sure.
Being a good witness doesn’t come naturally. As any officer will tell you, it takes practice. But you can train yourself to be more observant. If you pay closer attention to people and things around you, it will not only make you a good witness, it will help prevent you from becoming a victim.