Reporting a crime




Frequently Asked Questions

Reporting a crime

How do I report a crime?

If you are reporting an emergency, phone 999. An emergency is where:

  • there is danger to life

  • there is a risk of serious injury

  • a crime is in progress or about to happen

  • an offender is still at the scene or has just left

We aim to arrive at emergencies in urban areas within 10 minutes and within 15 minutes in rural/motorway areas.

If your call is not an emergency contact your local police station or your police force main central switchboard number. To find your police force switchboard number visit the

This number will connect you to police headquarters where switchboard operators will ask the nature of your call so they can put you through to someone who can help you.

Non-emergency minor crime notification allows you to e-mail the police with a query and also allows you to report certain non-urgent

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Stop and search policy

Why do the police stop and search people?

The police can stop and search people to detect certain types of crime to help make our communities safer. The successful use of stop and search means there are fewer victims
of crime and more crimes are detected.

In some police force areas, stop-searches are ONLY carried out where there are proper grounds to do so.

You will NOT be stopped and searched just because of your age, colour, hairstyle, the way you dress, etc.

Why would an officer carry out a �stop and search�?

If you are stopped by the police it does not necessarily mean you are doing anything wrong. You may fit the description of someone the officers are seeking in connection with
a crime, or they may suspect you of carrying stolen goods, drugs or something you could use to commit a crime or that could be used as a weapon.

How will they search me?

Before an officer searches he/she must tell you:

  • their name

  • which police station they work at

  • what made them suspicious in the first place

  • the aim of the search

  • what they expect to find

If the officer is not in uniform he/she must show you their identity card.

If you are stopped and searched the officers will try to be sensitive, discreet and quick – they will do their best not to embarrass or delay you unnecessarily.

If you are in a public place, the officer can only ask you to take off your coat or jacket or gloves.

If the officer asks you to take off more than that, e.g. your shoes or a face scarf, you will be taken somewhere private, such as a police station. This does not mean you have
been arrested. In this case, the officer searching you must be the same sex as you.

There is a requirement for officers to provide an on-the-spot record of the stop and search that has taken place.

What will happen next?

The police make a record of all ‘stops’ as well as all ‘stops and searches’. Non-statutory or so-called ‘voluntary’ stops must also be recorded. The officer must write down
on a form:

  • your name or your description

  • your self-defined ethnic identity

  • why you were searched

  • when and where you were searched

  • what the officer was looking for and whether anything was found

  • the name and number of the officer who searched you

Do I have to give officers my name and address?

If you are stopped the officers will ask you some simple questions such as your name, where you live and where you are going.

Unless they are reporting you for a suspected crime, you don’t have to give them these details, but it makes sense to co-operate. If you are innocent you have nothing to fear.

If you are being reported for an offence, you do have to provide these details and may be arrested if you refuse to give your details.

Will the officer give me a copy of what they have written down?

Yes. The officer will write down what happens on a form and hand you a copy to keep. If you are not prepared to wait for the form, you can obtain a copy from the police station
any time within 12 months.

If your car is searched when you are not there, the officers will leave a notice explaining what has happened.

Where can officers carry out a stop and search?

The police can usually only stop and search you in a public place. But if they suspect you have committed a serious crime, they can search you anywhere.

If the police think there may be serious violence in an area at a certain time, they can search for knives or other weapons. In this case, they could search everyone at a school
or going to a football match without needing a good reason for each individual person.

Can the police stop and search my car when I am driving?

Under the Road Traffic Act, an officer may stop any vehicle being driven on the road. You may be asked to produce documents, such as a driving licence, MOT or insurance details
or the officer may examine the vehicle to make sure it is roadworthy.

What if the police cause damage getting into my vehicle?

If officers believe your vehicle may be carrying stolen goods, drugs or something which could be used to commit crime, your car may be searched even if you are not present.

If the search causes damage, you can ask the police to pay compensation. However, they will only pay this if they did not find anything to connect you to a crime.

What can I do if I am not happy and wish to complain?

The police must treat you fairly, politely and with respect. If you are unhappy with the way you have been treated, please try to stay calm. If you wish to complain about your
treatment, please see Complaints against the police.

