When a crime is committed, police lean on witnesses to help figure out what happened and who did what. 

But how difficult is it to remember what you saw? We put our Channel 3 co-workers to the test to figure out what makes a good witness and how you can become one if ever needed.

Unexpected things happen all the time. But what if that unexpected thing was an assault or theft -- or worse? Would you be able to help?

We found out.

For a quick simulation, we told our co-workers that we needed to do a quick promo shoot outside the Channel 3 studios.

No one knew we had a fake burglar ready to strike.

Our co-workers watched as our “thief” ran off with reporter Will Ujek’s book bag. Once he was out of sight, we stepped in and let them know it was a ruse.

Akron police say in these scenarios, it's key to stay safe. Our co-workers did that. But would they make good witnesses?

Detective Jim Pasheilich was ready to question them. We set up an interview room and called each of the witnesses in one-by-one. They all agreed not to compare notes before their interviews.

Detective: “What did he take?”

Jenny: “He took a backpack.”

Detective: “Do you remember what color?”

Jenny: “It was black.”

Mike: “It was a book bag.”

Detective: “Do you remember what color?”

Mike: “Grey?”

Detective: “Do you remember what he looked like?”

Kayla: “He looked like he was in his 50s.”

Janet: “Young. White man. Tan-ish coat.“

Tricia: “He looked like someone who worked with us, like he was coming from an office setting.”

Jasmine: “He was creepy.”

Mike: “Between 6-foot and 6-foot-3.”

Jenny: “5-foot-5-ish?”

Monica: “Khaki pants. I believe they were navy blue. I believe he had a yellow shirt on.”

Tricia: “Balding a little bit.”

Meg: “Short brown hair. Glasses.”

Detective: “Would you recognize him again if you saw him?”

Meg: “Maybe?”

Based on our witness descriptions, we wanted to know how they did. Would detectives have a good idea who they were looking for?

“Yeah, they did pretty good,” Pasheilich said. “They have a description of the white male. They knew that he didn’t have facial hair. They did pretty good on the description of his clothing. The things that are hard are height, weight and age. Those are always hard to do. I do believe that some of the witnesses would be able to pick him out if they walked across the street to lunch or something like that if he was still in the neighborhood.”

Could they really pick him out? We had one more test.

Our “thief” was Lt. Dave Garro of the Akron Police Department, and he stayed out of sight during questioning. We decided to bring him into the newsroom and introduce him to staffers who had witnessed our staged crime. But we didn’t reveal Garro’s true identity. Instead, we said he worked for the APL. Would they recognize him?

Jasmine and Kierra shook his hand.

Lt. Garro: “Have we ever met before?”

Jasmine: “Yeah, I think so. Was it with the cats?”

Lt. Garro: “Oh, the cats.”

Lt. Garro: “Have we met before?”

Meg: “I don’t think so.”

We were striking out... until we took Lt. Garro to chat with Monica. Once again, we said he was with the APL. But our cameras caught something. Monica was inspecting his clothing, giving his attire a once-over. 

Monica had recognized our “thief.”

Monica: “Where are your glasses?”

Lt. Garro: “In my pocket.”

She is the only employee that identified him.

So how can you be a good witness?

The Akron Police Department says take notes when the crime is fresh in your mind. Focus on specifics, take pictures or videos if your cell phone is handy. And one thing to take note of: the person’s shoes. 

“That's something harder to get rid of, you run down the street, you can ditch your shirt or your ball cap, you can ditch your gloves. Most people don't ditch their shoes because then you stand out walking down northeast Ohio in the wintertime with no shoes on,” Pasheilich explained.

Not all witnesses are created equal. But you can be a better one by staying safe and being observant. And always pay attention to your surroundings.