The 7 W's

Written By: Joel Council
This note addresses reporting an incident to the police. When you are reporting, specific information is going to be requested. This information is vital not only so authorities can respond to your location, but that they will know as much as possible about the problem prior to arriving.

When contacting the Police, it’s important for you to be able to articulate:
  • Who did you observe? (see description below).
  • What specifically did you see?
  • Where was it? (see description below)
  • When did you see it?
  • If reporting a medical problem, what are the symptoms or nature of the injuries?
  • If reporting something suspicious, why in your opinion was it suspicious?  Remember, you are more aware of what’s normal for your community than anyone else, but you need to be able to communicate that.
  • Your name and phone number. You can choose to remain anonymous if you wish.
  • If you are reporting a crime in progress, drunk driver, accident, etc., the dispatcher may request that you stay on the line and provide an ongoing commentary until authorities arrive.
  • You can request that the dispatcher have the responding police / sheriffs contact you with a disposition or outcome of the problem.
  • You can request a report or incident number. All calls will not generate a report, but every call will have an incident number attached to it for reference. Ask for one if you are involved in the incident.

Describing a location:
  • Physical address
  • Business name, suite number, apartment number
  • Freeway name, direction of travel, lane, intersection, etc.
  • If a specific address / number is not available, use landmarks or compass directions

Describing a subject:
  • Gender, Age, Gender
  • Height, Weight, Hair color
  • Clothing description (describe from head to foot)
  • Peculiarities (Scars, tattoos, missing limb, noticeable features, etc.)
  • Weapons (if any)
  • Method and Direction of travel

Describing a vehicle:
  • License plate of vehicle (most important)
  • Color, Make, Model, Year of vehicle
  • Damage or Outstanding features (One headlight, logos, antennae etc.)
  • Direction of travel, traffic law violations
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