- Get in Stride and Stay Safe – Safety Tips for Runners and Walkers
- Protecting Your Privacy
- Street Sense
- Use Common Sense to Spot a Con
- Getting Together to Fight Crime
- Making Children, Families, and Communities Safer From Violence
- Domestic Violence – The Hidden Crime
- Graffiti – Often the First Sign of Trouble
- Tools & Tips for Training Your Children to be Safe
- Safety Tips for Kids to Always Keep in Mind
- At Home Alone – A Parent’s Guide
- Talking With Kids About Drugs
- Cyber-Safety For Kids Online – A Parent’s Guide
- Respecting Diversity
- Raising Streetwise Kids
- Making Safer Schools
- Back To School Tips For Parents
- Back To School Tips For Children
- Bullies: A Serious Problem for Kids
- Stopping School Violence
- Drug Free School Zones
- How To Start A School Crime Watch
Get in Stride and Stay Safe – Safety Tips for Runners and Walkers
Running and walking continue to be extremely popular sports. Each year more and more people take up running and walking because it is a quick, inexpensive way to stay fit. If you travel often, running or walking is an excellent way to maintain your exercise regimen. Also, many community centers and neighborhood and senior groups are starting walking clubs, consider joining one, it’s a great way to meet new people. Here are few pointers to stay safe as you hit the road.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Plan your outing. Always tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Tell friends and family of your favorite exercise routes.
Know where telephones are located along the course.
Wear an identification tag or carry a driver’s license. If you don’t have a place to carry your ID, write your name, phone number, and blood type on the inside of your athletic shoe. Include any medical information.
Don’t wear jewelry or carry cash.
Wear reflective material.
ON THE ROAD
Tell a family member or friend where you are going and the time you expect to be back.
Stay alert at all times. The more aware you are, the less vulnerable you are.
Run or walk with a partner and/or a dog.
Don’t wear headsets. If you wear them you won’t hear an approaching car or attackers. Listen to your surroundings.
Consider carrying a cellular phone.
Exercise in familiar areas. Know which businesses or stores are open.
Vary your route.
Avoid unpopulated areas, deserted streets, and overgrown trails. Especially avoid poorly lighted areas at night.
Run clear of parked cars or bushes.
Ignore verbal harassment. Use discretion in acknowledging strangers. Look directly at others and be observant, but keep your distance and keep moving.
Run against traffic so you can observe approaching automobiles.
Trust your intuition about a person or an area. React based on that intuition and avoid areas you feel unsure about.
Be careful if anyone in a car asks you for directions – if you answer, keep at least a full arm’s length from the car.
If you think you are being following, change direction and head for open stores, theaters, or a lighted house.
Have you door key ready before you reach your home.
Call police immediately if something happens to you or someone else, or you notice anyone out of the ordinary. It is also a good idea to check with police about any criminal activity in the are you plan to run.
Sometimes runners and walkers get lulled into a “zone” where they are so focused on their exercise they lose track of what’s going on around them. This state can make runners and walkers more vulnerable to attacks. Walk and run with confidence and purpose. If you get bored running without music, practice identifying characteristics of strangers and memorizing license tags to keep you from “zoning out.”
RUNNING AND WALKING IN THE EVENING OR EARLY MORNING
OK, so you missed the opportunity to exercise during the light of day, but you still want to get in a quick three miles before turning in for the night or before the sun rises. The best advice when exercising while it’s still dark is to get off the streets and head to the security of a well-lighted outdoor track or consider running on an indoor track or tread mill. If you are a walker, consider laps around an indoor shopping mall. If these options are not available consider these tips before heading out:
Make sure people can see you: Think about where you are going and how well lighted it may or may not be. Gong out at dusk or at night is dangerous without some type of reflective device on your clothing. Many athletic shoes have reflective qualities built in, but also consider a vest complete with reflective tape.
Watch the road: Wet or even patchy spots of ice many not be seen until it’s too late. The slick spots can lay in waiting and are considerably harder to see in the dark.
Keep alert. Dawn and dusk offer convenient shadows for muggers and other crooks.
AWAY FROM HOME
Many people have taken up running and walking so that they will be able to exercise when they are traveling. Remember just because you are away from home doesn’t mean you can let your guard down when you exercise. Before you venture out
Check with the hotel staff or concierge to find safe routes for exercise. If there is not an acceptable place to exercise outdoors, see if the hotel can arrange for you to go to a health club or gym.
Become familiar with your exercise course before you start. Get a map and study it.
Remember the street address of the hotel. Carry a card with your hotel address along with your personal ID.
Leave your room key with the front desk.
Follow your usual safety rules.
Protecting Your Privacy
E-mail, the Internet, automated teller machines (ATM), computer banking, long distance carriers, even credit cards make our lives more efficient. However, as our lives become more integrated with technology, keeping our private information confidential becomes more difficult. Electronic transactions can leave you vulnerable to fraud and other crimes. Following a few simple tips can help keep your code from being cracked.
A WORD ON PASSWORDS
Whether you are on the Internet or an online banking program, you are often required to use a password. The worst passwords to use are the ones that come to mind first – name, spouse’s name, maiden name, pets, children’s name, even street addresses, etc. The best passwords mix numbers with upper and lowercase letters. A password that is not found in the dictionary is even better. There ace programs that will try every word in the dictionary in an effort to crack your security.
Don’t be a “Joe” – someone who uses their name as their password.
The weakest link in a security system is the human element. The fewer people who have access to your codes and passwords the better. Avoid breaks in your security by
Changing your password regularly.
Memorizing your password. If you have several, set up a system for remembering the. If you do write down the password, keep it at home or hidden at work. Don’t write your password on a post-it note and stick it on your monitor or hard drive.
Setting up a special account or setting aside a different computer at work for temporary help and other unauthorized users.
If you have the option of letting your computer or a Web site remember a password for you, don’t use it. Anyone who uses your machine will have automatic access to information that is password protected.
Don’t send confidential, financial, or personal information on your e-mail system.
SHOPPING IN CYBERSPACE
Ordering merchandise from the Internet is the trend of the future. You can prevent problems before they occur by
Doing business with companies you know and trust. If you haven’t heard of the company before, research it or ask for a paper catalog before you decide to order electronically. Check with your state consumer protection agency on whether the company is licensed or registered. Fraudulent companies can appear and disappear very quickly in cyberspace.
Understanding the offer. Look carefully at the products or services the company is offering. Be sure your know what is being sold, the quality being specified, the total price, the delivery date, the return and cancellation policy, and all the terms of any guarantee.
Using a secure browser that will encrypt or scramble purchase information. If there is no encryption software, consider calling the company’s 800 number, faxing your order, or paying with a check.
Never giving a bank account or credit card number or personal information to anyone you don’t know or haven’t checked out. And don’t provide information that isn’t necessary to make a purchase. Even with partial information, con artists can make unauthorized charges to take money from your account. If you have an even choice between using your credit card and mailing cash, check, or money order, use a credit card. You can always dispute fraudulent credit card charges but you can’t get cash back.
Spam – unsolicited e-mail. Report it to your online or Internet service provider.
USING ATMS, LONG DISTANCE PHONE SERVICES, AND CREDIT CARDS
Protect Your Personal Identification Number (PIN)
The PIN is one method used by banks and phone companies to protect your account from unauthorized access. A PIN is a confidential code issued to the cardholder to permit access to that account. Your PIN should be memorized, secured and not given to anyone, not event family members or bank employees. The fewer people who have access to your PIN – the better.
Never write your PIN on ATM or long distance calling cards. Don’t write your PIN on a piece of paper and place it in your wallet. If your wallet and card are lost or stolen, someone will have everything they need to remove funds from your account, make unauthorized debit purchases, or run up your long distance phone bill.
PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY AND THE PRIVACY OF OTHERS
Be aware of others waiting behind you. Position yourself in front of the ATM keyboard or phone to prevent anyone from observing your PIN. Be courteous while waiting at an ATM or pay phone by keeping a polite distance from the person ahead of you. Allow the current user to finish before approaching the machine or phone.
PROTECT YOUR ATM CARDS
An ATM card should be treated as through it were cash. Avoid providing card and account information to anyone over the telephone.
When making a cash withdrawal at an ATM, immediately remove the cash as soon as the machine releases it. Put the cash in your pocket and wait until you are in a secure location before counting it. Never use an ATM in an isolated area or where people are loitering.
Be sure to take your receipt to record transactions and match them against monthly statements. Dishonest people can use your receipt to get your account number. Never leave the receipt at the site.
PROTECT YOUR CREDIT CARDS
Only give your credit card account number to make a purchase or reservation your initiated. And never give this information over a cellular phone.
Never give your credit card to someone else to use on your behalf.
Watch your credit card after giving it to store clerks to protect against extra imprints being made.
Destroy any carbons. Do not discard into the trash can at the purchase counter. Keep charge slips in a sale place.
Protect your purse or wallet, especially when traveling or in crowded situations.
Save all receipts, and compare them to your monthly statement. Report any discrepancies immediately!
Keep a master list in a secure place at ho me with all account numbers and phone numbers for reporting stolen or lost cards.
LOST OR STOLEN CARDS
Always report lost or stolen cards to the issuing company immediately. This limits any unauthorized use of your card and permits the company to begin the process of issuing a new card.
Crime can be random. But there are steps that limit your chances of becoming a victim. Being aware of the threat of crime – and alert to what you can do to prevent it – will go a long way toward making your electronic transactions safe and private.
BASIC STREET SENSE
Wherever you area—on the street, in an office building or shopping mall, driving, waiting for a bus or subway—stay alert and tuned into your surroundings.
Send the message that you’re calm, confident, and know where you’re going.
Trust your instincts. If something or someone makes you uneasy, avoid the person or place—or leave.
Know the neighborhoods where you live and work. Check out the locations of police and fire stations, public telephones, hospitals, restaurants, or stores that are open early and late.
ON FOOT—DAY AND NIGHT
Stick to well-lighted, well-traveled streets. Avoid shortcuts through wooded area, parking lots, or alleys.
Don’t flash large amounts of cash or other tempting targets like expensive jewelry or clothing.
Carry a purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket, not a back pocket.
Try to use automated teller machines in the daytime. Have your cards in hand and don’t approach the machine if you’re uneasy about people nearby. Use drive up ATMs or ones located inside stores.
Don’t wear shoes or clothing that restrict your movements.
Have your car or house key in hand before you reach the door.
If you think someone is following you, switch direction or cross the street. Walk toward an open store, restaurant, or lighted house. If you’re scared, yell for help.
Have to work late? Make sure there are others in the building, and ask someone—a colleague or security guard—to walk or drive you to your car or transit stop.
Keep your car in good running condition. Make sure there’s enough gas to get where you’re going and back.
Always roll up the windows and lock car doors when you drive and when you park, even if you’re coming right back. Check inside and outside the care before getting in.
Avoid parking in isolated areas. Be especially alert in lots and underground parking garages. Note the location of exits or emergency phones.
If you think someone is following you, don’t head home. Drive to the nearest police or fire station, gas station, or other open business to get help.
Don’t pick up hitchhikers. Don’t hitchhike. Period.
Leave enough space to pull around the vehicle in front of you when you’re stopped at a light or stop sign. If anyone approaches your vehicle in a threatening manner, pull away.
Beware of the “bump and rob.” It works like this: A car rear-ends or bumps you in traffic. You get out to check the damage and driver or one of the passengers jumps into your car and drives off. Look around before you get out; make sure other cars are around. If you are uneasy, stay in the car and insist on moving to a busy place or police station.
People are losing their lives on the highway everyday because of “road rage.” A majority of drivers get angry when someone cuts them off or tailgates them. About 70 percent of drivers get angry at slow drivers. Violent incidents on the roads recorded by police have increased 51 percent over five years.
Don’t allow someone to draw you into a test of wills on the highway. If someone is tailgating you, pull into the slow lane and let them pass. Don’t tailgate others or cut them off in traffic. Don’t drive in the passing lane.
Don’t take traffic problems personally.
Avoid eye contact with an aggressive driver.
Don’t make obscene gestures. Use your horn sparingly, as a warning, not an outburst.
Reduce stress by allowing ample time for your trip and creating a relaxing environment in your car.
Driving is a cooperative activity. If you’re aggressive, you may find other drivers trying to slow you down or get in your way.
If you witness aggressive driving, stay out of the way and contact authorities when you can. Consider carrying a cellular phone in your car to contact police in the event of an encounter with an aggressive driver.
ON BUSES AND SUBWAYS
Use well-lighted, busy stops.
Stay alert! Don’t doze or daydream.
If someone harasses you, don’t be embarrassed. Loudly say, “Leave me alone!” If that doesn’t work, hit the emergency device.
Watch who gets off with you. If you feel uneasy, walk directly to a place where there are other people.
IF SOMEONE TRIES TO ROB YOU OR TAKE YOUR CAR
Don’t resist. Give up your property; don’t give up your life.
Report the crime to the police. Try to describe the attacker accurately. Your actions can help prevent others from being victims.
Use Common Sense to Spot a Con
It’s not always easy to spot con artists. They’re smart, extremely persuasive, and aggressive. They invade your home through the telephone, computer, and the mail, advertise in well-known newspapers and magazines, and come to your door. They’re well-mannered, friendly, and helpful – at first.
Most people think they’re too smart to fall for a scam. But con artists rob all kinds of people – from investment counselors and doctors to teenagers and senior citizens – of billions of dollars every year. Cons, scams, and frauds disproportionately victimize seniors with false promises of miracle cures, financial security, and luxury prizes.
One easy rule to remember .. if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
YOU CAN PROTECT YOURSELF!
Never give a caller your credit card, phone card, Social Security number, or bank account number over the phone. It’s illegal for telemarketers to ask for these numbers to verify a prize or gift.
Beware of 900 numbers. Remember, if you call a 900 number to claim a “prize,” you end up paying for the call. Make sure you understand all the charges before making the call.
Take your time and shop around. Don’t let an aggressive con artist pressure you into making a decision. Demand information in writing by mail. Get a second opinion. Ask your family, friends, and neighbors what they think about certain offers.
Remember, you have the right, the ability, and the power to say no! If the caller on the other end of the phone makes you wary, be assertive and end the conversation. Cons know that the longer they keep you on the phone, the higher their chances of success. They often prey on the trusting, polite nature of many people or on their excitement over getting a supposed prize or bargain. By saying no and hanging up the phone, you can prevent a crime from taking place.
BE A WISE CONSUMER
Don’t buy health products or treatments that include: a promise for a quick and dramatic cure, testimonials, imprecise and nonmedical language, appeals to emotion instead of reason, or a single product that cures many ills.
Look closely at offers that come in the mail. Con artists often use official-looking forms and language and bold graphics to lure victims. If you receive items in the mail that you didn’t’’ order, you are under no obligation to pay for them. You are free to throw them out, return them, or keep them.
Beware of cheap home repair work that would otherwise be expensive. The con artists may just do part of the work, use shoddy materials and untrained workers, or simply take your deposit and never return. Never pay with cash. Never accept offers from drive-up workers who “just happen” to be in the neighborhood. If they’re reliable, they’ll come back after you check them out.
SOME TYPICAL CONS TARGETED AGAINST OLDER PEOPLE
Many cons choose to victimize older people. They devise complex offers that confuse their targets and eventually persuade them to take up these offers.
Don’t let this happen to you.
The phone rings and the caller tells you that you’ve won a new car! In order to claim the prize you need to mail a check to cover taxes and delivery of the car. Weeks later, the phone rings again. You learn that the original prize company has gone out of business. But the caller tells you not to worry because his/her company has purchased the assets of the defunct company. All you need to do is send another check to the company to cover the costs of the legal transaction and for immediate delivery. The check gets mailed. The prize never arrives.
A mail offer, newspaper, magazine or television ad catches your eye. It promises a quick cure for cancer, arthritis, memory loss, back pain, or other ailments. “It’s an absolute miracle,” testimony reads. “I feel a million times better.” You mail your check for a six-week supply of this miracle cure and you wind up with a jar of Vitamin C, placebos, or even worse, pills or tonics t hat have not been medically tested and could worsen your condition or react negatively with prescription medication you regularly take.
