3 Ways to Report a Crime to the Police

Thứ bảy - 27/04/2024 01:08
Alert the police of any suspicious activity in person, online, or by phoneIf you are a victim of a crime or witness something that looks suspicious, it's important that you report the incident to local law enforcement. Most people usually...
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If you are a victim of a crime or witness something that looks suspicious, it’s important that you report the incident to local law enforcement. Most people usually file a police report by visiting the nearest police precinct or calling the non-emergency number for the dispatch office. In some metro areas, you also may be able to file a police report online. We’ll walk through each process step-by-step so that you feel comfortable and confident should you ever have to report an incident. However, if it’s an emergency situation and you believe your life or someone else's life is in danger, call 911 immediately.

Things You Should Know

  • Locate your nearest police station and go there to make your report in person. Bring a photo ID and any evidence you have related to the incident.
  • Look up your local police department’s website and fill out an online report. Include as many details as you can and wait for further instructions after submitting.
  • Call your police department’s non-emergency number to report things such as theft or property damage.
Method 1
Method 1 of 3:

By Phone

  1. Step 1 Call the police dispatch office.
    Police departments have a non-emergency number that you can call if you want to file a police report over the phone. Do not call 911 unless there is an active crime in progress or people's lives are in danger.[1]
    • Non-emergency situations include things like pickpocketing, criminal damage to property, automobile theft, and garage burglary.
    • Search “police non-emergency number” online to find this number, look through a telephone book, or call 311 (information) if that service is available in your area.
  2. Step 2 Provide your name and location.
    Identify yourself to the dispatcher who answers the non-emergency number and let them know that you want to file a police report. They will ask for your name and address, as well as the address of your current location if it differs from your place of residence.[2]
    • You may be able to file a report anonymously over the phone. However, if you don't provide your name and contact information, the police will not be able to follow up with you about the report.
    • Always provide your name and contact information if you suffered a loss as a result of the incident you're reporting, such as if your property was damaged or stolen. That way, if your property is recovered, the police will be able to easily contact you.
  3. Step 3 Describe the incident you’re reporting in detail.
    Let the dispatcher know what happened and when and where the incident occurred. Provide as many factual details as you can remember. Remain calm and stick to the facts.[3]
    • If you have any photos, videos, or other documents related to the incident, let the dispatcher know. They’ll let you know how you can submit them.
    • The dispatcher may ask you follow-up questions if there is specific information they need that you failed to mention in your description.
  4. Step 4 Meet with an officer if necessary.
    Once the dispatcher takes your report, they'll determine if the situation requires sending an officer to your location to talk to you more. This may happen if, for example, you're reporting damage to your property. If an officer is dispatched, the dispatcher will give you a time frame of when to expect them.[4]
    • The officer will confirm the information in your telephone report and ask questions to get any additional information they may need to further investigate the incident.
    • You may not get a written copy of the report immediately. The officer typically will give you a receipt with the number assigned to your report so you can get a full copy later.
  5. Step 5 Check if your police station allows telephone reports.
    Many police stations do not allow telephone reports due to possible security issues. Since filing a false report is a crime, they need to have the filer sign a document and verify that they are who they say they are.[5]
  6. Step 6 Request a copy of the report.
    If an officer isn't dispatched to your location to talk to you, ask the dispatcher for a report number. Find out when the full written report will be available and how you can get a copy for your records.[6]
    • In some cases, the police department may mail a copy of the report to you. Otherwise, you may need to make a trip to the precinct to pick up the report.
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Method 2
Method 2 of 3:

In Person

  1. Step 1 Locate the nearest police department.
    The police department nearest you or the place where the incident occurred will likely have jurisdiction over the case. To identify the correct police department, search online or call 311 (information) if that service is available in your area.[7]
    • City or metropolitan police departments typically have jurisdiction within the city limits, while the county sheriff's department will have jurisdiction over incidents that take place in the county or outside the city limits.
    • There may be dual jurisdiction in some areas, such as if you live in a metro area where city and county governments have been consolidated. In that case, just find the precinct office closest to you. If you're in the wrong place, they'll tell you where to go.
  2. Step 2 Gather information about the incident you want to report.
    When you file a police report in person, you'll typically need information or evidence related to the incident itself. This information can include things like the names of other people involved, photo or video evidence, and the date and time the incident occurred.[8]
    • If you took photos or videos on your phone, take your phone with you to the police station. The police typically won't have to take your phone from you and will download your photos or videos to their computer system.
    • In cases of property loss or damage, gather any financial statements, insurance claims, or other documents to take with you.
  3. Step 3 Bring your ID to confirm your identity.
    When you file your report, you'll need to provide a name and address to the officer who takes your report. A government-issued photo ID, such as your driver’s license, passport, or state ID, is the easiest way for the police to verify your identity.[9]
    • If your ID has been lost or stolen, bring whatever documents or information you have that might prove your identity. This includes things like your social security card, a tax form with your social security number, or a bank statement that includes your personal information.
    • Bring a friend or relative along to vouch for you if you don’t have your ID.
  4. Step 4 Visit the police department during regular business hours.
    Check online or call the police non-emergency line (311) to find out when the precinct office is open. While you typically can file a police report at any time, individual precincts may not be open to the public after business hours.
    • You'll likely have a shorter wait time if you go earlier in the morning, as opposed to in the afternoon.
    • If you have been the victim of a crime, such as a break-in or assault, you have the option to call the police and have them come out to you. They’ll likely take your statement as well as collect evidence at the scene.
    • Call the station before you go down there to see if they would rather come to you.[10]
    Saul Jaeger, MS

