If you saw someone breaking into a car, robbing a bank or committing some other crime, would you be able to give law enforcement officers enough information to bring the perpetrator to justice?
According to Community Relations Officer Heather Stafford, reporting the crime is the first step. Stafford said witnesses are sometimes reluctant to notify police. After calling the police, Stafford said the next step should be to write down the details of what occurred.
“By the time they call us and we get there, they forget half of the information,” Stafford said.
So what else can you do to be a good witness? Here are a few tips from the Gwinnett Count District Attorney’s Victim Witness Program:
- Provide a detailed physical description. Law enforcement personnel will ask for descriptions including age, height, weight, race, gender, hair color, hairstyle, clothing, eye color, identifying marks, distinctive mannerisms or speech patterns. Facial descriptions are the most critical.
- Obtain as much information about the suspect vehicle as possible. If possible, obtain the license plate number. Law enforcement personnel will also ask for vehicle details such as make, model, style (2-door, 4-door, etc.), color, vehicle damage, special features such as tinted windows or chrome grills and direction of travel.
- Remain calm. Witnessing a crime can be stressful or traumatic. Remaining calm and mentally recording details can greatly assist law enforcement in their investigation.
- Pay attention to who, what, where, when and how. Who committed the crime? What did they do? Where did they do it? When did they do it? How did they do it?
Providing details is useful, but officials remind witnesses to use caution and avoid placing themselves in danger in an attempt to gather further information.