IF SOMEONE RIPS YOU OFF
Report con games to the police, your city or state consumer protection office, district attorney’s office, or a consumer advocacy group. Don’t be embarrassed. Some very, very astute people have been taken in by these pros!
Call the National Fraud Information Center at 800-876-7060, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST. Visit Fraud Watch on the Web at www.fraud.org for current fraud alerts.
Reporting is vital. Very few frauds are reported, which leaves the con artists free to rob other people of their money – and their trust.
Getting Together to Fight Crime
Something may be wrong in your neighborhood. There’s too much violence, or there’s an ever-present threat. Perhaps a child you know was robbed. Maybe you’ve seen signs of drug dealing. Maybe a string of break-ins has you wondering what’s coming next. You’re uneasy — even frightened — for yourself and your family. Perhaps nothing violent has happened, but you see warning signs — such as graffiti, vandalism, abandoned cars, loitering, litter — that crime and violence may be reaching your neighborhood soon.
You can change things by getting together with neighbors who share your worries. There are two things you need to do: look out for your families and yourselves, and get involved in your community.
People just like you have cleared drug dealing out of their neighborhoods, made parks safe for children and sidewalks secure for play, curbed assaults, reduced muggings, eliminated rapes and murders, wiped out graffiti and vandalism, started programs for teens.
What Kind of Neighborhood?
The neighborhood may be a development of single homes, a row of townhouses, a commercial corridor, an apartment complex, or even a school. Crime may be right there scaring everyone off the streets, or just looming on the horizon. Whatever your neighborhood’s like, getting together to fight crime, violence, and drugs can help create communities where children can be children and people once isolated by crime and fear can enjoy being a part of a thriving neighborhood.
Things May Look Fine, But…
Whether it’s a quiet neighborhood where teens haven’t much to do, or a rural town that’s been stable, even communities that seem calm can be facing a crime threat. Things may be OK now, but how do you keep them that way?
Everyone can see the early warning signals — the little worries that alert you to the need to prevent bigger problems. The trick is to swing into action at the first sign of trouble, not to wait until it comes to your front door. Abandoned autos, people loitering, vacant homes, graffiti, a rash of break-ins, or other signs of possible trouble should be a clue to act now. Acting right away on small problems can prevent big ones later.
It’s Too Rough for Me To Get Involved
Maybe crime has a strong grip in your neighborhood — street violence, muggings, drug dealing, shootings. People see the situation as out of hand. Some people are scared that the criminals will take revenge if they act.
There are at least three ways to counter fear. First, join together. There is strength in numbers. Most criminals attack victims who are alone — not in groups. And groups can rally, march, and hold vigils to demonstrate their commitment. Second, you can work with the police to set up a system that lets people remain anonymous and still report crimes. Third, you don’t have to meet where the problem is. In one neighborhood, people met several blocks away at a local church. No one felt singled out, and everyone gained as crime was slowly but surely driven out.
First, find out what’s already going on. Groups that are already working against crime and drugs will welcome and help you. Ask the local police, especially the crime prevention staff; check with community associations and civic groups as well as clubs.
Is there an existing group that ought to be involved in preventing crime? A home-school organization like PTA; a tenants’ group; a fraternity or sorority; a community service club such as Lions, Rotary, or JayCees; a social club; a church; a mental health association; a taxpayers’ or homeowners’ association — these are just some kinds of groups that can be a base for action.
No group ready to adopt crime prevention? Start a group in your neighborhood — even if it’s just on your block. You don’t have to be the leader, but you could organize the first meeting.
Getting Neighbors Together
You’ve already talked with some neighbors — at the grocery store, on the sidewalk, over the back fence, at the bus stop, across the kitchen table. You know people are unhappy about the way things are, that they’d like to see something done.
The next step — make that discussion a bit more purposeful and organized. Set up a meeting to decide how you want to change things. Here are some tips for that first session.
- Be sure it doesn’t conflict with other important events.
- Make sure there is enough room at the meeting place for everyone to be comfortably seated. Not enough room at a home in the neighborhood? Maybe a church basement, a school classroom, or a business or community meeting room is available.
- Plan to keep the meeting fairly brief — less than two hours is probably good. Have an agenda prepared for the group’s approval.
- Invite people in person, by phone, by flier — whatever’s most appropriate. Knock on doors, send notes, or make phone calls to remind them.
- Invite schools, businesses, and houses of worship to send representatives. Ask local officials — law enforcement, elected officials, social services, others — to send someone who can explain how they can help.
- Share the work so that people work together from the start. One person can organize refreshments; another can be in charge of reminder calls. Someone else can set up the room. Someone can take notes and write up your group’s decisions. Another neighbor can be the “researcher,” gathering information in advance. Another can lead the discussion.
- Allow people to share their concerns. You’ll be surprised how much you all have in common. But don’t get caught in a gripe session.
- Remember, you’re there as a group to decide what problems you’ll tackle and what actions you’ll take, not just to talk. Everyone should have a chance to take part, but be sure the group makes some clear decisions. Your group should consider surveying neighbors, either in person or by phone, to get a better idea of the range of their problems and concerns.
- Don’t plan to tackle every problem at once. The group should identify one or two issues that need immediate action — but keep track of (and get back to) other problems. For instance, parents and youth may need drug prevention education, but the more immediate problem might be closing down drug sales in the neighborhood. List next steps and who will take them. Try to get everyone to commit to helping with your plan. Agree on the next time, date, and place for a meeting and the subjects that should be covered.
- Unsure about how to run a meeting? Talk to a member of the clergy, a local civic leader, a business person, the League of Women Voters, or the Chamber of Commerce. One of them will be glad to share experiences in making meetings effective.
Everyone Can Do Something
As you get under way, it’s important to enlist the help of as many people as possible from your community. There’s something each person can do to help. Anyone can hand out educational brochures. Young children can pick up litter or learn to settle arguments without fighting; older youth can teach younger ones about preventing violence or organize positive activities like concerts that can replace drug traffic in a nearby park. Caring adults can help troubled youth; families can help each other. Business people can help manage programs and raise funds; civic activists can round up local agencies to meet needs like recreation, housing, or education. Many things help cause crime, violence, and drug abuse problems in a community; many kinds of activity will help to end the problems. Some may be more direct than others, but all will help.
Anyone — and everyone — can take the most basic actions, like reporting suspicious behavior or crimes in progress to the police. Whatever the contribution of time, energy, talent, and resources — small or large — it will help.
Getting Organized To Get Results
Your group has gotten together. You’ve picked a problem to work on that’s important to many of you. Maybe it’s keeping children safe going to and from school. Perhaps you want to do something to stop fights that keep breaking out among youth. Maybe you’ve decided to try to close a drug house. Everyone’s agreed to take a part in the work. You’re ready to act.
Agree on what to do about the problem, picking one or two approaches or strategies at most. Ideas from existing programs may help. Neighborhood Watch, for instance, can reduce burglaries and help keep a lookout for suspicious activity. It can also be the base for other programs. The McGruff House (block parent) program is one way to build a neighborhood network to protect kids.
Decide whose help you’ll need or want. How will you approach these people for assistance? What do you want them to do? Think about contacting police crime prevention specialists, who have lots of ideas and expertise.
Child protection agencies, drug prevention organizations, community development offices, public health offices, the local library, and many others can lend a hand. Enlist these groups early — if they help in identifying problems and developing solutions, they’ll be more committed to getting the job done. What you really want is to build partnerships.
Sometimes the solution comes from the problem. What if everyone’s concerned about the teenagers “hanging out” at the corner? Ask the teens what they’d rather be doing instead. Ask them to help plan ways to do those better things. Check with after-school programs, local youth clubs, and similar resources to see if they can join in your creative problem-solving.
Agree on who will take what roles, how tasks will get done, and how you will coordinate efforts. Build in some checkpoints to be sure all is going well or can be fixed or changed as needed.
Some Ideas From the Experienced
Here are some things that people have found important in carrying out activities.
- Keep it simple: If you want to get rid of graffiti, why not just paint over it (with the owner’s OK)? Sometimes the quickest and most obvious route is the best.
Invite everyone to get into the act: People will do things if they’re asked, and the more people you recruit, the more come along as volunteers.
- Follow through: If you promised to discuss a problem at the next meeting, do so. If you announce a rally, hold it. If an official promises action or a report, keep asking for it, and go higher up if necessary.
- Start with success: A small success — a goal that’s quickly reachable — can boost enthusiasm, confidence, and willingness to tackle tougher tasks that take more time. One example of a short-term goal: hold one well-attended anti-violence rally. Success builds group confidence and attracts new members. Everybody wants to work with a winner.
- Say thanks: Congratulate each other for progress, even if only with a round of applause. Taking before and after pictures can help you appreciate the difference your hard work has made. Acknowledge officials, agencies, and groups that have pitched in.
- Build leaders: “Volunteer leader” should not be a life sentence. It’s bad for the group and the leaders. If people think one leader always controls everything, they may not join. And leaders get tired. Divide up the work. Make sure all leaders get praise and recognition. This way, you help train new leaders and make use of everyone’s talents.
- Be flexible: Hold meetings when and where people can attend — weekends instead of week nights, at church instead of someone’s home, during the day rather than in the evening if many people work shifts or if seniors are involved.
- Build links: Work on common concerns with government and other agencies, establishing a positive climate of trust which can lead to strong partnerships to help your neighborhood.
- Keep in touch clearly, often, and in different ways: You may get so busy that you forget to let others know what’s going on. Suddenly fewer people come to meetings; there aren’t as many volunteers. A newsletter, fliers on special events, news releases to local media, a telephone network of members — these all help keep everyone interested and informed. And accurate information helps reduce fear.
- Check on where you are: Your real goal may get overlooked in the bustle of “doing something.” You may stick with a goal only to find out it’s outdated. You can reduce these risks by setting up some checkpoints. Decide in advance how you’ll know if you’re headed in the right direction. What changes should you expect? If you’re not on target, rethink either the goal or the activity. Your group’s energy is too important to waste.
Overcoming Reluctance and Fear
Not everyone will join up. A very few people just don’t care; some people don’t think they have anything to offer. Some think they can’t make a difference. Some think it will take too much of their time. Others are afraid of failing. Some may be afraid of retaliation.
There are ways to overcome these roadblocks. For starters, assume that everyone can, should, and would like to help. Many people will help readily if you ask for a skill you know they have or offer to teach them. Someone who’s housebound can watch the neighborhood from a window, reporting suspicious or criminal activity to the police. Challenge the neighborhood gardeners to organize kids to spruce up the vacant lot. Ask a business person to help with planning.
Fear of crime can block participation, deprive you of volunteers, cut into community liveliness, and create unhealthy tension. To conquer fear, the group needs accurate facts (what’s true, what’s rumor?), a sense of control over the situation (one reason early successes are important), and action by groups rather than individuals (safety in numbers).
You don’t have to tackle the scariest problem first. Start where the group is comfortable. If people are afraid to be on the street in the evening, a residents’ patrol is probably not a good first move for your group. Working toward better street lighting and arranging free home security surveys by police may be better starting points. And success helps overcome fear, so your next action can be more direct.
Police and sheriffs are where people generally look first for help in preventing crime. It’s logical; preventing crime is their primary job. Increasingly, they focus on helping neighborhoods solve problems that interfere with security and well-being, not just responding when trouble’s already struck. Police have the facts about the crime situation in your area; they can help you pick effective strategies for prevention. Most police departments have a crime prevention officer, who can help in many ways.
Other government agencies, social service organizations, and community associations can also help. There’s often more than one way to get the job done. Nuisance abatement laws, public health regulations, housing codes, fire codes, and building codes all can be used to drive out drug dealers and other criminals. Occupancy permits, liquor licenses, business permits, and vendor licenses can be revoked if a “business” is a hazard to the community. Work with the people in local government who issue the permits and enforce the codes.
Schools, libraries, public transit, housing, public works, recreation, health, social services, and other groups can all help solve neighborhood problems. Enlisting them early can help build stronger relationships and better results, because they see themselves as part of the solution. Besides, these agencies have useful information that can help identify solutions and resources.
Resources To Get the Job Done
Preventing crime doesn’t start with spending cash. Four out of five Neighborhood Watches rely on volunteers, but these no-cost (or very low-cost) programs work. Residents say their communities are safer than ones nearby with no Watch.
What if you pick a problem that requires skills or materials that you can’t find for free? Take another look. You might be surprised at what’s available from your own group. Or you can often trade or borrow to get materials and services you may need — printing your newsletter, supplying refreshments for a meeting, even designing and analyzing a survey.
If you’ve chosen a strategy that does require a lot of cash, you’ll need to do some research on sources of funding in your community. Locally based foundations and corporations (or local offices of national corporations) frequently have special funds for local groups. Local and state government (and possibly federal agencies) may be sources of funds for your project, through departments of community action, drug prevention, public safety, public housing, neighborhood revitalization, or economic development. Local libraries often have information on funding resources in your community, and special resources such as The Foundation Directory. The Chamber of Commerce, the economic development office, or your congressional representatives may have some excellent suggestions. Such programs as VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) or AmeriCorps may offer “free” staff.
Don’t overlook local talent. Work with and learn from groups from other neighborhoods, community-wide groups, special focus groups, and agencies that work on these issues. A ministers’ alliance, a mental health association, a civic club (such as Exchange Club, Kiwanis, League of Women Voters, or JayCees), a veterans’ group, or a school might be glad to help.
Think creatively about solutions, based on resources. If your neighborhood worries about latchkey kids, talk with libraries that offer children’s programs or discuss setting up special schedules with local schools; check with recreation directors about attractive programs; set up a warmline with friendly teens or adults whom kids can just talk with; investigate daycare programs that might offer a group discount.
Part of the reason for all your hard work was to create a neighborhood you all could enjoy. Remember? Give each other rounds of applause. Take time for a picnic or block party; recognize achievements with certificates or ribbons to your volunteers and to outsiders who helped. Buy “team” T-shirts. Use your newsletter to say “thanks” in public to policymakers, funders, and others who’ve helped. Celebrate the small victories. Each success builds the strength and commitment of your group.
Celebrate all kinds of good news — kids’ poster contests, a new youth center that offers positive choices, a park now buzzing with honest activity, any sign of progress. Don’t forget to tell the local news media. Publicity — local newspaper stories, radio reports, TV news clips — can help spread the word about your success, attract new members, and build your group’s credibility with partners and funders.
Celebrations not only are fun; they give you the chance to step back, realize how far you’ve come, and revitalize the whole group for the work ahead. Plan for them, learn from them, enjoy them.
See More Suggestions in the NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH section.
Making Children, Families, and Communities Safer From Violence
It’s time to stop the violence that is killing our children and our communities. It’s time to help each other build neighborhoods where each of us kids, teens, adults can feel safe and secure from crime. A tough task? Yes, but it’s a challenge that each of us can do something about. We can reclaim our communities child by child, family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood. This booklet explains some of the many ways you can help. You can do a lot in your home, in your neighborhood, and throughout your community.
Why accept this challenge? Because every child deserves a safe and healthy childhood. Because no community can afford the costs of violence. Because a healthier, safer community benefits each of us. Because failing to act costs lives and resources. Because our children should not have to raise their children amid violence. Because if we don’t stop it, no one will.
It’s everyone’s business
Violence holds victims, families, friends, and neighborhoods hostage. It rips communities apart or prevents them from coming together. Violence takes many forms. Assaults, rapes, robberies, and homicides are directly violent, but crimes like burglary are often cloaked in violence and cause sometimes-paralyzing fear.
Violence is not just about attacks by strangers. In about half the rapes in this country, the rapist knew the victim. In more than half the murders, the murderer and victim knew each other. Assaults are more likely between people who know each other than between strangers. Domestic violence wrenches apart millions of families each year. Child abuse, overwhelmingly involving someone close to the child, hurts more than a million children a year. Only robberies more commonly involve strangers than acquaintances.
Weapons are part of the problem. They make violence more deadly and less personal. Nine out of ten murders involve a weapon; eight of ten involve a firearm. Most robberies involve the use of a weapon, most frequently a gun. One in five children has reported taking a weapon of some kind to school, most often for self-protection against others whom they believe have weapons.
But weapons are only part of the story. Attitudes, emotions, and reactions are just as important. Without working on all aspects of the issue, you can make only limited progress.
