Information is the key to solving many crimes – residents can help police

By Antioch Police Department

In many cases it is what victims and witnesses tell the police about a particular crime, suspicious circumstance or suspect that results in an arrest. Even an anonymous tip is better than no report at all. So do not hesitate, tell the police as much as you can! 

Become a good witness by getting an accurate description of a suspect or a vehicle. Practice writing down descriptions from memory, so when the time comes to actually reporting the crime your skills as a witness will give the police a better opportunity to apprehend the suspect(s). 

In a recent case of an attempted residential burglary a citizens keen observations were instrumental in the apprehension of two burglary suspects.  The case in question involved two suspects who were going door to door and when they encountered a resident the suspect’s story was that they were looking for a lost dog.  A resident noticed an officer had detained a different subject nearby and she relayed her story about the subject she had encountered; to include his height, weight, hair color hair style, clothing description and his scheme about looking for a lost dog. Soon thereafter another officer detained a second subject who was in fact the same subject the resident had encountered at her door.  These subjects were now suspects in an attempted burglary and they were subsequently arrested.  

The above case is a classic example of a citizen getting involved and being a good witness.  During the often stressful times of reporting either a suspicious circumstance or a suspected crime it’s important for you to remain calm, so you can clearly answer the dispatcher’s questions.  Listen to the police dispatcher for direction and guidance. Some of the questions may not seem pertinent to you, but trust the dispatchers as they are trained to ask the right questions. This means that a dispatcher may need to interrupt you while you’re relaying information. It is important that during emergencies, your answers are direct and brief. Keep in mind during emergencies, officers are usually being dispatched by a second dispatcher as the information is obtained by the dispatcher taking your call. The faster the dispatcher can obtain the necessary information from you, the faster it is relayed to the officers who are responding.

The dispatcher may let you know when an officer has arrived on the scene.  If the suspect(s) leave before you see police officers, tell the dispatcher and let them know which direction they fled and how they fled e.g. on foot, bicycle, vehicle, etc. The following checklist may help sharpen your witness skills.  


The Location:
Give the dispatcher your exact location.
– Allow the dispatcher to ask questions.
Do not hang up until directed to do so by the dispatcher.

The Environment:
What is the particular crime or suspicious activity?
Where did it occur?
When did it occur?

Approximate age
Height and weight
Skin tone
Clothing description (hat, coat, shirt, etc)
Hair color and style (including facial hair)
Eye color and shape, glasses
Tattoos, scars, birthmarks
Weapons (gun, knife, stick, walking cane)
Direction suspect fled to and how?
– Suspect’s identity (if you happen to know the person)
Other distinguishing features

Remember the acronym “CYMBALS”
C = Color of car
Y = Year
M = Make (Ford, BMW, Honda)
B = Body (2 door, 4 door, wagon, hatchback, SUV)
A = Additional descriptive features
L = License plate number
S = State

How many occupants?
Last direction of travel

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