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Help law enforcement by reporting crime

By By DONNIE NUNLEY
APD Assistant Chief of Police
If you know a crime is happening or suspect that something suspicious or dangerous is going on, or even if potential trouble exists, do the following:
Determine if it is an emergency. An emergency requires immediate police or sheriff, fire and/or paramedic response. Example: A person is facing a life or death situation or property is in the process of being stolen or jeopardized. Immediately call 911.
If the situation is routine, then do not tie up the emergency lines. Call the regular number of your local law enforcement agency.
What, when, where and who are the first four things you need to know to report a crime. How and why are very important, but many times you don't know these answers. When calling, here is what to provide, and what you may be asked.
First you will be asked what is your emergency? Police, fire or medical? What is your location, your name and phone number? Are you in any danger?
What is happening. Try to be as specific as possible, be factual, don't exaggerate. Example: "This is an emergency. Two people have just been wounded and the gunman has fled."
What is needed. Police or sheriff? Fire department? Paramedics? Example: "We need police and paramedics now!"
When is it happening. Is it now? Is it about to happen? How long ago did it occur?
Where is it happening? Give the specific address and directions. Example: "The shooting happened at Bob's Grill at Highway 31 at 4th St., in Atmore."
Who is involved? Quick descriptions of the victims and suspects need to be communicated. Example: "Two teen-age boys are wounded. The suspects were male (specify ethnic background), about 20 years old, black hair, brown eyes, (etc.) driving a blue Dodge van, tag no. 30NM123, Alabama plate.
Then wait for the dispatcher's questions. Be as specific and factual as possible in answering the questions. Follow any instructions given you. If you have to generalize about the answer, tell the dispatcher that's what you are doing. Know the location that you are calling from. Cooperate fully with the dispatcher and the follow-up personnel who may contact you.
The same series of questions need to be answered when you are calling in a routine situation. A routine situation is one in which immediate response is not necessary, but does require the attention of the police or sheriff. A stolen battery, stereo or cellular phone in your car does require attention, but not immediate response.
You may be asked by the dispatcher to stay on the line, or do not hang up. This is for a good reason. The dispatcher has to get the information from you to give to the responding officer and to keep him/her updated on what is happening at the scene.
Your police or sheriff's department appreciates your acting as their extra eyes and ears. Sometimes your suspicions are unfounded. If you are wrong, they understand you will not always be right, but you will not be in trouble with them. As a good citizen, your job is to give them the information you base your suspicion on. It is their job to investigate what caused those suspicions. Call them any time your suspicions are aroused. They are on the job 24 hours a day. Don't hesitate to call!
As a police officer, there is nothing worse than responding to a call and not knowing exactly what you are responding to. Help us out – give the dispatcher the information he needs to keep us all safe. Never hang up until instructed to do so! Stay safe.