Why go beyond protecting yourself and your family? Because violence penetrates schools, workplaces, and public spaces. It sucks the life out of communities everywhere.
Even if you’re safe from harm, violence still robs you. The costs of violence are enormous. The annual cost of caring for gunshot victims is more than $14 billion. The costs of private security measures, including those against violence, is estimated at $65 billion a year. Violent crime is responsible for much of the $90 billion a year it costs to run our criminal justice system.
Can we stop violence? Yes. Strictly enforced policies against weapons in schools have helped restore a sense of calm in many classrooms. Conflict management courses have taught elementary school children to fight less and negotiate more. Concerted community efforts have reduced or prevented gangs and the violence they bring.
But these things only happened because someone did something.
What you can do
Work with your family, in your neighborhood, and in your community. Pick a place to start where you are comfortable.
Recognize that violence has many causes. Some are immediate—a specific argument, easy availability of a weapon, a situation in which an aggressor thinks violence will bring quick rewards, an anger that sees no other outlet. Some are less direct for example, a community tolerance of high violence levels, reinforced by news and entertainment media. Some are individual inability to see another way to settle disagreements, for instance. Some involve situations such as peer pressure that measures or boosts self-esteem through violence.
No one needs to confront all these aspects of violence at once. The point is, there’s something everyone can do.
The residents of Seattle, Washington, led by their mayor, have launched a citywide campaign against violence. One key element is Partners Against Youth Violence a coalition of more than two dozen agencies and organizations seeking “to prevent youth gun violence by educating the community, specifically young people and their parents, about the consequences of youth gun possession and related gun violence.” Partners include a major local hospital, crisis clinics, school administrators, several civic and professional groups, the prosecutor’s office, the city council, the state medical association, and the police department’s crime prevention, youth, D.A.R.E., and school safety units.
Buttressed by local statistics on youth homicides and gun-related injuries, the program points out that almost four of ten unnatural deaths among youth are from gunshot wounds, and that gunfire is the second-leading cause of death for area youth. The “Options, Choices, and Consequences” program has been developed using local statistics, local laws, and local experts to teach adults and teens the legal and medical consequences of illegal firearms possession and use. Several partner organizations are training community volunteers to conduct these programs.
The police department has agreed to strengthen investigation and prosecution of those suspected of selling guns illegally to youth; to investigate and help prosecute youth who illegally possess handguns; to support the youth and adult education programs; to build parent and community awareness of youth violence; and to dedicate extra prevention and enforcement efforts in parts of the city where levels of youth gun violence are high.
Washington State University has researched the violence issue on behalf of the partners and identified interventions and alternatives to violence that have proved effective elsewhere. Its findings supported the partners’ approach of using multiple strategies including school-based curriculum, outreach to parents, a media campaign, and firearms regulation and enforcement with hard evidence.
By investing time in recruiting partner organizations, identifying local conditions and needs, researching effective approaches, and designing activities that invest partners and enlist even more members of the community younger and older Seattle has launched a thoughtful, tailored, flexible initiative to address a difficult problem.
Helping self and family
Making self and family safer from violence is, for most of us, the highest priority. Work with your own children, with other kids you care about, and with teens and adults you care about to reduce the risk that you or someone you love will fall victim to violence.
Think long and hard about having weapons, especially firearms, in your home. Studies show that a firearm in the home is more than forty times as likely to hurt or kill a family member as to stop a crime. A gun in the home increases the likelihood of homicide three times and the likelihood of suicide five times. More than a quarter of a million firearms are stolen and possibly used in other crimes every year.
If you do keep a firearm in your home, ensure that you are trained and that everyone else—adult and child—is fully trained in firearms safety. Refresh that training at least once a year.
Make certain that the weapon is safely stored, unloaded, trigger-locked, and in a locked gun case or pistol box, with ammunition separately locked and with different keys for all locks. Store keys out of reach of children, in locations away from weapons and ammunition.
Check frequently to make sure that storage is secure. Follow all federal, state, and local laws about storage, registration, carrying, and use.
No one wants to see children victimized by violence. No one wants to see kids hurt others. Talking with your kids can be a powerful anti-violence weapon, especially when combined with your actions as a positive role model.
Make it clear that you do not approve of violence as a way to handle anger or solve problems.
Do your best to match your actions to your words.
Even very young children can learn not to hit, kick, or bite. Discipline without threatening violence. “Time outs,” removal of privileges, restrictions, and similar penalties are successful, violence-free strategies that many parents have used, even with preschoolers.
Use the world around you.
As children get older, help them learn to think about the real consequences of violent events and entertainment. Ask how else a conflict might have been settled, what the angry person might have done instead, what unseen or unspoken consequences violence might have.
Listen carefully, openly, and constructively.
Letting children lay out their thoughts about violence helps them learn how to think through this and other issues.
Sometimes it’s difficult for adults to know how to react when children approach them about a real or possible danger. You may be a neighbor, an aunt or uncle, or a grown-up who happens to be nearby. Suddenly a child comes to tell you something’s wrong.
How can you handle it helpfully?
The child may be excited, nervous, or scared. Repeat what you’ve heard to make sure you understand clearly. Kneel down if necessary to communicate at the child’s height.
Take it seriously.
Children don’t casually ask for help out of the blue. Even if it’s not a serious problem to you, it probably is from the child’s view.
If the child has found a weapon or a possible weapon or describes some other immediate danger; go to the scene at once, if you’re not putting yourself at risk.
Get help if necessary.
Call police if you find a weapon, even if it might be a toy. Call other professionals (such as fire department, child protection services, public works department) if the situation warrants. If it turns out to be a “false alarm,” reassure the child that telling a grown-up was a smart thing to do.
Make sure that your children know what to do if they ever find a firearm or something that might be a weapon stop, don’t touch, get away, and tell a trusted adult.
Teach your children ways to handle conflicts and problems without using force. Act as a role model for them. Handle disagreements with other adults, including those close to you, in nonviolent ways. You can learn more by checking with your library, a school counselor, the pediatrician, mental health association, or neighborhood dispute resolution center.
Discourage name-calling and teasing. These can easily get out of hand, moving all too quickly from “just words” to fists, knives, and even firearms. Teach children that bullying is wrong; help them learn to say “no” to bullies and to get adult help with the situation if need be. Remember that words can hurt as much as a fist.
Take a hard look at what you, your family, and your friends watch and listen to for entertainment—from action movies to cop shows, from soap operas to situation comedies, from video games to music lyrics. What values are they teaching? Do they make violence appear exciting, humorous, or glamorous? How do characters solve problems? Are the real-life consequences of violence clear? Watch TV with your children; talk about how violence is handled in shows and what each of you did and didn’t like. Set clear limits on viewing and provide active, positive alternatives for free time.
Teach children basic strategies for personal safety to prevent violence and reduce their risk of victimization.
Help them learn and practice common courtesies. “Please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” and “I’m sorry” help ease tensions that can lead to violence.
Emphasize the importance of being drug free. Research shows use of alcohol and other drugs is closely linked with violence, including the use of guns and other weapons.
Encourage children to stick with friends who steer clear of violence and drugs. Make your home a comfortable place for these kids to gather; help them find positive, enjoyable things to do.
Remind children of simple self-protection rules not to go anywhere with someone they (and you) don’t know and trust; how and when to respond to phone calls and visitors if you are unavailable, how to deal with adults (or other children) who approach or touch them inappropriately, what are safe routes to favorite neighborhood destinations.
Rehearse what to do in urgent situations, like finding a weapon or being approached inappropriately by a stranger or seeing something wrong happen.
Help your children to both learn and practice ways to keep arguments from becoming violent.
It started in a Minneapolis suburb. Two people wondered what it would be like if, for one day, everyone would just refuse to be entertained by violence. No violent music, no violent movies or videos or TV shows or computer games. The idea grew quickly. Within a year, Turn Off the Violence Day has spread throughout the metropolitan area. Schools, police departments, mental and public health agencies, religious groups, and businesses joined in. Within three years, it had gained national attention and communities around the country picked up on the theme. No censorship is involved. Each individual decides what he or she should avoid. What emerges is thoughtful discussion of how violent messages can shape our thinking and a new awareness of the way violent ideas can creep into our daily lives.
Young people in Oakland and Los Angeles, California, realized that they could be a powerful force to educate their peers about the costs of gun violence, ways to prevent it, and how to spread the word that gun violence is not cool. Teens on Target, all of whose members have been touched by firearms violence, train others their age and younger in preventing firearms violence, work on promoting positive alternatives and opportunities, and educate adults in the community about what they believe is required to reduce firearms deaths and injuries. “Our solution,” one youth explained, “is to give opportunities to young people so they won’t even want to use guns.” Speaking from personal experience, these teens bring zeal and commitment to their task and credibility to their messages. They reach and teach thousands of youth and adults annually. The program gets support from a statewide anti-violence agency, YOUTH ALIVE!
Use news reports and other everyday examples to help older children learn how violence affects the community and their own lives. Let them know that teens are more frequently victimized by crimes, both violent crimes and property crimes, than any other age group. Help them think about the costs of crime and the benefits of prevention.
Encourage young people to tackle the problem. Urge them to find out:
how they can learn simple strategies to prevent crime against themselves and their friends;
how groups can settle disagreements without using fists or weapons; and
what drug-free, alcohol-free positive activities are available for teens and how these can be improved to attract even more young people.
Building a safer neighborhood
We and our families cannot be safe if our neighborhoods are riddled with violence. Research shows that there’s less crime where communities are working together. Help your neighborhood become or stay healthy.
Get to know your neighbors. You can’t do it alone.
Start, join, or reactivate a Neighborhood Watch or Block Watch. Include discussions of ways neighbors can watch out for situations that might involve children in or threaten them with violence. Consider starting a formal block parent program such as McGruff House so that children will have reliable, recognizable places to go in the neighborhood, if they feel threatened, bullied, or scared.
Talk with other adults in the neighborhood about how fights among children should be handled. Who should step in? How? Under what conditions? Make sure children in the neighborhood know that adults are prepared to help stop any form of violence.
Share information on basic child protection from this booklet or other good sources. Help each other learn about signs of drug abuse and gangs, along with where to go for help in your community to address these problems.
Agree on what a “trusted adult” will do for children in the neighborhood in case of troubling situations—being threatened, finding a gun or drugs, being approached by a stranger.
Get to know and encourage the kids in your neighborhood. Many young people say that carrying weapons gives them a sense of power, a sense you can help them get in far more positive ways.
Many communities have information and referral services that keep extensive records of the government and nongovernment groups that can help address neighborhood issues. These are usually listed in the telephone directory. United Way and similar groups sometimes operate referral services. Local taxpayer and civic associations can often provide information. It’s smart to find out in advance who can help with such issues as abandoned cars, dangerous intersections, broken or inadequate lighting, over-grown or littered vacant lots, deteriorated housing, and the like.
A group of mothers in Richmond, Washington, decided that by working with other mothers around the country they could help stop the violence that was taking away their children’s freedom even their lives. They organized Mothers Against Violence in America (MAVIA) and began educating themselves and others, asking for policy changes and working with others in the community who shared their goals. Teenagers formed school-based groups Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) that not only promote nonviolent ways to handle anger and conflict in school settings, but stage violence-free Teen Nights, hold anti-violence poster contests, host forums and speakouts against violence, and sponsor country-wide anti-violence planning conferences.
In Hartford, Connecticut, the city’s nine branch libraries have become part of the solution to violence problems. Each branch has taken up the challenge to become a center of positive activity for kids in its neighborhood, including acting as homework centers. No new funds were used—libraries were asked to refocus existing resources to tackle this neighborhood need.
Work together to establish safe conditions in your neighborhood—a physical environment that doesn’t invite crime or offer opportunities for violence to brew. With a group of neighbors, scan streets, yards, alleys, playgrounds, ball fields, parks, and other areas. Look with a child’s eye; even invite some children to go with you. Ask your police department or sheriff’s office if they’ll provide pointers or other help.
Look for things like overgrown lots, abandoned vehicles or appliances, public play areas blocked form public view, intersections and streets that need lighting or traffic control improvements, unsafe equipment or structures, abandoned buildings, hazards in nearby businesses or commercial areas, and signs of vandalism, especially graffiti.
Talk with children in the neighborhood about what worries or scares them and about where and how they have felt threatened by violence. Interview teachers, school staff, crossing guards, and bus aides. Add these concerns to your list.
Look around to see what happens to kids between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Are there supervised programs for younger children? Opportunities for teens and preteens to work with children, help retirees, tackle neighborhood problems, get or give help with homework? After-school programs in many areas are located in schools themselves, known most often as Safe Havens or Beacon Schools.
Work with your neighbors; with the police or sheriff’s department and other government agencies like parks, transportation, public works, and highways; and with local elected officials to get dangerous conditions corrected. Recheck the neighborhood periodically at least once a year to catch new conditions that need attention.
Start a discussion of neighborhood views on weapons in the home, use of toy weapons by children in play, children and violent entertainment, and how arguments should be settled. Knowing that parents agree on what’s acceptable makes it easier to insist on these standards for all children. If some people hold different views, at least be clear about what rules you’ll enforce in your home and for your children.
Be sure you know where and how to report potentially violent situations or concerns about conditions in your neighborhood, or about conditions that could lead to violence. Ask your police department especially your community policing officer for help in identifying what to report, when, to whom, and how.
Consider an event that lets children turn in weapons, especially those that might be mistaken for real firearms, in exchange for public thank-yous, donated non-violent toys, books, or coupons from local merchants.
If there’s a family facing problems in your neighborhood, reach out in friendship and support. Sometimes people just need to know that they can talk to someone who’s concerned. Offer to take on routine chores, to babysit, to provide transportation, or just to listen.
Recognize that it’s already your problem if violence is about to erupt in your neighborhood.
Learn about hotlines, crisis centers, and other help available to victims of crime. Find out how you can help those who are touched by violence to recover as quickly and completely as possible.
If you see a crime or something you suspect might be a crime, report it. Agree to testify if needed.
Police in Baltimore County, Maryland, reasoned that firearm safety was no less important than traffic safety and designed a one-hour lesson plan for third graders that they now teach in 90 percent of the county’s public and private schools. Short talks are mixed with role playing to help emphasize what kids should do if they find a suspected gun (toy or real), how to resist peer pressure to play with guns, and where to turn for help. In less than one year, two children found and properly reported weapons, saying they knew what to do because of the program. Both the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence (STAR Curriculum) and the National Rifle Association (Eddie the Eagle) sponsor courses that address gun violence prevention among young people.
Terming firearms a “public health crisis,” the Policy Council on Violence Prevention established by the California Attorney General has recommended sweeping changes in that state’s gun laws and vigorous enforcement of laws now on the books. Proposals include banning the manufacture of Saturday Night Special-style handguns in the state, mandating that gun manufacturers build in or provide child safety devices on all firearms sold in the state, requiring that all gun dealers register with the local police or sheriff’s department, and launching an educational campaign to promote firearms safety.
Strengthening the Community
Violence anywhere in the community affects all of the community. By working on community-wide anti-violence efforts, you are protecting yourself, your family, and your neighborhood. Equally important, community policies and regulations can boost neighborhood violence prevention measures.
Work to build community standards and expectations that reject violence and other crimes. All kinds of groups—civic clubs, houses of worship, social clubs, the school system, professional associations, employee groups and unions, business groups, and government agencies—can sponsor educations efforts, conduct forums, develop community service messages for media, and create community-wide networks to prevent or reduce violence.
Emphasize prevention as the preferred way to deal with violence. Ask what schools, law enforcement agencies, public health agencies, libraries, workplaces, religious institutions, child protective agencies, and others are doing to prevent, not just react to, violence. What policies do they have to prevent weapons-related violence? How can they help the community?
Make sure that adequate services are available for victims of violence and other crimes including help in following their cases through court, if necessary, and in recovering from physical, emotional, and financial losses.
Enlist those familiar with the costs of violence—parole and probation officers, judges, doctors, emergency room staffs, victims and survivors (especially youth), local and state legislators and chief executives, youth workers, and others—in pushing for prevention strategies and educating the public about their effectiveness. Personal testimony can be powerfully persuasive.
Make sure your community offers ways people can learn about anger management, conflict mediation, and other nonviolent ways to handle problems.
