If you ever happen to witness a crime, a million questions may run through your mind. Are you required to call the police? Should you put your safety at risk to intervene? Are you even sure a crime has been committed? Here’s a quick overview of what to know.
In most cases, you have no legal responsibility to report a crime. There are some exceptions, however. For example, if you work in child care, health care or education, you must report suspected child or elder abuse or abuse against a disabled person.
What to Do
If you decide to report a crime, call 911 and let the operator direct the conversation. Remain calm and stay on the phone until law enforcement arrives or the operator says it’s OK to hang up. Give the operator all the details you can, including what happened, where the crime took place and what the suspect(s) look like. Focus on physical characteristics like eye color and height instead of clothing, which can be changed quickly.
Police recommend that witnesses do not chase down suspects, but instead call 911 and remain on the scene. If you can safely do so, try to help the victim(s) move to a secure location until help arrives.
Details to Consider
It’s against the law to knowingly file a false police report, so don’t jump to conclusions if you’re unsure of whether a crime has been committed. Call 911 if anyone is in danger, but always use good judgment before taking up emergency resources.