Some people coming here may find this section out of place on WriteAPrisoner.com; however, there is no more appropriate place for it. Crime is a real and growing problem. We must do our part to stop criminals and rehabilitate them. A car thief does not belong in prison for life, but he does not belong out here stealing cars either. While it may be our place to push for sentencing reform, it is also our place as a society to prevent crime and safeguard our families.
Child Abuse Detection & Reporting
Detecting and reporting child neglect and abuse is a subject that cannot be taken lightly. You don't want to ever accuse someone of this without having something definitive. Doing so could be scarring for both the parents and child. Here are some tips on detecting and reporting child abuse.
- Not all of child abuse is physical abuse. Emotional abuse and neglect can also be forms of child abuse.
- The National Child Abuse Hotline is answered 24 hours a day by professionals who have resources at their fingertips. Phone: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
Warning signs of:
- Emotional abuse in children
- Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
- Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive).
- Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
- Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantrums).
- Physical abuse in children
- Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts.
- Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
- Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
- Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
- Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.
- Neglect in children
- Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather.
- Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
- Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
- Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments.
- Is frequently late or missing from school.
- Sexual abuse in children
- Trouble walking or sitting.
- Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
- Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
- Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
- An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14.
- Runs away from home.
(“Warning Signs” provided by HelpGuide.org at http://helpguide.org/mental/child_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm)
Community Crime Prevention
Neighborhood watch groups are good programs to keep crime down in smaller areas such as a street or even a block. It's also a good way to get to know and look out for your neighbor. You might also check with local law enforcement to find out if such an organization already exists in your area.
- First, go knock on some doors to see which of your neighbors would like to participate in your first meeting.
- Second, contact your local police department to let them know of your intentions. Ask if they have an officer who would be available to speak. If not, ask if there are any laws that require you to function in a certain way.
- Third, you will need to come up with an agenda for your group - what are your goals and function?
- Fourth, share names and contact numbers with everyone in the group. Collect email addresses (phone numbers as an alternative) to alert people of important information pertaining to your neighborhood watch.
- Last, post signs and decals promoting your neighborhood watch to ward off criminal activity.
- Fraud - Credit fraud is a common form of cybercrime. Certain computer viruses record keystrokes on your keyboard and send them to attackers, who can then capture your identification information (Social Security number, credit card number, address, etc.). This information can be used to destroy your credit while charging any and everything to your account. Run quality updated Internet protection software, and avoid suspicious websites.
- Online Harassment - This cyber crime encompasses all the obscenities and derogatory comments directed towards a specific individual or individuals focusing for example on gender, race, religion, nationality, and sexual orientation
- Pirated Content – Despite its wide use and acceptance, downloading pirated music and software is illegal. The industries that own them have been filing charges, and Internet providers have become increasingly involved sharing your information when prompted by law enforcement. It is simply not worth the risk.
- Protecting Your Children Online - This is an essential task in today's world, and we maintain an entire section for that at Keep Kids Safe.
- Spam Email – Spam is somewhat tolerated, but it is still illegal. It may be difficult to report every spammer, so we recommend only reporting extreme cases e.g., you are receiving the same spam every day for weeks at a time.
- Filing a Criminal Complaint for Online Crime - If you wish to file an official complaint with the U.S. Government against a cybercrime, please visit this link: http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
- If you receive a suspicious looking e-mail, even from a friend, do not download or open the attachment, and do not click on the link provided. Delete the email and then alert your friend whose email account may have been hacked. If the e-mail was legitimate, your friend will let you know and can always resend it to you.
- Never, ever give your bank account information to anyone who has contacted you by e-mail. These scams are widely known, but people still fall victim every day to promises of commissions for transferring money, etc. Never engage in financial transactions with people who have contacted you randomly through e-mail.
Of course this is a subject that we must address, and we have already done so in great detail on Detecting and Reporting Fraud.
Reporting a Crime
One great tip is to program every local police department's phone number into your cell phone. Start each listing with "Police" under “Favorites” or “Speed Dialing.” If you are witnessing something that warrants a phone call to law enforcement, you may find yourself flustered as you try to call them. Programming their numbers into your phone makes this whole process much more efficient. When you get a police dispatcher, briefly and clearly give a description of what the nature of your call is and give your location immediately following that. In addition to regular law enforcement numbers, you should also have 9-1-1 programmed into your phone for quick dialing.
