If you saw someone breaking into your neighbor's car, could you give police a good description of the suspect?

Often the smallest detail helps solve a crime and law enforcement relies on the eyes and ears of neighbors, said Erica Russell, a Franklin County Sheriff's Office deputy who will teach a program on effective-witness training Oct. 24 in Prairie Township.

"In law enforcement, a lot our work is successful because of witnesses. We will never be as effective as the community itself being proactive," Russell said.

The Greater Lincoln Village Area Block Watch is sponsoring the training. The free class is open to all and will start at 6:30 p.m. at Prairie Township Fire Station 241, 123 Inah Ave.

Russell said the class will last about an hour and will include interactive scenarios and role-playing.

Much of the work is aimed at "overcoming some biases that they may not know they have," she said. "We all, in our minds eye, see thing differently."

For example, women generally are better at describing clothing and appearances, and men tend to be better at "sizing up" suspects for height and weight, Russell said.

This will be the third year for the class, said Ryan Ladina, who co-manages the block watch.

"It's critical that our community understands what the trends in crime are and what to look for. Every time we hold this program, even longtime residents learn something new," he said.

The training also covers the court process; Russell said she emphasizes the importance of cooperating witnesses. Witness forms, which can help neighbors track suspicious activity, are available on the block watch website, lincolnvillage.com/block watch.html

The forms list spaces for witnesses to say whether a suspect is a man or woman, list his or her height, weight, hair color, hair length and race, plus information about vehicles. The form also includes the non-emergency phone number for the Franklin County Sheriff's Office.

"When an area is experiencing crime, we do everything in our power, but we only have so many people," Russell said. "What keeps those things from happening is the community itself -- they come together and say, 'We're not going to allow those types of things here.' "

Questions about the effective-witness training program can be emailed to LVBlockWatch@gmail.com.

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