Crimes in Progress
“An apathetic citizenry cause and condone the release of the hardened criminal.”
J. Edgar Hoover
Crime fighting is a community effort and not just a police problem. Witnesses and victims must report crimes, especially crimes in progress. The police would first rather catch a criminal in the act and stop a crime from occurring than write about it after the fact in a report without the opportunity to have been able to interfere.
Talking to the police or a 911 operator is different for each caller. If victimized, chances are you will experience shakiness from fear and anger. If the 911 operator bombards you with a stream of questions that seem cold or detached, do not take it personally, because they are attempting to quickly and clearly garner as much information as possible. In a review of 911 operations, George Antunes and Eric Scott (1981) found that most operators were characterized as “terse” or “abrupt”, and were not expansive in their interaction with callers. They also quickly disengaged callers who duplicated previous calls or reports. People are likely to view operators’ curt responses as a sign that citizens should not report similar events in the future. Operators have different training, personalities, attitudes, and abilities to cope with stress.
The 911 operator may request you remain on the line to provide updated details that help officers en route intercept the criminal(s). Discreetly following or staying at a safe distance may be dangerous in the event the criminal becomes violent, especially if the individual is an erratic person is under the influence of alcohol, drugs or mentally unstable. They need help, but may be a danger to themselves and others.
If you do follow, keep your distance. Making yourself known in some cases adds pressure and changes criminals’ motivation to continue the crime. Some criminals may become aggressive. Maintaining distance allows more options, which are important for self-protection.
For most police departments, afternoons and evenings are the busiest times and often involve an overload of calls for service. Operators relay the information that you give to police officers en route. Assist police so they can assist you by taking a deep breath and answering all of their questions. They may be using a computer program that follows a specific format for information entry.
Operators will ask for your name and telephone number. This information is critical in case you are disconnected or an assailant pulls the telephone away. The standard 911 system automatically records the address that you call from, but operators confirm it if you are using a cellular phone or are calling from somewhere other than the crime scene. Some 911 systems require the operator to enter data into a set number of boxes. Time is lost when you do not know you exact location when using a cell phone to call for assistance.
If you call from a college campus or business with numerous telephone lines, the college or company’s legal address appears on operator’s screen, not your exact location. For office telephone lines that require pressing 9, 3, or another number for an outside call, post a written reminder on your telephone buttons, because when under stress dialing 911 will result in an incomplete call and wasted time. Reflexively, some people have dialed 411 as habit when wanting to dial 911.
If you are within a building or a school campus, describe exactly where you are. Call campus or building security immediately hanging up from the 911 operator, so security can arrange to guide emergency personnel to your exact location.
Calling 911 from Mobile Cell Phones
In modern society one of the best tools for crime prevention and personal safety is the cell phone, but be realistic about its capacity, and be prepared for contingency options if the cell battery is depleted, does not get reception or is inaccessible. Cell phones are mechanical devices that can fail in in time of need. They cannot protect you during street violence. During an assault, physical skills and tactics are necessary for survival.
When reporting a crime, 911 calls from cell phones may not transfer to the correct local jurisdiction, and the exact address may not show up on the 911 system. Not all cell phone GPS systems are accurate, so be prepared if transferred to another agency, to repeat your location.
Although telephone companies can “ping” a phone to obtain movement and direction, phone company cell phone global positioning systems (GPS) are not accurate or reliable in determining a caller’s location. Depending on where cellular traffic towers point, cell phone calls are currently being delegated to local police and highway patrol dispatch centers. Calls are triangulated from a latitude and longitude global positioning system, then translated into an address within 100 meters (yards) of where the calls emanate. Some triangulation locators are more accurate than others. In areas you commonly visit or drive, for direct and faster access to police and fire assistance, preprogram your cell phone with local police agency dispatch numbers.
Injuries from Crime
Injuries: After an assault, injuries initially may feel numb, but once adrenaline and stress drain, pain becomes noticeable. Even if you believe an injury is not serious, alert the 911 operator if you think that you or someone else needs medical treatment, so appropriate emergency resources can be dispatched. Some people call 911 and say nothing which may waste resources and valuable time in the event of life threatening injuries.
Remembering Details about the Crime
After you have provided for your safety, and the safety of others, then report the crime. While waiting, begin to document details of the event. If you saw the suspect, write down impressions; note what the suspect was wearing, and unique features, or demarcations like scars or tattoos. The more specific, the better, because it helps police differentiate from thousands of people who have are of similar ethnicity, gender, or height. A gold tooth, strange accent, peculiar smell, tattoo, scar, or facial hair are specific details that significantly help narrow the pool. If your home has been burglarized, while waiting for police, take notes about what is missing.
If attacked, you may not remember a lot about the incident. Trauma frequently obscures the details that may be hidden in your memory. One violently attacked person may remember everything in slow motion, but forget faces, whereas another person may only recall specific details like a scar or tattoo. If you have difficulty remembering events or details of an assault, think about a non-threatening time that day, like the moment you awakened, then imagine progressing through the rest of that day.
Memory techniques may help reconstruct detail and prompt memory recall. Though it may take a few days to summon details, with focused effort, more detail will be recalled. It is important to file a police report documenting the incident. Obtain a report number or report receipt. If you recall information later, having the report number will speed up the process by linking new information to the original crime report.
Help the Police Investigation
Reporting a crime helps narrow the investigation and aids with apprehension, especially for crimes in progress. One person may provide a piece of information or evidence that is incomplete, but when multiple people report, pieces of information combine to change a previously unknown suspect into an identifiable suspect.
Model Mugging graduates are more inclined to report a crime to the police to be part of the community fighting crime. The self-confidence they have naturally developed from taking the Basic self-defense course empowers them to assist their communities in working with police and others to reduce crime.
A Model Mugging Graduate, and crime fighter, reported back just four months after graduation:
I just got off work and was sitting in my car, when I saw an older aged male peering into a car near mine. I watched him as he looked through the windows and kept looking around to see if anyone was watching him. Then he put his hands on the rear passenger side window which was cracked a bit and started to push down on the window. I opened my door, stood up and yelled “What are you doing?” He stopped, backed away from the car, and said “It’s my friend’s car.” I said “Bullshit.” and he walked away.
I’ve always had a keen eye for detail, and pride myself in paying attention to my surroundings, but prior to Model Mugging I most likely would not have noticed this guy. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been on high alert since taking the class, and I have definitely noticed how differently I carry myself since the class. Model Mugging definitely helped me with confidence in my abilities, while recognizing where my vulnerabilities lie. I felt incredibly strong when I confronted him, and in the back of my head I knew that I was in a public, heavily trafficked area, it was daylight, and that I still had one leg in my car and I could easily get back in if I needed to drive away. Police were not within range and he was able to escape apprehension.
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