The subject of low-income housing projects is one of concern for crime prevention and the reporting of crimes. There is an inherent risk in some neighborhoods of reporting criminal activity and then being the victim of violent crime as a result. This is why some people turn a blind eye to criminal activity in their neighborhood. If you do wish to report a crime in a community such as this and are afraid to do so, report it anonymously to the police. While it may be harder on law enforcement to address the problem, it often times can give them enough to work with.
Cell phones have emerged as excellent tools for recording sound and/or video with regard to criminal behavior. Do not put yourself in harm’s way to gather evidence; this is what the police are trained to do. But if the criminal behavior is something you can easily record with your cell phone camera without jeopardizing your safety, it is worth considering.
Securing Your Home, Self and Vehicle
Home invasions and robberies have grown much more commonplace in America. Securing your home, self and vehicle are smart decisions that can save your life.
- If you can afford it, have a monitored security system installed. Visible cameras that record activity outside your home are a strong deterrent to crime. So are motion-sensor lights, dogs, and signs that warn would-be intruders that your property is protected.
- Traveling? Make arrangements to stop delivery of your newspaper and mail, or have a trusted friend or family member come over and collect them. Install timers on various lights in the house to give the appearance someone is home.
- Never hide a key outdoors in an obvious spot such as under a pot, rock, etc. Criminals know all of the obvious places to look. If you hide a key, it should be in a highly unsuspecting place.
- Have a plan if you hear someone breaking in. Think this through the same as you would for a possible fire or other emergency. If you have “rehearsed” for such an event you will be much less likely to panic under such circumstances.
- Take a basic self-defense class. Have family members do the same.
- Familiarize yourself with laws regarding pepper spray and similar products to see if they are legal to carry where you live. If they are, purchase one unit to practice with from time to time and another to have on hand, especially if you go out walking or jogging.
- Use the buddy system whenever possible. Try to avoid being alone in questionable places.
- Avoid known bad neighborhoods. If you are lost, find a well lit and well populated public place, perhaps a store, to seek shelter. Go inside and call for a ride.
- Going to the ATM? This has been a growing crime problem. Scan the area for suspicious activity. Avoid going to an ATM at night. Try to use an ATM located inside of a store if possible.
- For your personal reassurance, list an “ICE” number on your cell phone. “ICE” stands for In Case of Emergency. This should be done in case you are unconscious and someone is trying to reach your emergency contact person. You may have several “ICE” numbers, such as a parent, child or friend.
- When leaving a public place and walking to your vehicle, always scan the area for suspicious activity. If you see someone suspicious, go back inside and find someone to escort you to your car, or phone the police if the behavior is at all questionable.
- Never unlock your car doors from far away, thus giving someone time to jump in your car. Most automatic car locks (on your keychain) will open just the driver’s door. Be familiar with how your automatic locks work.
- Never leave valuables in plain sight in your car. This is inviting to a thief.
- If someone is following you, use your cell phone to call the police and alert them. If you do not have a cell phone with you, drive to the nearest police station, pull in and blow your horn. Try to get the license number if you can to give to police. If you are in an unfamiliar area and don’t know where the police station is located, drive to the most well lit and heavily populated place, such as a Wal-Mart. Pull into the fire lane and blow your horn for help.
- Keep a first aid kit and emergency road kit in your car. Should you be the victim of a crime on the road, such tools could save your life.
Be safe. Use common sense. Trust your instincts. Keep your cell phone handy and emergency numbers easy to access. We cannot advise you on what to do should you find yourself attacked or in harm’s way. Some people have successfully fought off their would-be attackers. Others gave in, such as in situations involving rape, to avoid being killed. We cannot give advice for such situations and provide this section to create awareness and to encourage you to take a personal inventory of your life, lifestyle, and the likelihood of being a crime victim. Think prevention. Think awareness. No one should live in a perpetual state of fear, but thinking about possible events ahead of time can make you much more prepared should you become a potential victim.
Disclaimer: WriteAPrisoner.com makes no claims to be experts on the material above and cannot be held liable as a result of any action you take based on this information. This document is simply an informational guide and is not intended as legal advice. It is recommended that you research all content yourself and consult a professional if you have questions.