Q: I know I should report crimes if I see them, but I’m afraid to get involved. What is our civic duty to report crime?

A: What is civic duty? Civic duty is defined as the responsibilities of a citizen. Two good examples would be jury duty and voting. Another civic duty in regards to law enforcement would be reporting a crime. While I understand in this day and age we all have many obligations and it seems like a hassle to report something you are not certain is a crime or be forced to go to court. But what is the right thing to do? As a community we all need to look out for each other and if you see a crime, hear of a crime, or suspect someone is up to no good, you should step forward and call the police. I’m not saying you should get involved by attempting to apprehend a criminal, but you should call the police and be a good witness. The police department definitely doesn’t want you to get hurt and your safety is our first concern. If it’s an emergency and someone appears to be getting hurt or property is getting stolen or damaged, call 911 and report it. If it isn’t an emergency or a crime in progress than please call the non-emergency police dispatch number at (310) 458-8491. Please provide the dispatcher with the following information:

• What does the person(s) look like? Try to get as much of the following without putting yourself in harm’s way: Race, age, height, weight, hair color, eye color, facial hair, tattoos, and description of clothing. Are they carrying anything like bags or a tool(s)?

• Where are they? Please provide the best possible location as to where the crime occurred. An address is best, if not, the cross streets. Was it in an alley?

• What is happening or just happened? Did they break into a house or car? What did they take or damage? What does the victim, house, or car look like that they just broke into?

• Are there any weapons?

• Are they on foot or in a vehicle? Please provide the best possible vehicle description: Make, model, color, two door or four door, window tint, special rims, stickers, damage, and vehicle license plate.

• Did they leave the scene? Which direction did they go and how long ago?

All of that may seem like a lot, but remember, the police dispatchers need to relay all of the information to the responding police officers. The better picture you can paint, the better the response of the police, so please be patient with all of the questions that are going to come your way.

Please wait at a safe location for the officer to arrive on scene. If it’s a misdemeanor crime and it’s not committed in the officer’s presence, the police will need to speak to a witness. If for some reason you can’t wait for the police, provide the dispatcher with your phone number and address.

By failing to report crime and do our civic duty, we all suffer the consequences. Eventually the unacceptable becomes acceptable.

Putting a stop to bicycle thefts

Santa Monica and the surrounding areas are seeing too many bicycle thefts, and want to assist you in preventing this crime. A little preparation will go a long way in making it more difficult for a would-be bike thief. Please follow these tips so you can help reduce the chance of being a victim.

First and foremost, be sure to get it registered/licensed so if your bicycle is stolen, the information regarding your bicycle is available to the police department so they can better identify and return it to you, should it be located. The state bicycle license is $3 and is good for three years. You can obtain one by going to the city of Santa Monica permit office at City Hall or get the information via the following weblink: www01.smgov.net/finance/licenses/bikelic.htm

Second, get a quality lock to secure your bicycle. Too many times we have taken stolen bicycle reports to find out the lock being used was of poor quality and/or an easy material to break. Small chains and “cable” type locks are easy to cut and are usually the target of thieves. Although we cannot guarantee them, we recommend a better high quality lock such as the “U-type” lock. This type of lock should be secured around your bicycle, a tire and the rack you are securing it to.

Third, if you see anyone acting suspicious in and around the area where bicycles are kept, please call our dispatch at (310) 458-8491 with a description of the suspicious person, (clothing, appearance, hair, height, weight, etc.) and what they are doing that caused you to notice their behavior.

There is no way to guarantee that a bicycle will not be stolen, however, these tactics will help lessen the possibility of it happening to you.

This column was prepared by NRO Scott Pace (Beat 2: Lincoln Boulevard to Ocean Front Walk, Interstate 10 to Ozone Avenue). He can be reached at (424) 200-0682 or scott.pace@smgov.net.