Learn about the impact of crime on teens, personal safety strategies for reducing their likelihood of becoming victims and opportunities for them to become involved in crime prevention activities in their schools and communities.
What is crime prevention?
Crime prevention means reducing the opportunities for criminals to victimize you, your family, and your neighbors. Crime prevention involves protecting property and teaching people to be alert and aware of their surroundings. Becoming involved in activities that build up a community can also help prevent crime.
Why should teens be concerned about crime prevention?
Teenagers experience both property and personal crime more frequently than other age groups. In fact, teens and young adults experience the highest rates of violent crime. According to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2005: Statistical Table 3):
- More than 1.5 million teens become victims of violent crime each year in the United States.
- Although teens are 14 percent of the general population, they are 28 percent of victims of violent crime.
- Teens are twice as likely as adults to become victims of crime.
Young people ages 12 to 17 are far more likely to be victims of property crimes than adults, and most of the crimes occur on school grounds. Unfortunately, the majority of these thefts are never reported to police or school officials.
Who does crime hurt?
The first person hurt is the victim – the person whose iPod is stolen, the neighbor whose car is vandalized, or the store owner whose merchandise is stolen.
The other victim is the community. When there is crime in a neighborhood, there is fear. Fear creates isolation as residents retreat behind locked doors, businesses close, and people are afraid to let their children play outside.
How can I keep from becoming a victim of crime?
Statistics show that young people aged 12 to 17 are far more likely to be victims of property crimes than adults and that most of the crimes occur on school grounds or at school-related activities. Unfortunately, the majority of these thefts are never reported to law enforcement or school officials. Items frequently stolen from teens are cell phones, portable music players, CDs, cameras, calculators, and athletic gear.
The National Crime Prevention Council recommends the following strategies for protecting your personal property:
- Don’t bring valuables to school. If you don’t absolutely need something during the school day, leave it at home.
- Avoid calling attention to your valuables. Playing cool ring tones on your cell phone might amuse your lunch buddies, but it can also mean unwanted attention from nearby people who you don’t know.
- Never leave your valuables unattended. Most items are stolen because they are left unattended.
- Secure your locker at all times. Lockers can be broken into easily, especially if they are not properly closed.
- Protect valuables that you leave in your car. If you drive to school, never leave valuables in plain view inside your car, even if you keep it locked.
What can I do to keep from being a victim of violent crime?
Here are some basic personal safety tips from the National Crime Prevention Council:
- Always tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
- Wherever you are, stay alert and tuned in to your surroundings.
- Trust your instincts. If something or someone makes you uneasy, avoid the person or leave.
- Know the neighborhoods where you live, go to school, and shop. Check out the locations of police and fire stations, public telephones, hospitals, and businesses that stay open late.
- Stick to well-traveled streets; avoid short-cuts through wooded areas, parking lots, or alleys.
- Carry only the money you’ll need on a particular day and don’t display large amounts of cash or other tempting targets such as hand-held electronic games or expensive jewelry and clothing.
- Try to use automated teller machines (ATMs) in the daytime. Have your card in hand and don’t approach the machine if you feel uneasy about the people nearby.
- If you think someone is following you, switch directions or cross the street. If the person continues to follow you, move quickly toward an open store or restaurant, a lighted house, or, even better, a fire house or police station. Don’t be afraid to blow your horn or yell for help.
- Try to park in well-lighted areas with good visibility and close to walkways, stores, and people.
- Make sure you have your key out as you approach your door.
- Always lock your car, even if it’s in your own driveway; never leave your motor running.
- If someone tries to rob you, give up your property – don’t give up your life.
- If you are robbed or assaulted, report the crime to the police. Try to describe the attacker accurately. Your actions can help prevent someone else from becoming a victim.
What can I do to prevent crime at my school and in my community?
Teens who want to help make their schools safer might consider starting a school crime watch program. Modeled after the Neighborhood Watch concept, a school crime watch is a student-led effort in which students work with school officials and law enforcement officers, such as the school resource officer. Students learn how to keep themselves from becoming victims of crime and how to report suspicious activities. Additional information on school crime watch programs can be obtained from the National Crime Prevention Council.