7 Steps to Making an Ill-Advised Citizen's Arrest

Crime. You just hate that crime, don't you? Whether it's because your parents were brutally murdered, or your television was brutally stolen, you've vowed to do everything you can to stop crime. Not stop it; you want to kick crime's teeth in.
7 Steps to Making an Ill-Advised Citizen's Arrest

Crime. You just hate that crime, don't you? Whether it's because your parents were brutally murdered or your television was brutally stolen, you've vowed to do everything you can to stop crime. Not stop it; you want to kick crime's teeth in. Talk is cheap, and you're ready for something concrete, more concrete than "nothing at all," which is what the rest of us are planning on doing. "But what?" you ask, while browsing the aisles of a cape store. "What can one man -- one extraordinarily surly man -- do?" I'll tell you what. You're going to go make some citizen's arrests. And I'm going to tell you how.

Know the Law

The laws around citizen's arrest vary a great deal depending on which country or state you're in, so your first step will be to conduct plenty of research on the laws that apply in your jurisdiction. "Plenty of research? What kind of bullshit advice is that? That's what I came here looking for, you son of a bitch!" I imagine you saying, before attempting to place me under citizen's arrest for Felony Intent to Commit Bullshit. Don't apologize; it shows your arresting heart's in the right place. If you do just want to wing it, here are a few commonalities that most Western legal systems have, which will be useful to know if you don't want your citizen's arrest exploding in your face. First, citizen's arrests are generally only permissible for serious crimes -- felonies or indictable offenses only -- so if you had visions of putting a jaywalker into a figure-four leglock while screaming the theme from The A-Team, that's not gonna fly. There is a wrinkle, though, in that if you observe a crime that is explicitly damaging your property, you do generally have the right to stop and arrest the subject. An Example: To illustrate the techniques necessary for making a citizen's arrest, last week I tried these out in my hometown, Canada City. When conducting this first, boringest step, I first consulted with a Canadian police officer ...

7 Steps to Making an Ill-Advised Citizen's Arrest

... as well as a a Canadian lawyer ...

7 Steps to Making an Ill-Advised Citizen's Arrest

... who informed me that I really shouldn't even be considering this, but that I was correct in assuming I could only arrest people who've committed indictable offenses, or who've stolen something from me. Seeing as indictable offenses are things like "rape" and "death-attack" (this is what we call murder in Canada), I decided I didn't want much to do with fighting that kind of criminal. This left the other approach -- to catch a criminal, I'd first wander around town with my wallet dragging behind me on a string, wait for someone to touch it, then citizen's arrest the hell out of him.

Costume Design

Unless this becomes a habit of yours, you probably won't want to go full cape and cowl here. But you'd be surprised at the confidence you feel when you look the part, and if you think you're dressed like a vigilante badass, you actually may become a little more like one.

7 Steps to Making an Ill-Advised Citizen's Arrest
I am the hero Gotham deserves.

An Example: In an attempt to subtly mimic the most famous vigilante of all time, Michael Knight, I gave myself a leather jacket, jeans that were tighter than normal and a perm.


I initially considered rigging up my phone in my car to have a scrolling LED and a voice search feature so I could have conversations with it. That would also give me something to drive around in, looking for crime, and something to slide across the hood of when crime needed to be foiled. But then I remembered that I
hated that fucking car. So instead I just played the Knight Rider theme song a few times before I left the house to psych myself up, and then once psyched, carried it around on my phone with me to keep my psych levels high.

Submission Techniques

The Internet is traditionally a place to hate, mock or otherwise rail against police officers, so please bear with me a second here when I don't do that at all, and point out that they are actually highly trained professionals. The kind of skills needed to wrestle a tweaking purse snatcher to the ground without hurting him or yourself are actually kind of hard to learn, and even if you are pretty OK with hurting him, it still isn't easy. For that reason, before making any citizen's arrests, it couldn't hurt to brush up on some basic self-defense techniques, or at the very least look into weighing a lot more. One other point bears mentioning here, and it relates to that -- ha ha -- police brutality joke I alluded to a second ago. You're not going to have the built-in legal protections afforded police officers, which means that when making a citizen's arrest, you're exposing yourself to a huge amount of legal liability. Criminal charges could very easily come in your direction, to say nothing of the civil damages you could potentially face if you arrest someone's face right through a table. For that reason, when selecting your self-defense training regimen, I'd strongly suggest you consider a noncontact martial art like tai chi or even Pilates. An Example: I spent most of the summer of 2000 getting really big into Tae Bo when I found a Tae Bo DVD and thought it would be hilarious if I got really big into Tae Bo. For those who don't know, Tae Bo is a kind of high-intensity exercise regime/martial art that is I think used to train Special Forces aerobics instructors. Most notably, Tae Bo is completely noncontact, which means I'm unlikely to hurt my arrestees with it.

7 Steps to Making an Ill-Advised Citizen's Arrest
It turns out that a split-squat tiptoed punch is more dangerous to the puncher than everyone else in the world.


A crime is happening! Only this time you're ready for it, having done all your homework and honed yourself into a crime-fighting Pilates machine. So take a deep breath, and do this: Approach your criminal confidently, announce that you're placing him under citizen's arrest and ask him to lie face first on the ground. If he doesn't (he won't), use your martial arts against him as gently as possible until he complies. An Example: I'd been trolling my wallet around downtown sidewalks for the better part of an hour before I felt a tug on the line. A catch! I turned around to spot a dirtbag holding my wallet. "Excuse me," she began to say before I interrupted her with my prepared speech, which was a sort of remembered version of the Miranda Rights.

