Posts tagged ‘personal safety’

Crime Prevention Insights from a Former Jewel Thief

George Feder was the “Houdini of Jewel Thieves” through the 60s and 70s until he was caught by the FBI and received a 15-year prison sentence. Now he works with law enforcement and is an advocate for crime prevention. Feder has the inside track to the criminal mind and can tell you exactly what a burglar looks for when they are looking to break into your residence.

The video below shows Feder demonstrating how he used to break into apartments. As he goes through his process, he offers subtle hints as to what you can do to make your home an unattractive target for other burglars.

Feder will also soon be contributing his experience and passion for crime prevention to this very blog. Look for his posts soon. In the mean time you can visit his website and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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October 28, 2009 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

Halloween Safety Myths

For good reason, Halloween strikes fear into the hearts of parents everywhere. Not only is there the threat of ghosts and ghouls, but it’s the one night of the year when we send our children out to wander the streets of our cities and towns to beg candy from complete strangers. Which is, pretty much, the exact opposite of what we try and teach them the other 364 days of the year.

Halloween also has a reputation for being a night, more than others, when children are preyed upon by twisted individuals who what to poison their candy and kidnap them. It’s easy to see how these fears have arisen. Given the creepiness of the holiday along with the anonymity of costumed adults, walks in the dark, and bags full of candy from strangers, it’s not surprising that parents have put barriers in place to prevent crime against their children on this night.

However, two specific fears have been allowed to fester in the minds of concerned parents for years, but have no actual basis in reality. In order to truly keep your children safe on Halloween, its best to dispel the myths and deal with the real threats of the holiday.

Poison Candy

For years, news media and community groups have counseled parents to vigorously inspect their children’s candy for razor blades, pins, or poison. (As well, shortly after 9/11 parents were told to inspect candy for Anthrax.) But you will be hard pressed to find a single case of Halloween candy poisoning, let alone candy laced with razor blades or pins. In fact, there has never been a recorded case of mass Halloween candy poisoning.

There was a case in 1974, where a father slipped a cyanide-laced Pixie stick into his son’s trick-or-treating bag. The son died, but the father was found guilty of murder and executed for his crime. So, according to precedent, Halloween candy from strangers is statistically safer than candy from family and friends. (For more on this myth, click here.)

Child Molesters

In general, most people are afraid of sex offenders and for good reason. Sex offender residency laws are popular precisely because no one wants to associate with a known rapist or raise their children next door to a child molester. However, there is a sense that child molesters pose a greater threat on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Maybe it’s the hordes of children knocking on neighborhood doors that gets us thinking about sex offenders in the area, but in reality sex crimes against children have never increased on Halloween. Actually, sex crimes against children are traditionally higher during summer months, and tend to decrease as the weather gets cooler.

Real Threats

By no means is Halloween the safest holiday of the year or the most crime free. Children are still at risk for getting lost or injuring themselves while walking around a dark neighborhood in a cumbersome costume. Make sure that your children are accompanied by an adult at all times—preferably with a flashlight. Also, make sure your children know basic traffic safety rules. Besides preventing them from eating too much candy, the best thing you can do for your children on Halloween is to be with them and make sure they have fun.

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October 28, 2009 at 10:00 pm 1 comment

Halloween Safety Tips

Late last week I posted on Halloween safety myths about poison candy and sex offenders, but now that all-hallows’-eve is approaching, it might also be good to go over some basic Halloween safety tips that will help you and your children have a fun time this Saturday night.

Set Clear Rules

As parents it’s important to set clear rules and expectations for your children on Halloween night.

  • Set a clear curfew
  • Agree on a trick-or-treating route so you will know where your children are
  • Know what parties and places your children will be

Tricks

Halloween seems to be the one time of year that good kids think it’s okay to do bad things. Talk to your children about the consequences of vandalism, graffiti, theft, or destruction of property. Smashing pumpkins, stealing candy from smaller children, egging houses/cars, and other destructive acts may seem harmless to inexperienced kids, but they could have far-reaching consequences, emotionally for the victims and legally for the perpetrators. Keep your children out of trouble by clearly letting them know about the consequences of their actions.

Costumes

It’s fun to dress up on Halloween, but some costumes can present safety hazards if they are overly cumbersome, awkward, or restrict a child’s vision. These costumes can present a tripping hazard or prevent children from seeing well enough to avoid dangerous objects in the dark. No child wants to sprain an ankle on Halloween and go home early without collecting all the candy booty they can. As well, make sure that any props (fake knives, swords, sticks, etc.) the children carry are soft or pliable enough to not cause injury if they are fallen upon.

