The ABCs of crimeproofing your kids start with WWW! To protect your kids from crime, you must continually have a clear and consistent dialog regarding what theyíre doing, where it will occur, and with whom it will take place. In addition to this common sense practice, there are many precautions that you can introduce while having fun in the process. If you have older kids, click this link or read on for preschool and early elementary age crime proofing tips.
You donít want to make your little ones paranoid about every bad thing in the world, so itís good to instill safe thinking habits in creative, non-threatening ways. Encourage informal conversations during play sessions about objects being colored or, trace some pre-selected images of safe and unsafe situations to be decorated while chatting about depicted activities.
As early as possible, teach your child to memorize your home telephone number and area code, address with major nearby cross streets, plus age, height, weight and eye color. For a play activity, join with your child to trace his or her shoe and cut out its outline. Artfully record key kid facts on the footprint, and decorate it together. Finally, laminate it for insertion under a shoe lining.
Play the "Tip Off" game in different settings. Before leaving home, design a scorecard to reflect the theme of your destination, like a local mall, grocery store or playground. Each player gets a point when he or she recognizes a safe or unsafe "Tip-Off" like avoiding that shady character in the mall parking lot. The "Tip Off" game can also be effectively played while driving to any destination. Car trips present plenty of opportunities to casually scope out unsafe conditions along the road like poorly lit alleys, densely wooded areas, hitchhikers and lurking strangers in parked cars. Try to balance the game with positive "Tip-Offs" like locating Block Parent signs, and places that are cool to visit together.
Encourage your young child to read magazine and website pictures with you as a way to talk about the world and your neighborhood, and explain why itís smart to always be aware of whatís happening close at hand.
McGruff, the Crime Dog‚ was created by The National Crime Prevention Council, to help kids "Take a Bite Out of Crime"‚. He sponsors clever games that encourage safe thinking and how to spot whatís safe, and whatís not. You can play his games together while online at www.ncpc.org, and you may want to consider inserting some of your neighborhood facts and figures into the games.
Consider helping to make your neighborhood safer by participating in The National Neighborhood Watch Program. This project was launched nationwide by The National Sheriffsí Association when it expanded the practical "extra eyes and ears," concept in the 70s. You can organize a local group and advertise your presence to would-be criminals by posting home window decals and customized Boris The Burglarš street signs.
Donít make the mistake that because you grew up in different times and that you live in a good neighborhood, that you donít need to teach your adolescents about crime until they are older. Today kids need to know the basics of safety by the time theyíre old enough to spend any time alone. Because according to the U.S. Department of Justice, 1999 Juvenile Justice Bulletin: "Juveniles are twice as likely as adults to be victims of serious violent crime and three times as likely to be victims of assault. One in eighteen victims of violent crime is under age 12."
Youth Crime Watch of America (YCWA at www.ycwa.org), a non-profit crime prevention group, sponsors nationwide "Youth Crime Watch Programs" that are run be young volunteers in cooperation with adult advisors. This is a perfect opportunity for teens to learn-by-doing. They become positive role models at school and in the community, and learn constructive ways to prevent crime against themselves, their friends and their neighbors. The programs serve dual purposes -- crimeproofing teens and deterring juvenile delinquency.
YCWA publishes the "Stand Up and Start a School Crime Watch" bulletin series designed for young audiences that urges and informs kids how to setup and run local programs. Teens learn about good citizenship, and how to be a Good Samaritan through the "watching out, helping out" program philosophy. Teens themselves become resources for preventing crime in their schools and neighborhoods as they practice peer teaching, participate in safety patrols, and learn to appreciate the value of mentoring. These are all very practical skills for later life. A major emphasis is put on reporting suspicious activities to deter crime.
Everyday safety tips:
- Make sure your adolescents and teens know that they should keep a safe distance from any cars stopping for directions.
- If a stranger asks for help, kids should immediately find a designated adult and have the adult help the stranger.
- Plan safe routes to and from school with your kids.
- Teach your kids and their friends that there is safety in numbers.
- Tell your kids not to enter your house if they see signs of entry by an intruder.
- Establish a check-in routine to inform you when the kids arrive home safely.
- Explain the importance of staying away from people engaged in arguments, shouting or seemingly shady transactions. They can end in violence or, in the case of illegal activity, increase the probability of drive-by shootings.
Teens, Crime and Community (TCC at www.nationaltcc.org) is another terrific crime deterring organization created to help reduce teen victimization by teaching them how to get involved and protect their communities through action.
Protecting kids from criminal victimization is also one of the major goals of The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). The OJJDPís website is at www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org and it provides a wealth of related information for families.
Your pro-active crime stopping efforts always directly or indirectly benefit your kids. One website to visit for information about helping your local police is www.sheriffs.org. Click on the Community Policing Consortium icon for ways to work with local law enforcement agencies.