    Saul Jaeger, MS

    Police Captain, Mountain View Police Department
    Saul Jaeger is a Police Officer and Captain of the Mountain View, California Police Department (MVPD). Saul has over 17 years of experience as a patrol officer, field training officer, traffic officer, detective, hostage negotiator, and as the traffic unit’s sergeant and Public Information Officer for the MVPD. At the MVPD, in addition to commanding the Field Operations Division, Saul has also led the Communications Center (dispatch) and the Crisis Negotiation Team. He earned an MS in Emergency Services Management from the California State University, Long Beach in 2008 and a BS in Administration of Justice from the University of Phoenix in 2006. He also earned a Corporate Innovation LEAD Certificate from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 2018.
    Saul Jaeger, MS
    Saul Jaeger, MS
    Police Captain, Mountain View Police Department

    Did You Know? The most common mistake people make when filing a police report is not doing it right away. You never know when a piece of information might be useful to the police in helping them solve a crime or crack a case.

  5. Step 5 Talk to an officer about the incident.
    When you enter the precinct, introduce yourself to the desk officer and explain that you want to file a police report. They may take some information from you right away or give you paperwork to complete while you wait for an available officer.[11]
    • When an officer comes to take your report, give them all of the information you know about the incident. Include as many specific details as possible and stick to the facts.
    • If you have any documents or other information, let the officer know. They may want to take your originals or make copies.
    • The officer may ask you more specific questions to get more information about the incident. If you don't know something or don't remember, say so. Avoid making assumptions or engaging in speculation.
  6. Step 6 Get a copy...
    Get a copy of the report from the officer. When the officer finishes talking to you, they may have a written report available immediately. If the written report isn't ready, they'll give you the report number and let you know when you can pick it up.[12]
    • Keep your report number in a safe place. Depending on the type of incident you report, you may need to provide this number to others.
    • For example, if you filed a report for property damage, you may need to provide the police report number to your insurance company when you file a claim.[13]
  7. Step 7 Follow up on your report within a week.
    Once your report is filed, it will typically be assigned to an officer to begin the investigation. If they uncover any information or identify a suspect, they may be in touch with you.[14]
    • If you don't hear from the police within a week, call the non-emergency number and tell the dispatcher that you want to follow up on a report you filed. Give them your report number and wait for them to connect you to the appropriate officer.
    • In the case that you learn more information about the incident after you’ve filed your initial report, call and ask to speak to the investigating officer to let them know the additional information.
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Method 3
Method 3 of 3:


  1. Step 1 Find your local police department's website.
    Do a quick internet search with the word “police” and the name of your city or the city where the incident happened. Once you’re on the website, look for a link or tab labeled something like “Online Crime Reporting” and click it to get started.[15]
    • Not all police stations will allow you to file a police report online. In that case, you will need to go to the police station in person.
  2. Step 2 Check the types of reports you can file.
    From the initial reporting page, the police department typically provides information about the types of incidents you can report online. If the incident you want to report isn’t included, you’ll likely have to make the report in person.[16]
    • Incidents involving lost or stolen property, damaged property, or vandalism typically can be reported online. You also can file an online report for financial crimes, including theft or identity theft.
    • Call 911 immediately if people's lives are in danger.
  3. Step 3 Gather information before you start your report.
    Some police departments only allow you a limited amount of time to enter your information before the form resets. Organize all of the information you'll need beforehand to avoid having to start over.[17]
    • For example, write a list of names of people who were involved or who witnessed the incident before starting your report. Take note of the date and time the incident occurred, the street address of the specific location, and the general timeline of what happened during the incident.
    • If you have any documents or other files related to the incident, you may be able to upload them along with your report.
  4. Step 4 Enter your personal information.
    In most cases, you won’t be able to file an anonymous report online. However, even if you’re given the option to remain anonymous, it’s best to provide your information anyways. This will allow you to follow up on the report, and the police can easily contact you if they have any questions or information for you.[18]
  5. Step 5 Provide details about the incident.
    Some online report forms may ask for specific details separately, such as the location of the incident and the type of incident you're reporting. Then you'll have a field to describe what exactly happened in more detail.[19]
    • Stick to the facts and include as many specific details as you can remember. Avoid including things like descriptions of your feelings, emotional reactions, or personal thoughts.
    • The field you have to enter details may be limited to a certain number of characters. Include as many details as possible, but be brief and concise.
  6. Step 6 Submit and print a copy of the report.
    When you click “submit” to send your report, you typically are given the opportunity to print a page that contains the information you submitted. If you're given the opportunity to preview your report before you submit it, look it over for typos or errors.[20]
    • If you're not able to print a copy of your report, write down any confirmation number or report number that you're provided. You may need these to follow up on the report later, or to share with your insurance company.
  7. Step 7 Follow up on your report a couple of days later.
    When you file a police report online, you typically will hear from the police department within a day or two. They'll let you know if an officer has been assigned to investigate your case and will tell you if there’s any further action you need to take. If you don't hear from the police department, call the non-emergency number (311) and let the dispatcher know that you want to follow up on a police report you filed online.[21]
    • Find out the name of the investigating officer in case you gain new information about the incident and need to update your report later.
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  • If you are in an emergency situation, call 911 immediately.
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  • Filing a false police report is a crime. Be truthful and avoid any speculation that might not be accurate.[23]
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