Image courtesy of the US Comsumer Product Safety Commision

Safety

Because so many children and families will be out in the dark on Halloween night, basic safety tips are even more important.

  • Make sure younger children are always accompanied by an adult or teenaged sibling with a flashlight
  • Look both ways before you cross the street
  • Wear reflective clothing or carry a glow stick to alert drivers to your presence

Overall, it’s simply important to make sure that you and your children exercise good judgment and follow basic safe guidelines, so you can all have a good time.

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October 27, 2009 at 7:51 pm Leave a comment

Domestic Violence Statistics Not Low Enough

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 552, 000 females, age 12 and older, experienced non-fatal violence from an intimate partner in 2008. In 2007, 1,640 females were killed by an intimate partner, making up 70% of all intimate partner homicides. And although the numbers of women killed by an intimate partner has declined in the last decade, I don’t know anyone who thinks these numbers are low enough.

To make things worse, the reach of domestic violence goes beyond the immediate victim. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 38% of victims of domestic violence had children under the age of 12 living in the home. And of those children in the home, it is estimated that 60% directly witnessed the violence. (See full statistics from the BJS here.)

Societal Impediments

For some reason, our society, and many others across the globe, have an aversion to interfering in domestic violence incidents. Some people feel that it’s a family matter or that they have no business getting into a fight between spouses or family members. This attitude has even been reflected in law enforcement practice, waiting for a battered woman to press charges against an abuser before taking any legal action. But perhaps things are changing with a new program created by the Baltimore Police Department.

A New Way to Fight Domestic Violence

The Baltimore PD has created a new Family Crime Unit designed specifically to intervene in domestic violence situations early, before these situations descalate into serious injury or death. According to Peter Hermann, of the Baltimore Sun, the new unit has been modeled after the homicide division, in order to more aggressively act on domestic violence incidents and prevent further violence before it happens. And the unit is already seeing some success. For example, this year, Baltimore has only seen 4 domestic killings, as opposed to 13-14 in years previous. And this success comes at a time when the economy is down, traditionally a time when domestic violence rises. (Read about the extent of the program here.)

Their approach to domestic violence is something that needs to be modeled in other law enforcement agencies across the county. Domestic violence is NOT just a family matter. It affects us all. Be aware of the issues and become an active citizen in favor of a smarter, more aggressive domestic violence response unit for you local law enforcement agency.

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October 26, 2009 at 11:00 pm 2 comments

Preventing Child Abuse Through Education

The Future of Children, a collaboration between Princeton and the Brookings Institute, publishes a semi-annual journal focused on studies and issues regarding children and youth: challenges, concerns, trends, etc. This Fall’s issue dedicates its entire issue to preventing child abuse. The eight articles published this month cover issues like the effect of community efforts in preventing child abuse, preventing abuse through parent training, drug treatment, child protective services, and more.

To get a good understanding of current research regarding child abuse and prevention, you can download and read the entire journal for free here: http://www.futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/journals/journal_details/index.xml?journalid=71

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October 2, 2009 at 12:32 pm Leave a comment

Don’t Ignore Domestic Violence

The Galveston County Daily News recently published a story about offering help to victims of domestic violence. Dr. Jeff Temple, a professor at the University of Texas, asks these questions:

If you witnessed someone breaking into your neighbor’s house, would you call the police?

What if you saw someone stealing the neighbor’s car? How about if you saw your neighbor hit his wife?

This last question might be a bit more difficult to answer, but it shouldn’t be.

Many people are afraid to get involved in instances of domestic abuse. Some think it is a personal matter and they shouldn’t get involved in anyone’s private business. But Dr. Temple says that kind of thinking is wrong:

Domestic violence is not a private matter; it is a severe and pervasive public health concern that demands the same diligence as other problems you might encounter in your neighborhood.

A marriage license is not a license to hit. If you witness an incident of domestic violence, call the police.

Assault is assault no matter how you slice it. Just because it occurs between intimate partners does not mean we can look the other way.

If you know someone who is involved in an abuse relationship, offer specific help. Let them know where they can go, what numbers to call, what websites to go to, and who they can turn to for help. They may not want your help, but if you offer it, then they will know who they can come to when they are ready to get help.