Find out what positive, enjoyable opportunities there are for young people to have fun in your community. What services are there for kids facing problems? What programs help kids of various ages spend the critical 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. hours (when the largest numbers are without adult supervision) in safe, productive ways?
Establish policies that reduce danger from weapons, especially firearms. Make safe storage of firearms a community expectation, even a law. Ensure that licensing laws are rigorously enforced. Some states and communities have outlawed sale of weapons to those under 18 or 21. Others have imposed age restrictions on permits to carry concealed weapons. In at least one state, conviction of a firearm violation can cost a young driver his or her license.
Work with police to help community residents get rid of unwanted weapons through turn-ins, “amnesty days,” and even buy backs. Join forces with other community groups and government agencies to publicize, finance, and staff these events.
Learn your state and local laws on firearms. Insist that these laws be enforced vigorously but fairly. Support police, prosecutors, judges, and other local officials who enforce laws designed to prevent gun violence.
Encourage local and state resources to go toward both prevention and enforcement.
In San Antonio, Texas, a year-long planning process brought dozens of civic leaders together and led to a 57-point plan to address crime problems in the community. Energized residents and leaders turned that plan into action, increasing services to troubled youth, involving businesses in prevention strategies, devising public education campaigns, engaging schools in teaching conflict management and mediation skills, and more. The city, within a year after implementation had started, saw a 20 percent drop in reported crime.
The Missing Peace, Inc., a community-based group that encompasses the entire Washington, DC, metropolitan area, has conducted gun turn-ins throughout the area in cooperation with the region’s police departments and sheriff’s offices. Providing a way for people to dispose safely of unwanted firearms not only reduces risks of accidents, thefts, and assaults; each weapon turned in results in $25 donated by a local business alliance to the local children’s hospital’s division of child protection.
In Oklahoma, parents can be fined if their child brings a weapon to school. In North Carolina, failure to store firearms safely in homes where children are present can result in prosecution and fines. Twenty-one states have enacted laws mandating gun-free school zones and imposing sharply increased penalties for firearms possession or use in such areas. Florida and Maryland are among the states that have set up special statewide organizations to help address school-related violence, including gun use. More than two dozen states have increased judicial or prosecutorial discretion to try youth involved in especially violent offenses as adults.
Insist that local law or regulations require that confiscated or surrendered weapons be melted down rather than auctioned off or sold to dealers.
Make sure that local laws mandate the most secure possible storage of any firearm stored in a private home.
Use Crimestoppers, a similar hotline system, or even 911 to encourage reporting of illegal weapons.
Reach out to educate the whole community about ways to stop or prevent violence. Find out what’s going on now and support it. Help start what’s needed. Some ideas:
Promote public service advertising that offers anti-violence programs and services. Get several groups to cooperate in this effort. Include programs to help kids headed for trouble.
Develop and distribute widely a directory of community anti-violence programs and services. Get several groups to cooperate in this effort. Include programs to help kids headed for trouble.
Help spread the news about available violence prevention training and programs through gropus you belong to, your workplace, and other local institutions. Invite speakers on violence prevention to talk to your club or organization.
Participate in public forums that allow residents to talk with elected and appointed leaders about violence prevention needs.
Work with business groups and individual businesses to develop workplace violence prevention programs that include employee training, anti-violence procedures, and physical security measures. Have explicit, written policies about possession of firearms in or on the worksite.
Talk with school personnel, juvenile officers, and youth workers to find out the nature and extent of gangs or “wanna-be” groups in your community. Support gang prevention and intervention programs. Volunteer to help keep kids out of gangs.
Work with schools, colleges, employers, civic and social clubs, religious organizations, and professional associations to create the widest possible array of resources to discourage violence. Make sure that services are accessible to those who need them most, consumer-friendly, and confidential if necessary.
Put anti-violence policies in place in your state or community through laws or regulations. Weapons control policies can include ammunition taxes, safe storage laws, ownership restrictions, laws limiting weapons in public places, zoning requirements for firearm sales, and more.
Talk with school administrators about anti-violence policies and particularly about policies to reduce possession of weapons in or near schools. Your community may want to establish gun-free zones around schools or parks.
Urge adoption of anti-violence courses that help children learn ways to manage anger without using fists or weapons. Second Step, from The Committee for children, Resolving Conflict Creatively, from Educators for Social Responsibility, and We Can Work It out!, created through Teens, Crime, and the Community, are only three of many such courses.
Enlist children from elementary grades to senior high in solving the violence problems in the school and community. Encourage them to teach violence prevention to younger children, reach out to educate peers, work with adults on community-wide problems, and identify and tackle community conditions that they are concerned about.
In Kansas City, Missouri, police selected an 80-block area hard-hit by gun violence for specialized enforcement. In this area, which had a gun homicide rate 20 times the national average, a specially trained group of police dedicated their energy to checking for firearms in the course of their duties. They worked 7:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. seven days a week. Careful attention was paid to ensuring that residents’ constitutional rights were protected. Results were dramatic—gun seizures increased by 64 percent; gun-related crime dropped 49 percent. There were no increases in crime in the surrounding area and there was no similar drop in crime in a comparable area elsewhere in the city.
Civic leaders in Mobile, Alabama, concerned about sharp increases in weapons incidents in schools, conducted a campaign in 1992 to educate the community and get weapons out of the hands of kids. “Kid With a Gun? Call 911” used billboards, bumper stickers, news stories, and public transit ads to highlight the consequences of youth handgun possession and remind adults of their responsibility for children’s and the community’s safety. Law enforcement authorities agreed to respond immediately to any call about a kid in possession of a gun.
ADT Security Systems, Inc., has provided “panic alarms” for women severely threatened by domestic violence. In participating communities, local officials determine those women at greater risk, and ADT places the alarms in the women’s homes. Using the alarm immediately summons help to deal with the abuser. Participating women must have court orders of protection and must agree to prosecute the offender to the fullest extent of the law. The AWARE program is free to participating communities.
Volunteer to mentor young people who need positive support from adults. Programs ranging from Big Brothers and Big Sisters to Adopt-a-School include mentoring as a central ingredient.
Protect domestic violence victims (and their children) through policies as well as laws that offer them prompt and meaningful response to calls for help and appropriate legal recourse.
Work with others in your community to develop comprehensive, coordinated plans that direct civic resources to deal with immediate symptoms of violence, help neighborhoods strengthen themselves, and work on problems that cause violence. Enlist all kinds of groups; compare notes to avoid duplicating efforts and to benefit from each other’s know-how.
To get a free printed copy of this publication, call 800-WE-PREVENT.
See More Suggestions in the NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH section.
Domestic Violence – The Hidden Crime
As many as four million women in this country suffer some kind of violence at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends each year.
Very few will tell anyone – a friend, a relative, a neighbor, or the police.
Victims of domestic violence come from all walks of life, all cultures, all income groups, all ages, all religions. They share feelings of helplessness, isolation, guilt, fear, and shame.
Are You Abused?
Does the Person You Love…
- Keep track of all of your time?
- Constantly accuse you of being unfaithful?
- Discourage your relationships with family and friends?
- Prevent you from working or attending school?
- Criticize you for little things?
- Anger easily when drinking or using other drugs?
- Control all finances and force you to account in detail for what you spend?
- Humiliate you in front of others?
- Destroy personal property or sentimental items?
- Hit, punch, slap, kick, or bite you or the children?
- Use or threaten to use a weapon against you?
- Threaten to hurt you or the children?
- Force you to have sex against your will?
If you find yourself saying yes to any of these – it’s time to get help.
Don’t Ignore the Problem
- Talk to someone. Part of the abuser’s power comes from secrecy. Victims are often ashamed to let anyone know about intimate family problems. Go to a friend or neighbor, or call a domestic violence hotline to talk to a counselor. – Plan ahead and know what you will do if you’re attacked again. If you decide to leave, choose a place to go; set aside some money. Put important papers – marriage license, birth certificates, checkbooks – in a place where you can get them quickly.
- Learn to think independently. Try to plan for the future and set goals for yourself.
- If You Are Hurt, What Can You Do?
There are no easy answers, but there are things you can do to protect yourself.
- Call the police or sheriff. Assault, even by family members, is a crime. The police often have information about shelters and other agencies that help victims of domestic violence.
- Leave, or have someone come and stay with you. Go to a battered women’s shelter – call a crisis hotline in your community or a health center to locate a shelter. If you believe that you, and your children, are in danger – leave immediately.
- Get medical attention from your doctor or a hospital emergency room. Ask the staff to photograph your injuries and keep detailed records in case you decide to take legal action.
- Contact your family court for information about a civil protection order that does not involve criminal charges or penalties.
Have You Hurt Someone in Your Family?
- Accept the fact that your violent behavior will destroy your family. Be aware that you break the law when you physically hurt someone.
- Take responsibility for your actions and get help.
- When you feel tension building, get away. Work off the angry energy through a walk, a project, a sport.
- Call a domestic violence hotline or health center and ask about counseling and support groups for people who batter.
The High Costs of Domestic Violence
- Men and women who follow their parents’ example and use violence to solve conflicts are teaching the same destructive behavior to their children.
- Jobs can be lost or careers stalled because of injuries, arrests, or harassment.
- Violence may even result in death.
For More Information
Domestic Violence Hotline
This new, nationwide toll-free hotline will provide immediate crisis intervention, counseling and referrals to emergency shelters and services.
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
Family Violence Prevention Fund
383 Rhode Island Street, Suite 304
San Francisco, CA 94103-5133
Graffiti – Often the First Sign of Trouble
Many youth gangs use graffiti to make territory, send messages, and intimidate rival gangs and community residents. But graffiti is not just the work of gang members. “Taggers” are young people who are not necessarily gang affiliated but still engage in graffiti vandalism. They are seeking recognition from their peers for their daring. Only 10 percent of graffiti is thought to be gang-related; the remaining 90 percent is done by taggers. Most graffiti vandals are between the ages of 14 and 17, but some are younger. They often tote backpacks in which they carry the tools of their trade – spray paint, paint sticks, etching equipment, and the like.
Whether done by gang members or taggers, the presence of graffiti in a neighborhood can increase resident’s fears about their safety and even reduce property values. Its presence can also signify to criminals that resident’s don’t care about their neighborhood. It costs communities thousands of dollars in removal and clean-up.
WHAT CAN YOU DO
Report all graffiti vandalism to law enforcement. Before you remove graffiti, notify the police department so they can document it with photographs. This helps build cases against these vandals. Most taggers sign their work in the same way and often target the same area.
Clean-up often has to be done again and again, but patience and persistence pays off.
If an area you have cleaned up becomes covered in graffiti again, remove it as quickly as possible. The goal is to deny the vandal the chance to display his work. Successful programs remove graffiti within 24 hours.
If the graffiti is on your property, remove it immediately. If it is on county or state property, law enforcement should be able to help you contact the owners. Your community may even have a graffiti hotline to report vandals. If not, help get one started.
Landscaping is attractive, natural deterrent to graffiti activity. If an area is continually hit by graffiti, consider planting the area in a way that discourages access.
WHAT THE COMMUNITY CAN DO
Check out local antigraffiti ordinances that can hold youth, and sometimes their parents, legally accountable for damage and for possession of graffiti implements such as spray paint. If you community doesn’t have an ordinance, help get one on the books.
Notify property owners of ordinances that require them to keep their property graffiti-free.
Coat walls with special paint products and surfaces that do not allow spray paints to stick or make them easier to clean up.
Contact merchants and request that they not sell items that endorse or glorify graffiti, such as t-shirts, posters, or other items that feature graffiti in their design.
Ask local hardware stores not to sell spray paint to minors. Request that they place spray paint and paint markers in areas where they can monitored by employees.
Ask utility/power companies to remove graffiti from their property and equipment. Request transportation companies such as bus, metro and train services to do the same.
Organize a community clean-up. This can be a great community-building activity. Have a block party afterward to celebrate and spend time getting to know one another.
The most effective anti-graffiti initiatives go beyond clean-up.
Help start a school-based curriculum on gang prevention in local schools. Help teachers incorporate vandalism prevention messages in English , civics, math, and other classes.
Provide counseling for gang-involved youth and their parents.
Ask local radio stations to broadcast anti-graffiti public service announcements.
Work together to provide positive activities for youth in your neighborhood.
Start a Neighborhood Watch group in your community. Start patrolling the neighborhood for incidents of vandalism and expand your group to encompass activities that improve quality of life for residents.
ENLIST THE HELP OF PARTNERS
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Hopeline
Law enforcement are important partners in the fight against graffiti. They can help you set up hotlines to report vandalism; they can document the damage and arrest the vandals. They often help set up programs to get graffiti removed for people who cannot afford the supplies or don’t have access to the labor.
To get the supplies you need you can ask local paint stores to donate paint remover, paint, and other supplies.
Include teens in your clean-up. Teens who are involved in clean-up are less likely to become involved in vandalism.
Ask local merchants to donate refreshments and even small gifts to give to your volunteers.
Distribute crime prevention and antigraffiti materials at your clean-up
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Hopeline
Tools & Tips for Training Your Children to be Safe
- Records: Keep the following records of your children in a safe place: any custody papers, current photographs, their height and weight, their description (including scars and birthmarks), dental records, fingerprints and passports. (Once a passport is issued, it makes it difficult for someone else to obtain another.) Update the photos and information regularly.
- Knowledge: Know where your children are. Know the names, addresses and phone numbers of your children’s friends, and call to introduce yourself to their parents. Teach children to tell you where they will be and to check in with you when they get there and before they are ready to return home.
- Safe people: Create a short list of safe people that you give permission for your children to go with. Tell them to call you before going anywhere with someone not on the list, even if they say it is an emergency. Abductions by non-custodial parents are more common than stranger abductions. If you are divorced and have sole custody of your children, tell them whether their non-custodial parent is on the safe people list. To reduce the chance of potential family abductions, get a clear custody order that specifies visitation rights clearly, and know the non-custodial parent’s social security number, date of birth, current address and employment. Some parents create a password with older children so that parents can tell a friend the password if they ask them to pick up their child. This is risky with very young children because they can be tricked into telling the password.
- Strangers: Define a stranger as anyone the child doesn’t know very well. It is important for children to know that people they have seen before (the mailman, the ice cream truck driver, etc.) are strangers if they don’t know them well, and that someone can be a stranger even if they look nice or know their name. Tell children not to tell strangers their names or where they live, and don’t put your children’s names on the outside of their belongings.
- Prevention: To reduce your children’s fears and increase their ability to deal with dangerous situations, focus on common sense abduction prevention strategies rather than on the things that might happen to them. You can approach children with the issues of abduction the same way we approach them with about fire or earthquake safety. Assure the children that the chances of being kidnapped by a stranger are quite low, and we can teach them some techniques that will keep them safer.
- Clearly stated rules: Take the time to talk with children regularly about your safety rules. Let them know who can pick them up, and explain how they are expected to check in with you.
- Safe communication: It is important to lay the groundwork for dialogue about abuse and kidnapping. Parents and teachers can do this with young children by encouraging them to talk about their feelings. Ask about a child’s day and about the people they encountered. Are they having any problems? Be open to listening. By creating an open dialogue with children – especially about the things that make them scared, embarrassed or sad – you make it easier for them to tell you about potentially dangerous situations they’ve encountered.
- Good secret vs. bad secret: A good secret is fun to keep, like a surprise party or gift. A “bad secret” is a secret that makes them feel bad, confused or scared. Ask them to inform you if anyone tells them to keep a bad secret, and stress that getting help when they need it doesn’t make them a “tattle tale.”
- Assertiveness: Children can learn to “use their words” at an early age, and can be encouraged to speak in a clear, strong voice rather than whining or screaming. Reinforce assertive communication by complimenting children on the way they worded a request or stated their opinion, even if their request is not one you can grant.
- Yell NO, Run and Tell: Teach children to yell, “No,” to run to where there are safe adults, and to tell an adult if a stranger has approached them. Tell children that yelling and running are better safety ideas than trying to hide. Teach your children the difference between yelling and screaming.
- Safe distance: Teach children to stay a safe distance (approximately three arm-lengths) away from strangers and strangers’ cars, even if a stranger seems nice. Teach children to run in the direction opposite from the direction the stranger’s car is traveling.
- School safety: Encourage schools to establish callback programs so that if a child does not arrive at school on time, the guardians are notified within thirty minutes of when the child was expected.
