Crime has negative effects on community morale as well as business growth and development because community members' fear of being victimized by crime affects their purchasing habits and their community involvement. It also negatively impacts a region's tourism.
Preventing crime is a joint effort on the part of lawmakers, law enforcement and all people who live and work in a community. It can be easy for a resident to underestimate his role in preventing crime in his community, but the truth is that residents' role in preventing crime is as critical to reducing crime levels as law enforcement's role. Every member of a community can take simple steps to cut down on crime and make his community a safer, more productive place to live, work and visit.
Be Up-to-Date on New Initiatives
Stay informed of crime legislation initiatives. You can do this by reading the local news on the internet or in the newspaper or by watching the local news broadcast. You can also keep yourself updated on new legislative proposals and bills' progress by contacting your local representatives. Social media is a great place to get information and join conversations with other concerned citizens in your area, but always remember to double-check your facts. Anybody can post anything on social media, and it's your responsibility to differentiate between what's fact and what's fiction.
When you contact your local representatives, encourage them to vote for bills that target crime and protect communities. These bills include legislation for programs that reduce crime like prescription drug return programs as well as initiatives for new laws, like curfews for underage residents.
Get Involved in Your Community
Crime prevention starts with community involvement. If your neighborhood has a neighborhood watch program, join it. If it does not, start one.
There's more to preventing crime than stopping would-be criminals in the act. You can help keep people from becoming those would-be criminals by volunteering your time and donating money to social programs that help at-risk youth, like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Programs like this connect local youth with mentors who can provide a positive influence and steer them away from risky and criminal behavior.
Report Any Crimes You Witness
This includes situations that look like they could be criminal, but you are not completely sure if an actual crime has occurred. If you are concerned about your own safety, you can make your reports anonymously.
Report local offenses to your local law enforcement. Others, like suspected human trafficking and other, "bigger" violations, can be reported online to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Take Personal Responsibility for Your Safety
You should also take personal precautions to reduce your chance of becoming a victim of crime. These include:
- Securing your valuables. This is as simple as locking your car and home doors.
- Use monitored alarm systems to protect your home and vehicle.
- Avoid leaving high-priced items in plain view of others.
- Store yard and portable items in your garage when you are not home.
- Never flaunt large amounts of cash or jewelry.
- Do not share your online passwords or PIN.
- Walk along well-lit paths when traveling outside.
- Travel with a group.
- Never go to unfamiliar places by yourself, especially at night.
- Always keep a charged cellphone with you.
Remember, you can cut down your chance of becoming a crime victim but you can never totally eliminate it. If you do become a crime victim, report the incident to local law enforcement as soon as possible. Provide as much evidence as you can to help law enforcement catch the offender and file a charge, like a vivid description of his identity and the exact date, time and location of the incident.
If you witness what you believe to be a crime happening, do not try to apprehend the alleged perpetrator. Instead, call the police and let them handle it. Getting involved in a potentially criminal situation is dangerous and can result in injury or even death.
Encourage your local police to patrol high-crime areas more frequently and engage with the community in more visible ways.