Witnesses: Good vs. Bad

There are all kinds of people in the world.  Some pay attention to the world around them.  Some diddy-bop around in ignorant bliss.  Some fall in between and may sway from one extreme to the other.  All of them have the potential to witness something criminal…or at least vaguely suspicious.  What follows are two very different tales based on a similar crime.

Scenario 1:

A man walked through his complex photographing graffiti for an upcoming HOA meeting.  He saw a bicycle lying on the ground near a tree.  The bike appeared cast aside and the man found it unusual.  The man waited and watched the bike for a short period of time.  The man saw a stranger approach the bike southbound from a neighboring complex.  The stranger was carrying two black bags.  The man thought it was a mite suspicious and thought perhaps the stranger was the tagger.

The man called out to the stranger.  The stranger jumped on the bike and pedaled swiftly away.  The man ran to his car and headed in the same direction in which the stranger rode.  For a brief time, the stranger was out of the man’s line of sight.  The man found the bike a short time later abandoned on the side of the road.  The man called the police.  The man described the stranger in detail.

The police arrived.  The bike had a camera bag wound up in the front brakes.  The bag contained a very expensive digital camera.  The police found other witnesses down the road as the stranger’s odd behavior caught people’s notice.  The police eventually found the stranger and he was eventually arrested for burglary, possession of stolen property and possession of burglary tools.

Scenario 2:

A lady saw a strange man in her neighbor’s garage.  The lady watched the stranger take a bag of golf clubs.  The lady saw the stranger get into a white mid 90’s Ford Ranger.  The lady described the strange man simply as “black” and neglected to get the license plate of the Ford.  A few minutes later, the lady called her friend to tell her what she saw.  The friend called the police.  It is unclear how much time elapsed between what the lady saw and when the friend contacted police.

The police arrived.  The garage door to the friend’s house was closed.  After gaining entry to the garage, the police searched the house.  It was immaculate with no signs of entry.  The only item missing was a set of golf clubs.  A 30 minute search ensued.  Turns out the husband gave the stranger the code to the garage and gave him permission to borrow the set of clubs.


Let’s examine the difference between the two witnesses.

1.  The first got very detailed in his description of the stranger.  The second said the stranger was “black”…no description of clothing, no license plate on the truck.

2.  The first called the police immediately.  The second called her friend, not the police.

3. The first waited by the abandoned bicycle to give arriving officers as much detail as he could.  The second left the area after calling her friend.

4. The first was responsible for assisting police in capturing a felon (this was what I posted about in the Warning! post).  The second was responsible for delaying the police unnecessarily (operating under the assumption the stranger was actually committing a burglary…which he wasn’t).


Here’s what I’d love for you to take away from this post.  If you see something suspicious or out-and-out criminal, don’t wait until tomorrow to call (I wish I were kidding and that we didn’t deal with that very thing every blessed week).  Get as much info as you can!  I care a whole hell of a lot less about the dent on the right rear bumper of a vehicle than I do about the freaking license plate.

There’s no need for you to be a hero.  You don’t have to tackle anyone or confront anyone.  Just pay attention.  Make note of what you’ve seen.  Be as detailed as you can.  You have no idea how frustrating it is to get to the scene of a crime and come to find out we may have driven right by the suspect without knowing because we had no description outside of a “blue sedan”.

Have you ever witnessed an in-progress crime or seen something suspicious and decided to call police?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

4 thoughts on “Witnesses: Good vs. Bad

  1. Total props to the first witness, Boobie award for the second. You think someone’s committing a crime…so you call your friend? Really? #facepalm

    The only time I’ve ever had to call the police was almost seventeen years ago, but it’s not an experience I’ll ever forget. Hubby and I lived in a little converted garage with our toddler and I was pregnant. Our house sat on the alley, and across the alley was another similar structure.

    We decided to walk two blocks to a bookstore as a form of cheap entertainment and to get into some AC because it was hot and we didn’t have any. As we pass in front of the little house across the alley from us, walking on the sidewalk, we heard the sound of someone being slapped through the open door, and then a thump (which both of us assumed was someone falling into a wall), and a woman crying. Then we heard a very calm voice say, “You need to shut up !@#$%,” followed by something breaking.

    Hubby & and I looked at each other and our toddler in the stroller and all but ran back to our house. I picked up the phone and dialed 911, told the dispatcher what had happened, and by the time I had hung up and walked down the hall to the front door there was an officer standing there about to knock. Scared the full on CRAP out of me. (I never realized how dark those uniforms were until I saw this huge dark figure at my door.) They got there FAST!

    There were six officers that I could see. We stayed on our porch while they went in and got the guy. He was a lot older, and we hadn’t seen him around much so we assumed he was the girl’s dad – turned out he was her POS husband. I will never forget the woman apologizing to the police and refusing to press charges. I think the creepiest part was that the guy wasn’t pissed when he was hitting her, he was calm and cool the whole time.

    About a year later we also had a neighbor call the police on us. We’d bought a baby monitor that happened to be on the same frequency as someone else in our neighborhood (never did find out who). Our oldest (who was about three at the time) was having a full, fall-on-the-floor, scream-your-lungs-out tantrum about going to bed. The mystery neighbors apparently thought it sounded like we were beating him, so they called the police. Police showed up (at least I had a porch light so they didn’t scare me that time!), checked both kids out, and all is well. Younger police officer made a comment about someone calling the police on us – hubby and I told him we were pretty glad we had a neighbor who WOULD call the police if they thought we were beating the crap out of our kid, thanks much!

  2. Yes, I’ve called the cops on suspicious behaviour before. I once called the State police when someone tried to run me off the road on a major highway (clearly driving very drunk and aggressively) only to be told, “Yeah, yeah, we’ll look into it, we’ll call you back if we find something” (I did get the license plate, and I never heard anything). I spotted two men dragging a screaming woman into an SUV and called the cops on the spot, with a description of all three people, the vehicle and the license plate. (never heard anything about that one either.) Way back before cell phones I came upon a guy beating a woman in an alleyway and went into the pizza shop two doors down to call 911. (By the time cops showed up 15 minutes later they were gone.)

    On the other hand, once upon a time I was late to work thanks to finding a fairly new sports car outside the house I lived in, front door open [into the street], radio blaring and driver passed out behind the wheel. I went back inside and called 911. When the firetruck/first responders showed up it took them a while to rouse the guy. Just as they were getting him out of the car the fuzz showed up. The guy ran off into the nearby woods. It took about 10 minutes to find him. Turned out he was drunk and had stolen the car. Bwahahaha. Dumbass. But the only way I found out what happened? As I was leaving my housemate got home. My housemate was a campus cop and wandered down to talk to the city cops.

  3. Agreed. The first witness is gold. The second, poop. This frustrated me to no end when I was on patrol. I got so tired of people calling 911 about the “suspicious guys ‘casing’ the neighborhood” in their ADT blue jackets and clipboards, but they wouldn’t call about the guys they saw in their backyard last night a O’ dark thirty until after dinner two days later.

  4. I felt awful last week when I had to call the police and didn’t have all the details they needed like a license plate (or even a half decent description of the car other than older, grey and neon). I did have details on the driver etc and they were able to trace the person I had called about and fill in the blanks. But still I think i apologized to the dispatcher 5 or 6 times for missing that info. Thankfully everything turned out alright, but sometimes making that call and knowing you’re missing the info is the worse.

    thanks for the tips, love your blog like always.

    C. RN

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