7 Steps to Making an Ill-Advised Citizen's Arrest
"You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to ... uh ... remain an attorney. If you do not remain silent, an attorney may be held against you."

I then formally placed the young tough under citizen's arrest. Seeing the blank look on her face, I could tell she wasn't going to make things easy, at which point I escalated and conducted about 20 seconds of a Tae Bo routine right in front of her face. Finally, a reaction -- the hoodlum set the wallet down at her feet, then backed away from me slowly, accidentally tripping over a curb as she did so. Success -- I'd gotten my first "collar"!


After catching the criminal, you'll have to detain him until police help arrives, and here lies one common pitfall of citizen's arrests. After the fact, it's entirely probable that the criminal will complain to the courts that you detained him inappropriately and strongly imply that you locked him up to do sex acts on him. Knowing this trap, you have to make those claims seem laughable right on the surface. Make sure you're not using any restraints with fur on them, and that you're not wearing a leather hat, or assless anythings.

7 Steps to Making an Ill-Advised Citizen's Arrest
"The safe word for tonight is justice."

__ An Example: Carrying any kind of restraints around with you on the street is a good way to get labeled a pervert, so I knew I'd need a subtler method of restraining my criminal. Which was why, underneath my leather jacket, I was wearing a shirt covered in glue, which I intended to use to hug my criminal into submission. But due to a miscalculation of ... basically the entire plan ... it turned out that I couldn't get my jacket off to unleash my justice hug. Panicking slightly, I decided to sit on my criminal, who was, fortunately for me, a smallish Chinese girl, incapable of kicking me off. "Citizen's arrest, checkmate!" I announced. "Someone call the real cops and tell them I'm giving free lessons on how it's really done!" I yelled at the crowd of strangers who'd gathered around. "It's all right, I write for Cracked!" I clarified, when several of them seemed to get more upset at me than the criminal. I was as surprised as anyone when this worked -- they may have thought I was saying something else.


It's important to take advantage of the time you have before the police arrive to lecture your criminal about the error of his ways. The current prison system simply encourages criminals to trade crime-making secrets with each other so that they might break the law more adroitly, and you'll want to counterbalance this coming miseducation by sharing your experience as an upstanding citizen. Tell him about Cracked.com, and how it's become a beacon of correctness for you.

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Don't be surprised if you find yourself bonding quite strongly with your criminal. A citizen's arrest is a powerful shared experience, and with the passage of time (about 10 minutes or so, depending on police response times in your city), you'll quite likely start to see things from your criminal's perspective. This is a normal and healthy reaction, and it can help forge a new lifelong friendship. But you
must resist the urge to fall in love with your criminal, and to free him and go on crime sprees with him, which, if you'll recall, was the exact opposite intention you set out with. An Example: "And that's why Teddy Roosevelt was the most badass president," I explained. Seeing her stare up at me, baffled, I started crying. "We're really doing it, aren't we? We're totally Stockholm syndroming! Let's never lose touch after this. People always say that, but let's really mean it!"

The Handoff

Eventually the police will show up, and after they try to arrest you for sitting on a teenage girl for 10 minutes, things will eventually get sorted out, and you'll be acknowledged a hero. The main thing to remember is to be honest and cooperative; police officers will often be a little prickly about citizen's arrests, because of I think a union thing, and you don't want to aggravate them further. Just be polite and say that you're definitely not thinking of doing this again, even if you're already mentally shaking hands with the mayor and promising him that the city will no longer know fear.

7 Steps to Making an Ill-Advised Citizen's Arrest
"And this key to the city is awarded to Darren Mitchell, who, having saved the president from ninjas, proved that, indeed, he was a Bad Enough Dude."

An Example: "So that's what happened," I said, trying to adjust my shirt/jacket, which, after the day's events, was now irrevocably bound together and twisted up under my armpits, exposing about 12 inches of midriff and a nipple. "Can I put my hand on her head when she gets put in the police car?" I asked. "So she doesn't hit it on the door frame? You know. I think it would be a nice capstone for my whole citizen's arrest experience." "She's not under arrest," the police officer said. "She was trying to return your wallet to you. You were dragging it behind you on a string when it fell off. Eight witnesses have come forth to say that." "I see. And you think this hurts the case? Should we check with the D.A. first, before making any rash decisions?" "No." "Well, if she's innocent, why didn't she say anything?" "She appears to speak English as a second language." I frowned. That would explain a few things. All the Chinese cursing -- that was one of the things. "She'd have tons of time to work on that in prison," I suggested. "There's only one person here at any risk of going to prison," the police officer said. "Is it you? Because of work-related duties?" That wasn't the angle he was getting at, as I would discover when he placed me under regular arrest. So that's it. I guess if there's one final lesson I have for you in all of this, it's that if you find yourself in a holding cell after making a citizen's arrest, it's advisable to have a cover story for why you're there. The fellows there did not take too warmly to having a citizen arrestor in their midst and spent the next several hours placing me under citizen's arrest in a variety of ways that, really, just mocked the sanctity of the act. _________________________

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