What Should We Do to Protect Ourselves and Our Families from Crime

The crime rate has been dropping during the 90s, but that appears to be changing. In the first six months of 2000 there were increases in auto-theft, rape and aggravated assault, according to the FBI. Internet-related crimes, identity theft and credit card fraud are also on the rise.

The situation may soon worsen. The number of young people entering their late teens and early 20s - the most crime-prone years - is the largest since the baby boomers. With that and the possible slowdown of the economy, crime may be heading back up.

We can't expect law enforcement to be everywhere all the time. We must assume roles in making our communities and ourselves safe. So what should we do to protect ourselves and families from crime?

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. A call from an unknown creditor may be your first clue that your identity may have been stolen. To minimize your risk, don't divulge personal information online or over the telephone. Shred bills and other documents before throwing them away. Review your credit reports at least once per year. For more information about identity theft visit the Consumer Government website.

Response to rape threats. Research has shown that some responses to attempted rape are better than others. There is strong evidence that fighting, screaming and trying to get away are effective, according to Sarah Ullman, Ph.D., at the University of Illinois, at Chicago. Experts advise being aware of one's surroundings and staying in well-lit and public places whenever possible to avoid the situation in the first place.

Try to burglar-proof your house. Your first line of defense is to lock your doors and windows. Almost 50% of burglaries are accomplished through unlocked doors or windows. Studies have shown that barking dogs deter lots of burglars. For more tips call your local police or Sheriff's department.

If you see a car thief trying to steal your car, get a good look at the thief. A description of the crook is important to police. Don't run and confront the thief. You risk injury. If you must confront such a person, do it from a distance. For more theft prevention tips visit the NICB website.

Source: "Crime Alert: Protect Your Family," by Sharlene K. Johnson, June 2001 edition, Ladies' Home Journal.

We thank the Lexington Kentucky Prosecutor's Office for permission to reprint this article.