Alternatively you can seek advice from your local police authority, a Citizens’ Advice Bureau, the Commission for Racial Equality or a solicitor.

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Stray dogs

I have found a lost or stray dog in the street. What should I do?

The local authority is responsible for the collection and keeping of stray dogs. The police ONLY have a responsibility to accept and deal with stray or lost dogs which are brought
to a police station until collected by the local authority. Lost and found dog registers are kept at local police stations.

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Wheel clamping

I have returned to my vehicle to find I have been wheel clamped. What can I do or what will the police do?

Police officers are frequently called to deal with disputes between motorists and private contractors after a vehicle has been wheel clamped after parking without permission
on private land. The main concern of an officer called to such an incident will be to stop a breach of the peace – as this is usually a civil matter, not a police matter.

If there are adequate signs clearly displayed on the land saying that vehicles parked without consent will be clamped, and stating the fee required for the clamp to be removed,
the act of clamping will probably be lawful.

In this situation any damage caused to the clamp by trying to remove it may mean the person is liable in civil law for any damage. Depending on the circumstances, it may also
mean he/she has committed an offence of criminal damage.

Any removal of the clamp in a situation where signs are adequately displayed may amount to theft.

If clamping has taken place on a piece of land where signs are not clearly displayed the act of clamping a vehicle may be unlawful, leaving the clamping company liable in civil

The officer attending a wheel clamping will not become involved in any arguments about payment or non-payment of an unclamping fee. He or she will simply make a note of the
circumstances and any allegations which are made.

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Witness at court

I have been asked to give evidence at court and am worried about what to expect. What will I have to do?

Most criminal trials take place in a magistrates’ court and if the defendant pleads guilty you will not be required to attend or give evidence.

More serious cases are usually sent to the crown court and will be heard in front of a jury if the offender denies the offence.

If you are asked to appear at court as a witness the police appreciate you might find it a worrying experience and they will give you every support possible. You will be sent
a letter telling you where and when the trial will be, together with a leaflet which sets out in more detail what will happen.

In some police force areas a scheme has been set up to help witnesses called the Witness Support Scheme. They will give you advice and support and explain the whole procedure
for giving evidence in court.

Do I need to bring anything with me to court?

You should take any papers or correspondence you may need with you.

Can I ask a friend to come with me?

Yes, you can ask a friend to go with you to keep you company. Your friend will not be able to claim expenses (such as travel costs) unless the court agrees he or she must be
there, for example to look after your child or if you are disabled. For more information, check with the person who sent you the court papers.

You should not talk to anyone in advance about the evidence you are going to give as this may affect the trial.

I have difficulty understanding English? Can I get help?

If you have difficulty speaking or understanding English and think you will need an interpreter, ask the person who has sent you the details of the court case to arrange one
for you in advance.

What should I do when I arrive at court?

Give the receptionist or court usher the name of the defendant, which will be on your letter, and they will show you where to wait.

Be prepared for what could be a long wait before it�s your turn to give evidence.

I am frightened of bumping into the defendant or a member of their family. Can I sit away from the courtroom?

If you feel uncomfortable about sitting outside the courtroom, the officer in the case or an usher will try to find a quiet area for you to wait.

What will happen when I go into the court?

You will be shown into the witness box. If you have difficulty standing, ask to sit down. You will then be asked to take the oath � that is to swear to tell the truth on the
Bible or the holy book of your religion. If you prefer, you can affirm � that is to promise to tell the truth.

If you are a witness for the prosecution, you will be asked questions by them first. Then the defence will ask some questions. This is called cross-examination. A magistrate,
the court clerk or a judge may also ask you questions at any stage in the proceedings.

When will I be able to leave the court?

Don�t leave the court until you are told you are no longer needed. If you have an important reason why you need to leave early, you must tell the court usher before the case

If you have made a statement and want to see it before you give evidence, you may be allowed to. Ask an usher or a police officer if you can have a copy.

After you have finished giving evidence, you may be told you are released. This means you are free to leave but you can stay and listen to the rest of the case if you want to.

Will I be entitled to travelling expenses or a claim for loss of earnings?

You can claim expenses for travelling to court and there is an allowance for meals and other expenses related to your appearance in court, such as lost wages. Ask the court
usher for an expenses claim form.

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