- Home safety: Teach children to keep doors and windows locked when they are home alone, and to go to a neighbor and call 911 if a window is broken or if the door is open when they get home.
- Doorbell safety: Teach children to answer the door by asking, “Who is it?” Tell them to never say that they are alone and to never open the door when they are alone, unless it is someone their guardian told them to expect and let in. When they are alone, ask them to talk through the door and say, “My parents are busy now, I’ll tell them you stopped by.” Tell children to call 911 immediately if the person will not leave.
- Phone safety: Teach children that it is important to never say they are alone when a stranger calls, and to either let the answering machine screen calls or say, “Mom/Dad can’t come to the phone now, can I take a message?” Tell them to hang up if someone is making strange noises, saying scary things, or not saying anything.
- Internet safety: Put your children’s computer in the family room, or where you can keep an eye on the screen. Teach children that it is not safe to give their last name, address, or phone number to a person on the Internet, and that it is never safe to meet Internet friends in person without a parent’s supervision and consent.
- Practice: Children, like adults, learn skills best when they practice them often. Review your safety rules regularly. Test your children’s understanding of the rules with questions like, “What would you do if your bicycle broke and a neighbor offered you a ride home?”
Safety Tips for Kids to Always Keep in Mind
- I know my full name, my parent’s names, and our address and phone number.
- I know when and how to use 911 and 0. I know I can dial 911 and 0 from a pay phone without any money.
- I never put my name on my clothes, jewelry, caps or belongings where people can see it.
- I tell my parents about things that happen to me that make me feel scared, uncomfortable or sad.
- I know the difference between a good secret and a bad secret. A good secret is fun to keep, like a surprise party. A bad secret feels bad to keep, and telling my parents about it doesn’t make me a “tattle tale.”
- Strangers: I know that a stranger is anyone I don’t know well. Even people I recognize – like the mailman or ice cream truck driver – are strangers, and that someone can be a stranger even if they look nice or know my name. I never tell strangers my name or where I live.
- Buddy System: I use the “buddy system” and avoid walking or playing alone outside and in public places.
- Walking: When I walk down the street, I always face traffic so that I can see if someone stops their car near me. I never take short cuts through deserted areas like creeks or vacant lots.
- Yell NO, Run and Tell: I know that yelling and running are better safety ideas than trying to hide. If a stranger approaches me, I will YELL “No,” RUN to where there are safe adults, and TELL an adult.
- Safe Distance: I know to stay a safe distance (approximately three arm-lengths) away from strangers and stranger’s cars, even if a stranger seems nice. I know to run in the direction opposite from the direction the stranger’s car is traveling.
- Fight Back: It is okay to yell and fight; anything to get the stranger to let go. Yelling is the most important thing I can do, and to yell, “No!” “Help!” or “Fire!” to get an adult’s attention.
- Home Safety: I keep all the doors and windows locked when I am home alone, and to go to a neighbor and call 911 if a window is broken or if the door is open when I get home. I know how to call my parents or a neighbor if I get frightened when I’m home alone.
- Doorbell Safety: I answer the door by asking, “Who is it?” I never say that I am alone, and never open the door when I am alone, unless it is someone my parents told me to expect and let in. When I am alone, I always talk through the door and say, “My parents are busy now, I’ll tell them you stopped by.” If the person does not leave, I know to call “911.”
- Phone Safety: I never say that I am alone when a stranger calls. I let the answering machine screen calls or say, “Mom/Dad can’t come to the phone now, can I take a message?” If someone is making strange noises, saying scary things, or not saying anything, I will hang up the phone.
- Internet Safety: (See Link Below As Well) I know never to give my last name, address, or phone number to a person on the Internet, and that it is never safe to meet Internet friends in person without my parent’s supervision and consent.
At Home Alone – A Parent’s Guide
Your ten-year-old comes home from school at 3:00, but you don’t get home from work until 5:00. He’s at home alone for those two hours every weekday. What does he do until you arrive?
Most likely, he gets a snack or talks on the phone. Maybe he watches TV, but since you’re not there, you worry. Just like the majority of American parents who work and have to leave their children on their own after school everyday, you are anxious about your child’s safety.
But by following the safeguards listed below, you can help ease some of this worry and take measures that will protect your kids even when you’re not around.
Are They Ready?
Can your children. . .
- Be trusted to go straight home after school?
- Easily use the telephone, locks, and kitchen appliances?
- Follow rules and instructions well?
- Handle unexpected situations without panicking?
- Stay alone without being afraid?
What You Can Do?
- Make sure your children are old enough and mature enough to care for themselves.
- Teach them basic safety rules.
- Know the three “W’s”: Where your kids are, What they’re doing, and Who they’re with. (Don’t forget to check on state law about the age at which children can be left at home alone.)
Are there things you don’t want your children to get into? Take the time to talk to them about the deadly consequences of guns, medicines, power tools, drugs, alcohol, cleaning products, and inhalants. Make sure you keep these items in a secure place out of sight and locked up, if possible.
Hang emergency numbers by the phone and teach your children to use them.
Teach Your “Home Alone” Children
- To check in with you or a neighbor immediately after arriving home.
- How to call 9-1-1, or your area’s emergency number, or call the operator.
- How to give directions to your home, in case of emergency.
- To never accept gifts or rides from people they don’t know well.
- How to use the door and window locks, and the alarm system if you have one.
- To never let anyone into your home without asking your permission.
- To never let a caller at the door or on the phone know that they’re alone. Teach them to say “Mom can’t come to the phone (or door) right now.”
- To carry a house key with them in a safe place (inside a shirt pocket or sock). Don’t leave it under a mat or on a ledge outside the house.
- How to escape in case of fire.
- Not to go into an empty house or apartment if things don’t look right – a broken window, ripped screen, or opened door.
- To let you know about anything that frightens them or makes them feel uncomfortable.
Take a Stand
Work with schools, religious institutions, libraries, recreational and community centers, and local youth organizations to create programs that give children ages 10 and older a place to go and something to do after school – a “homework haven,” with sports, crafts, classes and tutoring. Don’t forget that kids of this age can also get involved in their communities. Help them design and carry out an improvement project!
Ask your workplace to sponsor a Survival Skills class for employees’ children. You can kick it off with a parent breakfast or lunch.
Ask your community to develop a homework hotline latchkey kids can call for help or just to talk.
Join or start a McGruff House or other block parent program in your community to offer children help in emergencies or frightening situations. A McGruff House is a reliable source of help for children in emergency or frightening situations. For information call 801-486-8691.
Talking With Kids About Drugs
Don’t put off talking to your children about alcohol and other drugs. As early as fourth grade, kids worry about pressures to try drugs. School programs alone aren’t enough. Parents must become involved, but most parents aren’t sure how to tell their children about drugs.
Open communication is one of the most effective tools you can use in helping your child avoid drug use. Talking freely and really listening shows children that they mean a great deal to you.
What do you say?
- Tell them that you love them and you want them to be healthy and happy.
- Say you do not find alcohol and other illegal drugs acceptable. Many parents never state this simple principle.
- Explain how this use hurts people. Physical harm – for example, AIDS, slowed growth, impaired coordination, accidents. Emotional harm – sense of not belonging, isolation, paranoia.
- Educational harm – difficulties remembering and paying attention.
- Discuss the legal issues. A conviction for a drug offense can lead to time in prison or cost someone a job, driver’s license, or college loan.
- Talk about positive, drug-free alternatives, and how you can explore them together. Some ideas include sports, reading, movies, bike rides, hikes, camping, cooking, games, and concerts.
- Involve your kids’ friends.
How do you say it?
Calmly and openly – don’t exaggerate. The facts speak for themselves.
Face to face – exchange information and try to understand each other’s point of view. Be an active listener and let your child talk about fears and concerns. Don’t interrupt and don’t preach.
- Through “teachable moments” – in contrast to a formal lecture, use a variety of situations – television news, TV dramas, books, newspaper.
- Establish an ongoing conversation rather than giving a one-time speech.
- Remember that you set the example. Avoid contradictions between your words and your actions. And don’t use illegal drugs, period!
- Be creative! You and your child might act out various situation in which one person tries to pressure another to take a drug. Figure out two or three ways to handle each situation and talk about which works best.
- Exchange ideas with other parents.
How can I tell if a child is using drugs?
Identifying illegal drug use may help prevent further abuse. Possible signs include:
- Change in moods – more irritable, secretive, withdrawn, overly sensitive, inappropriately angry, euphoric.
- Less responsible – late coming home, late for school or class, dishonest.
- Changing friends or changing lifestyles – new interests, unexplained cash.
- Physical deterioration – difficulty in concentration, loss of coordination, loss of weight, unhealthy appearance.
Why do kids use drugs?
Young people say they turn to alcohol and other drugs for one or more of the following reasons:
- To do what their friends are doing
- To escape pain in their lives
- To fit in
- For fun
- To take risks
Take A Stand!
- Educate yourself about the facts surrounding alcohol and other drug use. You will lose credibility with your child if your information is not correct.
- Establish clear family rules against drug use and enforce them consistently.
- Develop your parenting skills through seminars, networking with other parents, reading, counseling, and support groups.
- Work with other parents to set community standards – you don’t raise a child alone.
- Volunteer at schools, youth centers, Boys & Girls Clubs, or other activities in your community.
For More Information
- State and local government drug use prevention, intervention, and treatment agencies.
- State and local law enforcement agencies.
- Private drug use treatment service listed in the telephone book Yellow Pages.
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI)
P.O. Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20847-2345
Cyber-Safety For Kids Online – A Parent’s Guide
The Internet has opened up a world of information for anyone with a computer and a connection! Your children will learn about computers. But just as you wouldn’t sent children near a busy road without some safety rules, you shouldn’t send them on to the information superhighway without rules of the road. Too many dangers from pedophiles to con artists can reach children (and adults) through the Internet.
- Explain that although a person may be alone in a room using the computer, once logged on to the Internet, he or she is no longer alone. People skilled in using the Internet can find out who you are and where you are. They can even tap into information in your computer.
- Set aside time to explore the Internet together. If your child has some computer experience, let him or her take the lead. Visit area of the World Wide Web that have special sites for children.
- The best took a child has for screening material found on the Internet is his or her brain. Teach children about exploitation, pornography, hate literature, excessive violence, and other issues that concern you, so they know how to respond when they see this material.
- Chose a commercial online service that offers parental control features. These features can block contact that is not clearly marked as appropriate for children; chat rooms, bulletin boards, news groups, and discussion groups; or access to the Internet entirely.
- Purchase blocking software and design your own safety system. Different packages can block sites by name, search for unacceptable words and block access to sites containing those words, block entire categories material, and prevent children from giving out personal information.
- Monitor your children when they’re online and monitor the time they spend online. If a child becomes uneasy or defensive when you walk into the room or when you linger, this could be a sign that he or she is up to something unusual or even forbidden.
TELL YOUR CHILDREN…
- To always let you know immediately if they find something scary or threatening on the Internet.
- Never to give out their name, address, telephone number, password, school name, parent’s name, or any other personal information.
- Never to agree to meet face to face with someone they’ve met online.
- Never respond to messages that have bad words or seem scary or just weird.
- Never to enter an area that charges for services without asking you first.
- Never send a picture of themselves to anyone without your permission.
WHAT YOU CAN DO IN THE COMMUNITY
- Make sure that access to the Internet at your children’s school is monitored by adults.
- Know your children’s friends and their parents. If your child’s friend has Internet access at home, talk to the parents about the rules they have established. Find out if the children are monitored while they are online.
- Make sure that your child’s school has an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). This policy should include a list of acceptable and unacceptable activities or resources, information on “netiquette” (etiquette on t he Internet), consequences for violations, and a place for your and your child to sign. Your family can design its own AUP for the home computer.
- If your child receives threatening e-mails or pornographic material, save the offensive material and contact that user’s Internet service provider and your local law enforcement agency.
- If you come across sites that are inappropriate for children when you are surfing the Net, send the addresses to online services that offer parental control features or to sites advertising protection software to add to their list to be reviewed for inclusion or exclusion. Even if you don’t subscribe to the service or own the protection software, you can help protect other children.
Hate or bias-motivated crime is not anew phenomenon. It is a problem that many community have tried to deal with throughout history. There has been a disturbing increase in the number of these crimes committed in America over the past decade. Graffiti, vandalism, and criminal threats are the most common forms of hate crimes. On a child’s level, lesser forms include teasing, name calling, and racial slurs. Although adults often ignore these actions, they can have a profound and lasting impact on children.
WHERE DO CHILDREN LEARN THESE THINGS?
What if parents never said a word to children about differences? Children of all colors, religions, nationalities, and abilities wouldn’t see the differences and would play together in harmony … Right?
Not really. Children are bombarded with messages – some subtle, some not so subtle – from adults, peers, the media, and society in general. By the time children reach elementary school, they are aware of differences between people. Unfortunately, they receive a lot of false information about race, religion, culture, gender, and physical and mental challenges. Some have already developed prejudices against people who are different from them. These stereotypes will persist unless and until adults attempt to correct them.
By addressing the topic of respect for differences and providing accurate unbiased information, you can lay a foundation of tolerance and “unteach” negative messages.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Bring into your home books, toys, tapes, records, or other things that reflect diverse cultures. Provide images of nontraditional gender roles, diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, and a range of family life-styles.
- Show that you value diversity through your friendships and business relationships. What you do is as important as what you say.
- Make and enforce a firm rule that someone’s differences are never an acceptable reason for teasing or rejecting.
- Provide opportunities for your child to interact with others who are racially or culturally different and with people who are physically or mentally challenged. Look for opportunities at school, in the community, places of worship, or camps.
- Respectfully listen to and answer your child’s questions about others. If you ignore questions, change the subject, sidestep, or scold your child for asking, your child will get the message that the subject is bad or inappropriate.
- Avoid gender stereotyping. Encourage your child’s interests in all sorts of activities, whether they are traditionally male – or female-oriented.
- If you hear your child use a racial, ethnic, or religious slur, make it clear that those kind of comments are not acceptable.
All in the Family?
Many times extended family members may not share your views on diversity. These family members may show their prejudices through inappropriate jokes or slang. If an incident occurs where a child is present, ask the offender to refrain from that kind of talk around the children. If a child asks why a family member can say those things and the child can not, tell them that is it not acceptable to make fun of people because of the differences.
RESPONDING TO COMMON QUESTIONS CHILDREN ASK
Young children not only recognize differences, they also absorb values about which differences are positive and which are not. Your reaction to ideas that young children express will greatly affect their feelings and beliefs. Often, children’s curiosity-based questions about differences go unanswered because adults react by teaching that is impolite to notice or ask about differences. By failing to provide accurate information, adults leave children vulnerable to absorbing the biases of society. Here are examples of ways to respond to children’s questions:
“WHY IS THAT GIRL IN A WHEELCHAIR?”
“Shh, it’s not nice to ask.” (Admonishing)
“I’ll tell you another time.” (Sidestepping)
“She is using a wheelchair because her legs are not strong enough to walk. The wheelchair helps her move around.”
WHY IS JAMAL’S SKIN SO DARK?”
“His skin color doesn’t matter. We are all the same underneath.” This response denies the child’s question, changing the subject to one of similarity when the child is asking about a difference.
“Jamal’s skin is dark brown because his mom and dad have dark brown skin.” This is enough for 2- and 3-year-olds. For older children, you can add an explanation of melanin: “Everyone has a special chemical called melanin. If you have a lot of melanin, your skin is darker. If you only have a little, your skin is lighter. How much melanin you have in your skin depends on how much your parents have in theirs.”
“WHY DOES TRAN SPEAK FUNNY?”
“Tran can’t help how she speaks. Let’s not say anything about it.” This response implies agreement with the child’s comment that Tran’s speech is unacceptable, while also telling the child to “not notice,” and be polite.
“Tran doesn’t speak funny, she speaks differently from you. She speaks Vietnamese because that is what her mom and dad speak. You speak English like your mom and dad. It is okay to ask questions about what Tran is saying, but it is not okay to say that her speech sounds funny because that can hurt her feelings.”
Raising Streetwise Kids
WOULD YOUR CHILD KNOW WHAT TO DO IF –
- He got lost at a shopping mall?
- A nice-looking, friendly stranger offered her a ride home after school?
