Victim of a Crime? What’s YOUR First Move?

By David Magnusson  |   Nov 29, 2019

I’m going to share a pet peeve of mine regarding policing. It affects every agency, regardless of size, and every rank. In fact, I bet once you read this, you’ll find yourself nodding in agreement.

It’s not an incredibly dire situation. There is no substantial danger involved. Still, it riles the heck out of me and it has for some time. I bet you are no different.

There’s a race…and it’s “post time”

This might indicate that we have 10 minutes to place our bets at Churchill Downs or Belmont, but we’re not talking about the Sport of Kings here. What I’m getting at usually involves a computer. It has to do with people sprinting to put their fingers on the home keys (those of you who took typing in high school know exactly what I mean. For those of you who don’t know what a typewriter is…never mind).

Some are overtaken by a near-demonic possession that compels them to rush to their laptop and post something for all to read—and hopefully get a few “likes” out of it, too.

What’s the problem with posting your opinion? Nothing. Have at it. But let me explain that pet peeve of mine.

On many occasions, it is brought to my attention that a citizen—most commonly, the victim of a crime—has given an outstanding blow-by-blow of the events surrounding a burglary, car break-in, robbery, or other incidents. Then I follow up on this information only to find they didn’t call the police before they posted. Their primary concern was to post their dilemma as quickly as possible for friends and neighbors to read. Calling the police for assistance was an afterthought.

Usually, they do ultimately call the police, but after something like a 15-minute delay from the time of the crime until the police are notified. Why, you ask? Great question. I ask the same thing all the time.

Those elapsed 15 minutes can mean the difference between keeping the offenders in the area or having them slip away without much trouble.

Undoubtedly there will be a slew of comments on the victim’s post offering suggestions. And without fail, there is always at least one level-headed poster who remarks, “I hope you called the police already.”

How Can We Change the Paradigm?

I have spoken about this issue in community meetings, on our department website, and via our Twitter account. I believe all agencies need to start ringing the bell on this as well. I’m pretty sure I am not alone in my frustration.

I want to iterate that the goal shouldn’t be to shame or offend well-meaning victims but to educate them. This problem has grown wings in the social media “look at me” era. It is becoming the norm, not the exception. Law enforcement needs to wrap its arms around this issue, address it, and help to change it.

Perhaps we need an easy-to-remember slogan:

Police First, Post Later!

Once a victim calls the police and gets a report generated, they can sit in front of the computer screen all day chiseling away at their post. Until then, let’s try to teach them to save it for later.

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David Magnusson

Magnusson is the chief of police for the Village of El Portal Police department. Prior to this, he was police chief of the Havelock (N.C.) Police Department. He also spent 30 years with the Miami Police Department, retiring there as a major. Magnusson is a graduate of American Military University with a Master's in Military history. Chief Magnusson also boxed as an amateur for twenty-six years. You will find his passion for history and boxing in many of his writings. Magnusson and his wife Rosa reside in South Florida, where they have five children and two grandkids.

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