Read Temple’s full article here: http://www.galvestondailynews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=6d157091e4add50c

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September 29, 2009 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Cops vs. Skateboarders: Issues in Property and Safety

Officer Rivieri, the officer featured in the video, was sued by the parents of the boy he attacked, but the case was recently thrown out of court in favor of Rivieri. But he may face department disciplinary action.

I recently saw this video of a Baltimore police officer yelling at and physically subduing a 14-year-old skateboarder. The video was posted in February 2008 and has been viewed on YouTube over 3 million times. But other than being popular, this video is not unique. A quick search on YouTube brings up a whole host of videos documenting the clashes between law enforcement and skateboarders, and these clashes have been taking place for as long as skateboarders have been on the streets. Sometimes it seems that skateboarders and cops are destined to be locked in an eternal battle over property, safety, and miscommunication.

As a parent, you want to make sure that your children are safe, but you also want to give them the freedom to pursue what they enjoy in life. There are a few main issues involved in skater/law enforcement clashes that might help us to better steer our skateboarding children away from confrontations with police.

Property Concerns

Most of the time, when police confront skaters it’s over issues involving private or public property. Some private property owners do not want skaters on their property, in front of their store, in their parking lot, etc., because they see skaters as a injury liability, and the same goes for public property. If a skater falls and seriously injures him or herself in or around private or public property, the owner or the city could be liable for that injury. To avoid being sued by a skater’s parents over their child’s high-injury-risk behavior, the city or private property owners deter skaters from practicing on the

A waxed curb

Example of a waxed curb

property through “No Skateboarding” signs and law enforcement patrols. As well, if a skater is caught skating on private property he or she could be charged with trespassing.

In addition to simple trespassing and the risk of potential injury, skaters often participate in defacing or damaging public and private property. Skaters use city features to do tricks. Objects like handrails, benches, stairs, curbs, or other concrete or metal structures can be damaged by skaters who use them to grind on, jump off, and jump onto. As well, most cities view the use of wax on concrete features as defacing public property, akin to graffiti. This damage costs the city money to fix, so it seems logical that they would want to keep skaters from damaging these features.

Public Nuisance

Concerns over property are not the only reason business owners and law enforcement don’t want skaters in certain areas. Because skateboarding is a very physical sport, not only does it pose an injury risk to skaters, but to other citizens as well. Not landing a jump or not having control of one’s board could cause skaters to run into other citizens in the immediate area, causing them injury. Depending on where the skating is happening and at what time, this can be a big concern for business owners who don’t want their customers hassled by skaters and law enforcement who want to keep citizens safe.

Skater fashion

Skater fashion

But beyond safety, many business owners don’t want skaters around simply because they do not have the image the business is trying to convey. In general, skateboarding is not only a sport but a fashion style that may include saggy pants, long hair, ripped clothing, and more. A business owner may be averse to letting these perceived shady characters skate on their property. And although, technically, only the fashion police can arrest you for looking grungy, law enforcement officers also want public places to look nice, so trying to persuade skaters to leave those areas might be viewed as a small-scale public beautification project.

Physical Threats

Although law enforcement has many reasons to enforce property and safety laws, that does not always mean they do so in an appropriate way. As evidenced in the video mentioned above, some officers will use force when they perceive that a citizen is being disrespectful or will not comply with verbal warnings. As well, law enforcement officers face potentially dangerous situations everyday and encounter a lot of criticism from the public and the media. Law enforcement is a high-stress job, and skaters who talk back, make off-color remarks, or don’t respect the law way be seen as a threat even if they pose no immediate physical threat at all.

Avoiding Police Confrontation

As a parent, it’s important to let your child know that law enforcement officers are mainly concerned with safety and property issues when it comes to skateboarders. Here are some thing to avoid:

  • Avoid skating on private or public property that explicitly states “No Skateboarding.”
  • Don’t damage property either by grinding on it or waxing it.
  • Show respect for law enforcement—even if you think they are in the wrong—showing respect will help avoid potentially dangerous confrontations. If the officer really is in the wrong, file a complaint. An officer who receives multiple complaints raises a red flag for that officer’s superior.
Skate park

Skate park

In areas where a skate park is available, help your child make use of it, so they can avoid confrontation with police. If you don’t have a skate park in your area, lobby your city council to build one and point out that creating such a park will reduce crime and concentrate skaters into one area. Overall, just keep in mind that police are not out to “get” your skateboarding son or daughter. They are just trying to keep your city safe and clean. If you let your child know what officers are most concerned about, you may help them to avoid potentially dangerous situations in the future and skate safety.

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September 24, 2009 at 7:55 am 4 comments

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