- A friend dared him to drink some beer or smoke a joint?
- The babysitter or a neighbor wanted to play a secret game?
A great think about kids is their natural trust in people, especially in adults. It’s sometimes hard for parents to teach children to balance this trust with caution. But kids today need to know common-sense rules that can help keep them safe – and build the self-confidence they need to handle emergencies.
START WITH THE BASICS
- Make sure your children know their full name, address (city and state), and phone number with area code.
- Be sure kids know to call 9-1-1 or “0” in emergencies and how to use a public phone. Practice making emergency calls with a make-believe phone.
- Tell them never to accept rides or gifts from someone they and you don’t know well.
- Teach children to go to a store clerk, security guard, or police officer for help if lost in a mall or store or on the street.
- Set a good example with your own actions – lock doors and windows and see who’s there before opening the door.
- Take time to listen carefully to your children’s fears and feeling about people or places that scare them or make them feel uneasy. Tell them to trust their instincts.
AT SCHOOL AND PLAY
- Encourage your children to walk and play with friends, not alone. Tell them to avoid places that could be dangerous – vacant buildings, alleys, playgrounds or parks with broken equipment and litter.
- Teach children to settle arguments with words, not fists, and to walk away when others are arguing. Remind them that taunting and teasing can hurt friends and make enemies.
- Make sure your children are taking the safest routes to and from school, stores, and friends’ houses. Walk the routes together and point out places they could go for help.
- Encourage kids to be alert in the neighborhood, and tell an adult – you, a teacher, a neighbor, a police officer – about anything they see that doesn’t seem quite right.
- Check out the school’s policies on absent children – are parents called when a child is absent?
- Check out daycare and after-school programs – look at certifications, staff qualifications, rules on parent permission for field trips, reputation in the community, parent participation, and policies on parent visits.
- Check babysitter references.
AT HOME ALONE
- Leave a phone number where you can be reached. Post it by the phone, along with numbers for a neighbor and emergencies – police and fire departments, paramedics, and the poison control center.
- Have your child check in with you or a neighbor when he or she gets home. Agree on rules for having friends over and going to a friend’s house when no adult is home.
- Make sure your child knows how to use the window and door locks.
- Tell your child not to let anyone into the home without your permission, and never to let a caller at the door or on the phone know there’s no adult home. Kids can always say their parents are busy and take a message.
- Work out an escape plan in case of fire or other emergencies. Rehearse with your children.
PROTECTING YOUR CHILD AGAINST SEXUAL ABUSE
- Let your child know that he or she can tell you anything, and that you’ll be supportive.
- Teach your child that no one – not even a teacher or close relative – have the right to touch him or her in a way that feels uncomfortable, and that it’s okay to say no, get away, and tell a trusted adult.
- Don’t force kids to kiss or hug or sit on a grown-up’s lap if they don’t want to. This gives them control and teaches them that they have the right to refuse.
- Always know where your child is and who he or she is with.
- Tell our child to stay away from strangers who hang around playgrounds, public restrooms, and schools.
- Be alert for changes in your child’s behavior that could signal sexual abuse such as sudden secretiveness, withdrawal from activities, refusal to go to school, unexplained hostility toward a favorite babysitter or relative, or increased anxiety. Some physical signs of abuse include bedwetting, loss of appetite, venereal disease, nightmares, and complaints of pain or irritation around the genitals.
- If your child has been sexually, abused, report it to the police or a child protective agency immediately.
- If you child is a victim of any crime, from stolen lunch money to sexual abuse, don’t blame him or her. Listen and offer sympathy.
TAKE A STAND!
- Work with schools and recreation centers to offer study time, activities, tutoring, and recreation before and after school.
- Start a school callback program. When a student – elementary, middle or high school age – doesn’t arrive as scheduled, volunteers at the school call the parents to make sure the absence is excused.
- Volunteer to help with a McGruff House* or other block parent program. If you can’t offer your home as a haven for children in emergencies, you can help in other ways – telephoning, fundraising, or public relations.
- A McGruff House is a reliable source of help for children in emergency or frightening situations. Volunteers must meet specific standards, including a law enforcement records check.
- Programs are established locally as a partnership among law enforcement, schools, and community organizations. For information call 801-486-8768.
If you were locked out of your house, would you still be able to get in? Maybe you keep an unlocked window in the back, or a hidden key in your mailbox or on top of a window ledge?
You may think this is a good idea, but guess what? If you can break in, so can a burglar!
One out of ten homes will be burglarized this year. For a small amount of time and money you can make your home more secure and reduce your chances of being a victim.
Many burglars will spend no longer than 60 seconds trying to break into a home. Good locks – and good neighbors who watch out for each other – can be big deterrents to burglars.
Check the locks
- Did you know that in almost half of all completed residential burglaries, thieves simply breezed in through unlocked doors or crawled through unlocked windows? EVEN IN FORT THOMAS!
- Make sure every external door has a sturdy, well-installed dead bolt lock. Key-in-the-knob locks alone are not enough.
- Sliding glass doors can offer easy access if they are not properly secured. You can secure them by installing commercially available locks or putting a broomstick or dowel in the inside track to jam the door. To prevent the door being lifted off the track, drill a hole through the slide door frame and the fixed frame. Then insert a pin in the hole.
- Lock double-hung windows with key locks or “pin” your windows by drilling a small hole into a 45 degree angle between the inner and outer frames, then insert a nail that can be removed. Secure basement windows with grilles or grates.
- Instead of hiding keys around the outside of your home, give an extra key to a neighbor you trust.
- When you move into a new house or apartment, re-key the locks.
Check the doors
- A lock on a flimsy door is about as effective as locking your car door but leaving the window down.
- All outside doors should be metal or solid wood.
- If your doors don’t fit tightly in their frames, install weather stripping around them.
- Install a peephole or wide angle viewer in all entry doors so you can see who is outside without opening the door. Door chains break easily and don’t keep out intruders.
Check the outside
Look at your house from the outside. Make sure you know the following tips.
- Thieves hate bright lights. Install outside lights and keep them on at night.
- Keep your yard clean. Prune back shrubbery so it doesn’t hide doors or windows. Cut back tree limbs that a thief could use to climb to an upper-level window.
- If you travel, create the illusion that you’re at home by getting some timers that will turn lights on and off in different areas of your house throughout the evening. Lights burning 24 hours a day signal an empty house.
- Leave shades, blinds, and curtains in normal positions. And don’t let your mail pile up! Call the post office to stop delivery or have a neighbor pick it up.
- Make a list of your valuables – VCRs, stereos, computers, jewelry. Take photos of the items, list their serial numbers and description. Check with law enforcement about engraving your valuables through Operation Identification.
- Ask local law enforcement for a free home security survey.
Consider an Alarm
- Alarms can be a good investment, especially if you have many valuables in your home, or live in an isolated area or one with a history of break-ins.
- Check with several companies before you buy so you can decide what level of security fits your needs. Do business with an established company and check references before signing a contract.
- Learn how to use your system properly! Don’t “cry wolf” by setting off false alarms. People will stop paying attention and you’ll probably be fined.
- Some less expensive options…a sound-detecting socket that plugs into a light fixture and makes the light flash when it detects certain noises, motion sensing outdoor lights that turn on when someone approaches, or lights with photo cells that turn on when it’s dark and off when it’s light.
Burglars Do More Than Steal
- Burglars can commit rape, robbery, and assault if they are surprised by someone coming home or pick a home that is occupied.
- If something looks questionable – a slit screen, a broken window or an open door – don’t go in. Call the police from a neighbor’s house or a public phone.
- At night, if you think you hear someone breaking in, leave safely if you can, then call the police. If you can’t leave, lock yourself in a room with a phone and call the police. If an intruder is in your room, pretend you are asleep.
- Gun are responsible for many accidental deaths in the home every year. Think carefully before buying a gun or keeping weapons in the home. If you do own one, learn how to store it and use it safely.
There’s More You Can Do
- Join a Neighborhood Watch group. If one doesn’t exist, you can start one with help from local law enforcement.
- Never leave a message on your answering machine that indicates you may be away from home now, say “I’m not available right now.”
- Work with neighbors and local government to organize community clean-ups. The cleaner your neighborhood, the less attractive it is to crime.
Weapons In The Home
When we talk about violence, we can’t ignore weapons. Nine out of ten murders involve a weapon – eight of ten involve a firearm. Most robberies involve the use of a weapon, most frequently a handgun.
One in seven teens has reported carrying a weapon – like a bat, club, gun, or knife – at some time to protect himself. Weapons can make violence more deadly and less personal. A gun in the home increases the likelihood of homicide three times and the likelihood of suicide five times.
Reduce the risk
- Think long and hard about having weapons, especially firearms, in your home. Studies show that a firearm in the home is more than forty times as likely to hurt or kill a family member as to stop a crime.
- Look at other ways to protect yourself and your home. Invest in top-grade locks, jamming devices for doors and windows, a dog, or an alarm system. Start or join a Neighborhood Watch. Check with the police, the YMCA/YWCA, or the recreation department about a self-defense class.
- If you do choose to own firearms – handguns, rifles, or shotguns – make sure they are safely stored. That means unloaded, trigger-locked, and in a locked gun case or pistol box, with ammunition separately locked. Store keys out of reach of children, away from weapons and ammunition. Check frequently to make sure this storage remains secure.
- Obtain training from a certified instructor in firearms safety for everyone in the home. Make sure it’s kept current.
- Teach your children what to do if they find a firearm or something that might be a weapon – Stop, Don’t Touch, Get Away, and Tell a Trusted Adult.
- Show children how to settle arguments or solve problems without using words or actions that hurt others. Set the example by the way you handle everyday conflicts in the family, at work, and in the neighborhood. Don’t forget that common courtesies like “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” help ease tensions that can lead to violence.
- Discourage name-calling and teasing. These can easily get out of hand, moving all too quickly from “just words” to fists, knives, and even firearms. Teach children that bullying is wrong and take their fears about bullies seriously.
- Take a hard look at what you, your family, and your friends watch and listen to for entertainment – from action movies and cop shows to video games and music lyrics. How do the characters solve problems? Do they make firearms and other violence appear exciting, funny, or glamorous? Are the real-life consequences of violence for victims and families clear? Talk about what each of you liked and didn’t like.
- Stick with friends and family who steer clear of violence and drugs. And encourage your children to do the same. Research shows use of alcohol and other drugs is closely linked with violence, including the use of guns and other weapons.
Take action in your community
- Be sure you know where and how to report potentially violent situations or concerns about conditions in the neighborhood that could lead to violence. Ask your police department for help in identifying what to report, when, to whom, and how.
- Consider organizing an event that lets people turn in weapons, or even objects that might be mistaken for real weapons, in exchange for books, coupons from local merchants, toys, or simply the satisfaction of making the community safer.
- Support schools and youth clubs in their efforts to keep guns, knives, and other weapons from menacing the everyday lives of children and teens. Encourage children to report any weapons they know about in or near school to staff or the police.
- Look around to see what happens to young people after school hours. Are there supervised programs for younger children? Opportunities for teens and preteens to work with children, get or give help with homework, tackle neighborhood problems, or learn art, music, sports, or computer skills? In many areas, after-school programs are located in schools themselves and called Safe Havens or Beacon Schools.
- Start a discussion of neighborhood views on weapons in the home, children playing with toy weapons, children and violent entertainment, and how arguments should be settled. A PTA meeting, an informal social gathering, or a Neighborhood Watch meeting could provide the opportunity.
- Learn your state and local laws on firearms. Insist that these laws be enforced vigorously but fairly. Support police, prosecutors, judges, and other local officials who enforce laws designed to prevent gun violence.
Just like Neighborhood Watch, members of an Apartment Watch learn how to make their homes more secure, watch out for each other and their community, and report crime and suspicious activities to the police. Here are some ways to get an Apartment Watch going and growing.
- Help arrange with local police for apartment security surveys and Operation Identification.
- Organize citizen patrols to walk around the apartment complex and alert police to crime and suspicious activities. Don’t forget to patrol parking lots, stairways, laundry rooms, and playgrounds.
- Publish a newsletter that gives local crime news, recognizes Apartment Watch captains, and highlights community activities.
- Organize a reception in the lobby of your building or a cookout on common property so neighbors can get to know one another.
- Keep pressure on management to make sure it provides adequate security.
- Start a Safe Haven Program for children — places where they can go in emergency or scary situations.
- Check the complex on a regular basis for problems such as burned-out light bulbs, dark corridors, uncollected trash, or broken locks on mailboxes and doors. Report problems to the building manager.
- Organize meetings to brainstorm how you can help each other, such as starting an escort service for the elderly or after-school care for children.
Below is just a small sampling of the many resources to assist you in making the Internet a safer place for children and teens. It is our department’s belief that there is no such thing as a completely safe place on the Internet for anyone. We also believe that there is no software that can catch all threats. The BEST DEFENSE is PARENTAL MONITORING and INVOLVEMENT.
Do your kids type in Acronyms when they chat and email? Click here for CNN’s list of
28 Internet Acronyms Every Parent Should Know.
FBI Safe Online Surfing Tips
Social Media Safety
Talk to your kids about why they use social media, how they communicate with others and how they represent themselves on social media.
Kids shouldn’t lie about how old they are. Many social media outlets have minimum age requirements. Oftentimes, they will take extra precautions to protect younger members and they are not able to do so if they do not identify themselves as such. Many social media outlets will delete users whom they find to be younger than 14, or those misrepresenting their age.
Social media outlets are a public space. Members shouldn’t post anything they wouldn’t want the world to know (e.g., phone number, address, IM screen name, or specific whereabouts). Tell your children they should avoid posting anything that would make it easy for a stranger to find them, such as their local hangouts.
Remind them not to post anything that could embarrass them later or expose them to danger. Although social media is public, teens sometimes think that adults can’t see what they post. Tell them that they shouldn’t post photos or info they wouldn’t want adults to see.
People aren’t always who they say they are. Ask your children to be careful about adding strangers to their friends list. It’s fun to connect with new friends from all over the world, but members should be cautious when communicating with people they don’t know. They should talk to you if they want to meet an online friend in person, and if you think it’s safe, any meeting should take place in public and with friends or a trusted adult present.
Harassment, hate speech and inappropriate content should be reported. If your kids encounter inappropriate behavior, let them know that they can let you know, or they should report it to that social media outlet or the authorities.
ANOTHER TAKE ON TIPS FROM THE FBI
1. Be Careful–Unless your profile is set to private, anyone can check it out. You should never post personal information such as your phone number, address, school, or where you regularly hang out. If you wouldn’t share it with a creepy stranger on the street, don’t post it on social media. Remember that the Internet is a public place and you should think about what you share.
2. Be Skeptical–We may have an idea of who someone is or why they’re messaging us, but the truth is, when we’re online we should be a little more skeptical. As you’re connecting with people, get to know them first before adding them to your friends list. Only add the people that you want to see your profile, check out your friends and view your photos.
3. Be Picky–We all want to share funny things we’ve done with friends, but once you post something online it can live in cyberspace forever. Before you post an image or comment, take a minute to consider if it’s something that might haunt you in a few years–imagine a potential boss or college recruiter is doing a search on you. Don’t blow your opportunities for tomorrow just to be cute or outrageous today.
4. Be a Good Online Citizen–Social media is a place where
everyone should feel welcome. If you see hate speech or inappropriate content, or if you’re being harassed by another user, talk to your parents and report it immediately. Think of this as a great, new neighborhood we ALL want to keep safe.
5. Be Real–Social media is a community and you get out of it what you put in. Use common sense and think about what behavior is ok and what’s not cool for the community. The more respectful you are to others, the better the site is for everyone. If you disrespect the community by posting fake profiles or lying about your age, you’ll be removed–no exceptions.
Making Safer Schools
When crime, drugs, and violence spill over from the streets into the schools, providing a safe learning environment becomes increasingly difficult. More students carry weapons for protection. Gunfights replace fistfights. Many students must travel through gang turf or groups of drug dealers. Violence becomes an acceptable way to settle conflicts
When this happens, children cannot learn and teachers cannot teach.
Creating a safe place where children can learn and grow depends on a partnership among students, parents, teachers, and other community institutions to prevent school violence.
Find out how crime threatens schools in your community.
Take actions to protect children.
Promote nonviolent ways to manage conflict.
How do these ideas translate into action? Here are some practical suggestions for young people, parents, school staff, and others in the community.
Settle arguments with words, not fists or weapons. Learn how if you don’t know how.
Don’t carry guns, knives, or other weapons to school.
Report crimes or suspicious activities to the police, school authorities, or parents.
Tell a school official immediately if you see another student with a gun, knife, or other weapon.
Tell a teacher, parent, or trusted adult if you’re worried about a bully or threats of violence by another student.
Learn safe routes for traveling to and from school and stick to them. Know good places to seek help.
Don’t use alcohol or other drugs, and stay away from places and people associated with them.
Get involved in your school’s anti-violence activities — have poster contests against violence, hold anti-drug rallies, volunteer to counsel peers. If there’s no program at your school, help start one.
Sharpen your parenting skills. Emphasize and build on your children’s strengths.
Teach your children how to reduce their risks of becoming crime victims.
Know where your kids are, what they are doing, and whom they are with at all times. Set clear rules in advance about acceptable activities.
Ask your children about what goes on during the school day. Listen to what they say and take their concerns and worries seriously.
Help your children learn nonviolent ways to handle frustration, anger, and conflict.
Do not allow your child to carry guns, knives, or other weapons.
Become involved in your child’s school activities — PTA, field trips, and helping out in class or the lunch room.
Work with other parents in your neighborhood to start a McGruff House or other block parent programs. A McGruff House is a reliable source of help for children in emergency or frightening situations. For information call 801-486-8691.
Evaluate your school’s safety objectively. Set targets for improvement. Be honest about crime problems and work toward bettering the situation.
Develop consistent disciplinary policies, good security procedures, and response plans for emergencies.
Train school personnel in conflict resolution, problem solving, drug prevention, crisis intervention, cultural sensitivity, classroom management, and counseling skills. Make sure they can recognize trouble signs and identify potentially violent students.
Encourage students to talk about worries, questions, and fears about what’s going on in their schools, homes, and neighborhoods. Listen carefully to what they say.
If a student makes a threat of violence, take him or her seriously. Address the problem immediately and act to prevent a potential conflict.
When something violent and frightening happens at school or in the neighborhood, take time to talk about it. Discuss the consequences and get students to think about what other choices besides violence might have been available. Get help from trained counselors if necessary.
Work with students, parents, law enforcement, local governments, and community-based groups to develop wider-scope crime prevention efforts.
Law enforcement can report on the type of crimes in the surrounding community and suggest ways to make schools safer.
Have police or organized groups of adults patrol routes students take to and from school.
Community-based groups, church organizations, and other service groups can provide counseling, extended learning programs, before-and after-school activities, and other community crime prevention programs.
State and local governments can develop model school safety plans and provide funding for schools to implement the programs.
Local businesses can provide apprenticeship programs, participate in adopt-a-school programs, or serve as mentors to area students.
Colleges and universities can offer conflict management courses to teachers or assist school officials in implementing violence prevention curricula.
Back To School Tips For Parents
Make sure your child has enough change to make a phone call or they carry a telephone calling card.
Plan a walking route to school or the bus stop. Choose the most direct way with the fewest street crossings and use intersections with crossing guards. Test the route with your child. Tell him or her to stay away from parks, vacant lots, fields, and other places where there aren’t many people around.
Teach children — whether walking, biking, or riding the bus to school — to obey all traffic signals, signs, traffic officers, and safety patrols. Remind them to be extra careful in rainy, foggy, or snowy weather.
Make sure they walk to and from school with others — a friend, neighbor, brother, sister.
When car pooling, drop off and pick up children as close to school as possible. Don’t leave until they have entered the school yard or building.
Teach your child never to talk to strangers or accept rides or gifts from strangers. Remember, a stranger is anyone you or your children doesn’t know well or doesn’t trust.
If your child is home alone for a few hours after school:
Set up rules for locking doors and windows, answering the door or telephone.
Make sure he or she checks in with you or a neighbor immediately after school.
Agree on rules for inviting friends over and for going to a friend’s house when no adult is home.
Take time to listen carefully to children’s fears and feelings about people or places that scare them or make them feel uneasy. Tell them to trust their instincts. Take complaints about bullies and other concerns seriously.
Back To School Tips For Children
To help you stay safe and healthy this school year, McGruff the Crime Dog says:
Work out a safe route to school with your parents. Choose the quickest way with the fewest street crossings and use intersections with crossing guards. Stay away from parks, vacant lots, fields, and other places where there aren’t many people around.
Whenever possible walk to and from school with a friend, neighbor, brother, or sister. Don’t go by yourself.
Be sure you know your home phone number (including area code) and address, the numbers of your parents at work and of another trusted adult, and how to use 911 for emergencies.
Never talk to strangers or accept rides or gifts from strangers. Remember, a stranger is anyone you or your parents don’t know well and trust.
If you bike or skate to school, wear a helmet. And don’t forget to lock up your bike with a sturdy lock wherever you leave it.
If you’re home alone after school, check in with a parent or neighbor as soon as you walk in the door.
Let parents and friends know if you stay late after school. Get permission first if you want to play with a friend instead of going home.
If you see anyone doing something that makes you uneasy or you think isn’t right — a stranger hanging around the school playground, a bigger kid bullying younger children, vandalism or graffiti for example — tell your parents, a teacher, or another trusted adult. That helps McGruff Take A Bite Out Of Crime!
Bullies: A Serious Problem for Kids
Bullying behavior may seem rather insignificant compared to kids bringing guns to school and getting involved with drugs. Bullying is often dismissed as part of growing up. But it’s actually an early form of aggressive, violent behavior. Statistics show that one in four children who bully will have a criminal record before the age of 30.
Bullies often cause serious problems that schools, families, and neighbors ignore. Teasing at bus stops, taking another child’s lunch money insults and threats, kicking or shoving — it’s all fair game to a bully Fears and anxieties about bullies can cause some children to avoid school, carry a weapon for protection, or even commit more violent activity
A Word About the Victim
Although anyone can be the target of bullying behavior, the victim is often singled out because of his or her psychological traits more than his or her physical traits. A typical victim is likely to be shy, sensitive, and perhaps anxious or insecure. Some children are picked on for physical reasons such as being overweight or physically small, having a disability, or belonging to a different race or religious faith.
A Word About the Bully
Some bullies are outgoing, aggressive, active, and expressive. They get their way by brute force or openly harassing someone. This type of bully rejects rules and regulations and needs to rebel to achieve a feeling of superiority and security. Other bullies are more reserved and manipulative and may not want to be recognized as harassers or tormentors. They try to control by smooth-talking, saying the “right” thing at the “right” time, and lying. This type of bully gets his or her power discreetly through cunning, manipulation, and deception.
As different as these two types may seem, all bullies have some characteristics in common. They:
are concerned with their own pleasure
want power over others
are willing to use and abuse other people to get what they want
feel pain inside, perhaps because of their own shortcomings
find it difficult to see things from someone else’s perspective
What You Can Do
Listen to children. Encourage children to talk about school, social events, other kids in class, the walk or ride to and from school so you can identify any problems they may be having.
Take children’s complaints of bullying seriously. Probing a seemingly minor complaint may uncover more severe grievances. Children are often afraid or ashamed to tell anyone that they have been bullied, so listen to their complaints.
Watch for symptoms that children may be bullying victims, such as withdrawal, a drop in grades, torn clothes, or needing extra money or supplies.
Tell the school or organization immediately if you think that your children are being bullied. Alerted caregivers can carefully monitor your children’s actions and take steps to ensure your children’s safety.
Work with other parents to ensure that the children in your neighborhood are supervised closely on their way to and from school.
Don’t bully your children yourself, physically or verbally. Use nonphysical, consistently enforced discipline measures as opposed to ridiculing, yelling at, or ignoring your children when they misbehave.
Help children learn the social skills they need to make friends. A confident, resourceful child who has friends is less likely to be bullied or to bully others.
Praise children’s kindness toward others. Let children know that kindness is valued.
Teach children ways to resolve arguments without violent words or actions. Teach children self-protection skills — how to walk confidently, stay alert to what’s going on around them, and to stand up for themselves verbally.
Provide opportunities for children to talk about bullying, perhaps when watching TV together, reading aloud, playing a game, or going to the park or a movie.
Recognize that bullies may be acting out feelings of insecurity, anger, or loneliness. If your child is a bully, help get to the root of the problem. Seek out specific strategies you can use at home from a teacher, school counselor, or child psychologist.
Stopping School Violence
The mix has become appallingly predictable: volcanic anger, no skills to vent the anger or ease the pain, no trusted adult to turn to, and accessibility of firearms. Result: dead and wounded students, faculty, and staff at schools in all parts of our nation. We can all help prevent these tragedies in three ways: violence prevention (not reaction) programs in every community; young people taught by all of us how to manage anger and handle conflicts peaceably; and guns kept out of the hands of unsupervised kids and treated as hazardous consumer products.
But the relatively small number of school-site homicides is only the tip of an iceberg that could cost our children their futures and our communities their civic health. Violence in our schools — whether it involves threats, fistfights, knives, or firearms — is unwarranted and intolerable. Children deserve a safe setting to learn in. Teachers and staff deserve a safe place to work in. Communities deserve safe schools that educate kids and help keep neighborhoods safer.
For some schools, violence may be a minor issue; for others, it may be a daily presence. Though the most extreme forms of violence are rare, the threat of all kinds of violence can keep students away from school, prevent them from going to after-school events, and leave them in fear every day.
To make our schools safer, everyone can and must pitch in — teachers, parents, students, policy makers, law enforcement officers, business managers, faith leaders, civic leaders, youth workers, and other concerned community residents. Each of us can do something to help solve the problem. And it’s a problem we all must solve.
What can you do to stop school violence? This page links to six starter lists of ideas. Some require only individual action; some require concerted effort. Some address immediate issues like kids bringing weapons to school; others address the problems that cause violence. Consider these lists a launching pad. There’s lots more that can be done. We’ve listed resources that can provide even more ideas and help in carrying them out.
On your own, with a group, with your child, with a classroom full of children — whatever you do, there’s something here you can do. Anything you do will help.
Watch for Signs… Take Action
Know signs that kids are troubled and know how to get them help. Look for such signs as:
Lack of interest in school
Absence of age-appropriate anger control skills
Seeing self as always the victim
Persistent disregard for or refusal to follow rules
Cruelty to pets or other animals
Artwork or writing that is bleak or violent or that depicts isolation or anger
Talking constantly about weapons or violence
Obsessions with things like violent games and TV shows
Depression or mood swings
Bringing a weapon (any weapon) to school
History of bullying
Misplaced or unwarranted jealousy
Involvement with or interest in gangs
Self-isolation from family and friends
Talking about bringing weapons to school
The more of these signs you see, the greater the chance that the child needs help. If it’s your child and he or she won’t discuss these signs with you, see if a relative, a teacher, a counselor, a religious leader, a coach, or another adult can break the ice.
Get help right away. Talk with a counselor, mental health clinic, family doctor, a psychologist, religious leader, the school’s dean of students, or the office of student assistance. The faster you find help, the more likely the problem can be resolved.
Not your child? Recognizing these signs in any child should set off alarm bells for any community member. If you know a child well enough to notice these changes, constructively express concern to the parent(s), who may already be taking action and would welcome your support. If parents appear disinterested, speak to the child’s teacher or counselor.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
230 North 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Bureau of Justice Assistance Clearinghouse
PO Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Boys & Girls Clubs of America
1230 West Peachtree Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30309
Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence
Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado
Campus Box 442, Building #10
Boulder, CO 80309-0442
Educational Resources Information Clearinghouse
National Library of Education
U.S. Department of Education
600 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 2002-0498
Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse
PO Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
National Association of Police Athletic Leagues
618 North US Highway 1, Suite 201
North Palm Beach, FL 33408
National Center for Conflict Resolution Education
Illinois Institute for Dispute Resolution
110 West Main Street
Urbana, IL 61801
National Clearinghouse on Alcohol and Drug Information
PO Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20852
National Crime Prevention Council
1700 K Street, NW, Second Floor
Washington, DC 20006-3817
www.ncpc.org or www.weprevent.org
National Injury Control and Prevention Center
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30333
National Institute for Dispute Resolution
1726 M Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 10036
330 North Wabash Avenue, Suite 2100
Chicago, IL 60611
National School Safety Center
4165 Thousand Oaks Blvd, Ste 290
Westlake Village, CA 91362
National Youth Gang Information Center
Institute for Intergovernmental Research
PO Box 12729
Tallahassee, FL 33217
Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
U.S. Department of Education
Portals Building, 600 Independence Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20202-6123
Street Law, Inc.
918 16th Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20006-2902
Teens, Crime, and the Community
1700 K Street, NW, Second Floor
Washington, DC 20006-3817
202-466-6272, x152 or 161
Youth Crime Watch of America
9300 South Dadeland Blvd, Ste 100
Miami, FL 33156
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
This list highlights just a few of the more recent documents that offer ideas about programs and strategies that can help reduce or prevent violence in schools, as well as information on the problem. They in turn offer referrals to still more sources of information and ideas. Many of the organizations listed above will send free catalogs listing all their publications.
Arnette, June and Marjorie C. Walsleben. Combating Fear and Restoring Safety in Schools. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. April 1998. (NCJ 167888).
Drug Strategies, Inc. Safe Schools, Safe Students: A Guide to Violence Prevention Strategies. Washington, DC: Drug Strategies, Inc. 1998.
Heaviside, Sheila, Cassandra Rowand, Catrina Williams, and Elizabeth Farris. Violence and Discipline Problems in U.S. Public Schools: 1996-1997. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education. March 1998. (NCES 98-030).
Kenney, Dennis J. and T. Steuart Watson. Crime in the Schools: Reducing Fear and Disorder with Student Problem Solving. Washington, DC: Police Executive Research Forum. 1998.
Lockwood, Daniel. Violence Among Middle School and High School Students: Analysis and Implications for Prevention. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. 1997. (NCJ 166363)
U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice. Creating Safe and Drug-Free Schools: An Action Guide. Washington, DC. 1996. Electronically available through http://www.ed.gov or http://www.ncjrs.org/ojjhome.htm, or by calling 800-624-0100.
Zimmer, Judy, Terrence W. Modglin, and Jean F. O’Neil. Teens, Crime, and the Community: Education and Action for Safer Schools and Communities, Third Edition. Cincinnati, OH: West Educational Publishing (a Thomson International company). 1998.
Drug Free School Zones
Drug-free zones around schools offer communities one way to give students a place where they can play and talk without being threatened by drug dealers and drug users.
Federal law and many state and local laws increase penalties for drug-related activities in drug-free school zones.
A Drug-Free School Zone Is More Than a Law and a Sign
It is a law and a community-wide commitment to reduce drug use among young people.
Federal law and many state and local laws increase penalties for drug-related activities in drug-free school zones.
SIX STEPS TO TAKE
1. Build a drug-free school zone coalition that includes representatives from law
enforcement, schools, parent groups, civic clubs, youth organizations, businesses, religious institutions, local government, drug treatment centers, other social service agencies, public housing authorities, and the courts.
2. Mobilize the community – talk to key people, build partnerships, assess the community’s drug problems
3. Create a shared vision of a safe and drug-free environment for children. Set goals and design strategies to meet them.
4. Establish the drug-free school zone by researching laws and establishing formal partnership agreements with school administrators, city officials, and law enforcement. Name a coordinator, measure and map the zone, post signs (check with law enforcement and city officials regarding wording and placement), and publicize the project. Kick off with special school assemblies, a parents’ organization meeting, a proclamation, and press conference.
5. Mobilize the community – talk to key people, build partnerships, assess the community’s drug problems.
6. Celebrate successes with award ceremonies, family events, posters, publicity, and T-shirts. Have young people plan and run a drug-free celebration.
Don’t stop at the school’s boundaries. Expand your drug-free zone efforts to any area besieged by problems associated with drug and alcohol abuse.
Drug-free zones around schools offer communities one way to give students a place where they can play and talk without being threatened by drug dealers and drug users.
The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI)
TAKING BACK YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
If crime has a strong grip on a neighborhood, it’s hard to take the first steps toward reclaiming your streets.
People are afraid that if they act, criminals will take revenge. You can counter this fear, and protect each other, by working closely with police and organizing group activities – there’s safety in numbers. You may want to meet outside the neighborhood at first.
NEIGHBORHOODS ACROSS THE COUNTRY HAVE USED THESE TACTICS TO TAKE A STAND AGAINST DRUGS AND VIOLENCE
Ask police for help in forming a citizen patrol that walks the neighborhood, intimidating drug dealers by writing down license plate numbers and descriptions of suspected dealers. Videotape or photograph illegal activities. Pass information on to law enforcement. Wear a “uniform” – a brightly colored cap or special T-shirt.
Use a bullhorn or loudspeaker to broadcast “Drug dealers on the block. Police are being notified.
Demonstrate against landlords who rent property to drug dealers.
Make public your dissatisfaction with businesses, including restaurants and bars, that ignore drug dealing. Do the same to stores that sell drug paraphernalia – such as marijuana pipes or rolling papers.
Organize neighborhood clean-up campaigns to sweep litter and drug paraphernalia off the streets, clean off or paint over graffiti, plant flowers and trees, and repair broken equipment in playgrounds.
Make young people part of your neighborhood improvement team. Find other creative, constructive activities for youth, especially teens.
Put up large, colorful banners or signs that warn drug dealers that residents are watching for crime and reporting it to the police.
March or organize a vigil to demonstrate and community’s will to drive out drug dealers and other criminals.
Make sure the newspapers and television cover this good news – show the word that neighbors and police care and are taking action!
Use good judgement when faced with problems of illegal drug use or sales or other criminal activity in your neighborhood. Think about how you can report a drug problem without subjecting yourself to retaliation. It’s important to report, but it’s equally important to report safely.
How To Start A School Crime Watch
Are you tired of graffiti on your school’s walls? Have some students started bringing weapons to school? Is fighting on school property giving you the blues? Are there days when you are afraid to go to school? Maybe your school is fine and you want to prevent crime before it becomes a problem? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions or your school is struggling with other crime problems, then a school crime watch might be an answer.
Based on the Neighborhood Watch concept, a school crime watch encourages students to watch out and help out each other to make the entire school a safer and more enjoyable place. It’s a student-led effort that helps youth take a share of responsibility for their school community. Students learn how to keep themselves from becoming victims of crime and how to report suspicious activities. In some cases there’s an organized patrol that helps ensure the school’s public areas are watched appropriately. The attractiveness of a school crime watch program is that a school of any size, in any type of community — rural, suburban, inner-city — can adopt its principles at minimum cost!
Need some help getting started? contact YCWA (www.ycwa.org), a national group that has helped thousands of kids start watches in their schools Starting a School Crime Watch .
A group of dedicated teens willing to work together to bring the entire student body into a crime watch way of life can start a school crime watch program by:
researching what crime problems — vandalism, assault, theft — are most common at the school and what prevention strategies could prove effective;
working with the school authorities including the principal and the person in charge of security to get their support for the program;
establishing an advisory board made up of students and adults;
talking to your local crime prevention officer about starting the program, and setting up a central group of individuals in charge of the crime watch — sometimes called the core group (This group must be made up of students from all kinds of groups, so that no group will feel excluded.);
deciding how you will launch the program. An exciting way to kickoff the program is through an all-school assembly or rally. This will help build support and generate interest; advertising your first school crime watch meeting through fliers, posters, morning public address announcements, even email;
holding your first meeting to discuss the make up of the crime watch, the issues that need to be addressed, and the need for a school patrol. If you choose to have a school patrol your committee will need to identify sites to monitor;
telling the adult community that your school is starting a school crime watch;
planning your calendar of crime watch events.
What is a Student Patrol?
One powerful component of a school crime watch can be a student patrol. This moves the program from an information and teaching mode into action. Patrol activities include monitoring the halls and parking lots between classes and during lunch. This action can reduce the number of crime-related incidents in the patrolled areas.
Communicating Is Key to Success
Communication is critical to a school crime watch program. Students report crime because it is a serious issue — not to get someone they don’t like into trouble. Not reporting can place a student in a threatening situation. It is a school crime watch’s responsibility to keep all reports confidential. If students start finding out about who reported on whom, people won’t continue to participate in the program. Students reporting must know that they will be anonymous.
How to plan stuff Helping Out Builds Momentum for the Program
A school crime watch goes beyond just watching out for its fellow classmates. Activities such as drug- and alcohol-free parties, date rape/rape awareness days, newspaper columns in the school or local paper, and crime and drug abuse prevention tips announced on the P.A. system are ways to build interest in your program. Longer term projects that promote student well-being include conflict resolution projects, cross-age teaching and mentoring, vandalism prevention, even bus safety.
Do school crime watch programs work?
Yes! Crime dropped 45 percent at one high school in Florida within a year of initiating a school crime watch! Active school crime watch programs in schools across the country have been able to reduce violence, guns, drug use, and many of the other things that come with crime. The schools with active watches are happier, safer places.
For help building a school crime watch, see Youth Crime Watch of America, www.ycwa.org or call 305-670-2409.
What to do when stopped by the police
You look into your mirror and see a patrol car behind you with its emergency lights flashing. If you are like most people, this can be a stressful experience.
Cruiser in the Mirror
Knowing what to do, and what not to do will make the experience less stressful and will help insure your safety, the safety of other motorists, and the safety of the officer.
ACTIONS YOU SHOULD TAKE
Kentucky Law requires a motorist to pull as far as possible to the RIGHT of the traveled portion of the highway and stop when a police car approaches displaying emergency equipment. The motorist must remain stopped until the car has passed, or a police officer directs you otherwise.
When you see flashing blue lights on a patrol car, don’t panic. Simply slow down, signal your intention to turn onto the right shoulder, and drive off the roadway to the right as far as you can safely do so.
It is important that neither you nor your passengers make and sudden or undirected movements! The officer does not know who you are or your intentions.
If you are stopped at night, turn on your dome lights and show the officer that nothing is wrong. Having your light on and keeping your hands on the steering wheel will usually put the officer’s mind at a bit more ease, but he will still be cautious.
ACTIONS THE OFFICER WILL TAKE
In almost all cases, the officer will at a minimum ask for your driver’s license. You are also required to have registration papers and proof of insurance, so it helps to have it ready as well. It is after the presentation of the REQUIRED documents that an explanation as to why you were stopped will be given. While the officer is approaching your vehicle, do not attempt to reach under your seat, in the glove compartment, in a console, or any other place hidden from the officer’s view.
The officer will often complete the contact without requiring you to leave your car. Sometimes it may be necessary for the officer to ask you to take a seat in the patrol car. Court cases permit the officer to decide which procedure is safest for the officer. As you exit your car, always keep your hands in plain view of the officer.
If a traffic ticket is issued by the officer, please maintain a polite and cooperative attitude. Do not attempt to debate the merits of the traffic ticket on the side of the highway. The court is the proper place to contest any grievance.
Just because the officer gives you a ticket does not automatiucally mean you are guilty or that you have to pay a fine. You have the right to go to court and to have the judge hear your explanation.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
Once the officer gives you a copy of the traffic ticket, you have been served a summons (subpoena) to appear in court. Failure to appear on your scheduled court date is a violation of the law and may result in additional charges being filed against you.
In nearly all court cases which a fine is levied, court costs MUST be paid. Even if you pay the traffic violation fine by mail, the court case must still be processed through the court system. Therefore, the court cost must be paid. Court costs help fund the court system. Your local police department receives a standard amount from a state court fund is is a standard amount. The City of Fort Thomas does not benefit more or less whether officers write 100 or 1,000,000 tickets per year, the amount stays the same.
Officers may provide you with an information sheet explaining the courts mail-in procedures. The officers do not collect fines.
If you are alone or uncertain if the police officer trying to stop you is legitamate, pull over but keep your car doors locked. When your vehicle is approached by the officer, roll your window down only far enough to talk to the officer. Express your concern and desire to drive to the nearest public place. Most police officers will understand. Once there, remain in your secured vehicle until proper identification of the officer is made.
1.) If you have questions, ask the officer or call your County Prosecuting Attorney’s office. 3.) It is best to be calm and identify yourself.
2.) If the police have stopped you, they THINK they have a reason to do so. 4.) By yelling or threatening the officer, the BEST you can do is get yourself arrested. Don’t make the situation worse for you than it already is.
Highway safety facts
From the Kentucky Transportation Center, College of Engineering Traffic Safety issues opinion survey of November 1999.
59 percent of those surveyed favor changing the current Safety Belt Law from secondary to primary enforcement.
79 percent of those surveyed favor reinstating the requirement for motorcyclist to wear a helmet.
69 percent of those surveyed favors lowering the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) at which a driver is presumed to be driving under the influence from 0.10 to 0.08. There is a strong support (84 percent) for preventing drivers convicted of more than one DUI offense from operating their vehicle for the period their license is revoked.
There was strong support (74 percent in favor) for a vision test, or proof of a recent eye exam, at license renewal with the opinion this should apply to all drivers.
There was a strong support (86 percent in favor) for having a program to identify, and retest drivers with a poor-driving record.
There was tremendous support (97 percent in favor) for the restrictions placed on teenage drivers provided under the graduated driver license program. This support is justified with data, which have shown a substantial reduction in crashes involving 16-year-old drivers after implementation of the graduated driver license program.
Christmas Holiday Tips
Here are some tips to help celebrate safely this holiday season…
Homes jam packed with glittering gifts. Stores, malls and downtown streets teeming with unsuspecting shoppers. People rushing around, stressed out and careless, looking for last-minute gifts. It’s enough to make a crook giddy with holiday joy.
If you’re shopping…
- Stay alert and be aware of what’s going on around you.
- Park in a well-lighted space and be sure to lock the car, close the windows and hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; pay with a check or credit card whenever possible.
- Deter pickpockets and pursesnatchers. Don’t overburden yourself with packages. Carry a purse close to your body. Put your wallet in an inside coat pocket or front pants pocket.
- Teach children to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated.
If you’re out for the evening…
- · Turn on lights and a radio or TV so it looks like someone’s home. DON’T MAKE THE MISTAKE OF LEAVING LIGHTS ON THAT YOU NEVER USE OR LEAVE ON. Doing this is often an attention grabber to others that something is different than as is someone were home. Example: All inside lights out and all outside lights on.
- Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave even if it’s just for a few minutes.
- Don’t display gifts where they can be seen from outside.
Playing it Safe on Halloween
POINTERS FOR PARENTS
Halloween may be a fun holiday for kids, but for parents, trick-or-treat time can be a little troublesome. Concerns about children’s safety – whether they are out in the neighborhood or back at home with bountiful bags of goodies – can cast a spell on the evening’s festivity. But not to worry! Following a few safety tips will ensure that Halloween will be a “howling” good time for all.
“UNHAUNTING” YOUR HOUSE AND NEIGHBORHOOD
- Welcome trick-or-treaters at home by turning on your exterior lights.
- Remove objects from your yard that might present a hazard to visitors.
- Ask you Neighborhood Watch or citizen’s group to patrol the community.
- Involve students from a local college or university to be “witch’s helpers.” These students help trick-or-treaters cross busy streets and watch out for ghoulish behavior.
- Drive slowly all evening – you never know what creature may suddenly cross your path.
- Report any suspicious or criminal activity to your local police or sheriff’s department.
Parents and kids can avoid trick-or-treating troubles entirely by organizing a Halloween costume party with treats, games, contests, music, scary stories, and much more. Make your Halloween party the place to be! Schools, fire stations, libraries, even malls in many communities organize “haunted houses” and other festivities for families.
MAKING SAFE COSTUMES
- Check that costumes are flame-retardant so the little one’s aren’t in danger near candlelit jack-o-lanterns and other fire hazards.
- Keep costumes short to prevent trips, falls, and other bumps in the night.
- Encourage kids to wear comfortable shoes.
- Try make-up instead of a mask. Masks can be hot and uncomfortable and, more importantly, they can obstruct a child’s vision – a dangerous thing when kids are crossing streets and going up and down steps.
- Make sure kids wear light colors or put reflective tape on their costumes.
DRESSED UP AND DANGEROUS?
Halloween blood and gore are harmless stuff for the most part. But sometimes dressing up as a superhero, a scary monster, or a slimy alien from outerspace – coupled with the excitement of Halloween – brings out aggressive behavior. Even fake knives, swords, and guns and other costume accessories can accidentally hurt people. If these objects are part of a child’s costume, make sure they are made from cardboard or other flexible materials. Better yet, challenge kids to create costumes that don’t need “weapons” to be scary or fun.
PREPARING GHOSTS AND GOBLINS FOR THEIR TRICKS AND TREATS
Make sure older kids go out with friends. Younger children should be accompanied by an adult. If you live in a rural area offer all kids a ride in the car.
Set a time limit for children to trick-or-treat. Together, map out a safe route so you know where they’ll be. Remind them not to take short cuts through backyards, alleys, or playing fields.
Remind kids not to enter a strange house or car.
Try to get kids to trick-or-treat while it is still light out. If it is dark, make sure a couple of people are carrying flashlights that work.
PRANKS THAT CAN BE A LITTLE TRICKY
Halloween is notoriously a night of pranks – toilet papering a house or filling mailboxes with shaving cream are not unusual. Try to get a handle on your children’s plans before they go out. Explain to them that while you want them to have a good time, some tricks could hurt other children or vandalize property. Emphasize that your disapprove of vandalism.
EATING THE TREATS
Kids need to know not to eat their treats until they get home. One way to keep trick-or-treaters from digging in while they’re still out is to feed them a meal or substantial snack beforehand.
Check out all treats at home in a well-lighted place.
What to eat? Only unopened candies that other treats that are in original wrappers. Don’t forget to inspect fruit and homemade goodies for anything suspicious. By all means, remind kids not to eat everything at once or they’ll be feeling pretty ghoulish for awhile.
No Scary Driving this Halloween– Keep Trick-or-Treaters Safe
On Halloween, your neighborhood will literally be swarming with children, and it’s your job to be sure they take their treats home safely. Trick-or-treating, a fun-filled activity that little ghosts and goblins look forward to each October, can quickly turn into a night of horror if someone is hurt.
For motorists, the scariest part of Halloween are children dressed in dark colors and in costumes that cover their eyes out walking on streets and roadways at dusk when many adults are still driving home from work.
Sadly, Halloween is a dangerous night. While excited trick-or-treaters may forget the rules ofthe road and be oblivious to the hazards, we, as motorists must be vigilant. The CDC found that the number of deaths among young pedestrians (ages 5-14) is four times higher on Halloween evening than any other evening of the year. Data from the USDOT shows that:
Fatal collisions between motor vehicles and young pedestrians (under 15 years of age) happen most frequently between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. – prime trick-or-treating time. 84% of deaths among young pedestrians occurred at non-intersection locations (indicating children are most likely to dart and dash from mid-block into the street). Halloween is also one of the year’s most dangerous holidays on the road due to alcohol-related crashes caused by those who drink and drive after parties and festivities. Two-thirds of all highway fatalities at Halloween are alcohol-related. Don’t even think about getting behind the wheel if you’re impaired.
To help everyone bring home treats – not tragedies – follow these tips for a safe Halloween:
- Don’t use a cell phone while driving through neighborhoods. A single distraction could lead to a tragedy.
- Stay well below the posted speed limit.
- Pay attention to what’s happening on sidewalks and roadways. Watch for children darting across streets, especially between parked cars.
- Be extra alert when pulling in and out of driveways.
- Do not assume children can see you or are paying attention. You need to take that responsibility.
- Drivers should also check that all lights on their car work.
- Do not pass other vehicles that have stopped in the roadway. They could be dropping off children.
- If you’re driving a group of children, but staying in the running vehicle at the curb, be sure to put on your hazard lights to alert other motorists.
- And if you’re driving to a Halloween party, put that mask on after you park the car.
Parents can help motorists, too:
- Make sure drivers can see the children. Give them flashlights and glow sticks. Dress kids in bright, reflective clothing or use reflective tape on their costumes.
- Use makeup, rather than masks, so children have a clear, unobstructed view of their surroundings.
- Be sure children know how to cross a street — look left, right and left again before crossing.
- Instruct children to stay on sidewalks and to cross only at corners or crosswalks.
- Accompany your children as they trick or treat.