The Community Crime Prevention Handbook

In 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released their latest collection of crime statistics. According to the 2012 data, violent crime rates increased from years previous; an estimated 1,214,462 violent crimes occurred nationwide, a small but measurable difference of 0.7 percent from 2011.

Throughout the U.S., community crime prevention programs are touted as effective and simple-to-initiate. Active participation from community members shifts the power dynamic away from criminals, and places it in the hands of community members. This helps alleviate the feeling of helplessness that many feel after a community crime has been committed, whether that crime is burglary or something more sinister.

Law enforcement organizations in many states have studied the effectiveness of neighborhood watch, a popular crime prevention program. Their study revealed that communities in Cypress, California, were able to cut burglaries by 52 percent and theft by 45 percent after enforcing a neighborhood watch program; results that make initiating a program in your own neighborhood an attractive option.

By researching your options, you are taking the first step toward a better, safer community. In this handbook, you will find a wealth of resources geared toward helping individuals and their neighborhoods stay safe.

Community Crime Risks and Trends

Community crime is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of crimes, including violent crime like assault and murder, and non-violent crime such as theft and vandalism.

While property crime has decreased, statistically, it’s important to note that many crimes are not reported by the victim or the police. Falling property crime rates may be attributable to better use of technology by authorities, as well as crime prevention groups such as Citizens on Patrol, Block Clubs, and neighborhood watch.

The crime rates that have increased, as in the case of violent crime, tend to spike in urban areas where low-income families often crowd together, like in public housing. High rates of drug abuse and unemployment may also contribute to an area’s risk factors.

For more information on crime rates and trends, visit your city’s law enforcement website; it’s usually an excellent starting point for gathering information about local rates. For example, New York City has crime statistics posted for each precinct weekly. Having knowledge of the crime in your area can help alert you to new trends in crime, and make it possible for you to take targeted preventative measures. Here are some links to searchable databases that allow you to track down crime statistics for various neighborhoods in the U.S.

By State

By City

Tips on Staying Safe / Strategies for Safe Communities

Every individual can benefit from implementing tried-and-true tips for staying safe in their neighborhood and community. The most widely offered piece of advice from community crime prevention professionals is two-pronged. First, take simple preventative measures such as locking your doors and windows, and second, always remain alert and know your surroundings. Below, you will find additional tips and resources, which point to more exhaustive crime prevention sources.

Home Safety and Security Strategies

Some measures you can take to keep your home safe may seem obvious. Check the smoke detectors. Lock the doors and windows. Don’t let strangers into your home. Don’t over-plug the electrical sockets. We all know these things. We know it’s a good idea to make emergency plans in case there’s a fire, and we know we should talk about what will be done in the event of a natural disaster.

Obvious, but these bear repeating. Home safety goes beyond the responsive measures of emergency plans. Securing the home against fire, burglary, and random accidents is the first step. Below is a list of ways to make your home safe for you and your family.

  • Install and regularly test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 24 percent of fire deaths occurred in homes with a smoke alarm installed but not functioning.
  • Don’t overuse extension cords or overflow power sockets. This could cause a short and start a fire.
  • Always be aware of what’s on, in, or near your oven while preparing a meal, and never leave the cooking food unattended.
  • Secure high accident areas. Tape down edges of rugs, elevate wires where possible, lock away hazardous materials, and don’t plug in anything near the bathtub or sink.
  • Don’t advertise what’s in your house. Breakdown the boxes from electronics and other high-end items for recycling. Don’t leave them on your curb for all to see; put them in a bin or take them to a recycling center.
  • Reinforce doors. Make sure any exterior door capable of holding a deadbolt has one. Dead bolts should extend one and a half inches or more into the door frame, and they should have a jimmy-proof strike plate secured opposite when installing. Any sliding door or window can be “locked” by inserting a rod into the track to keep it from opening fully.
  • Lock all doors and windows when away, don’t advertise that your home is empty when you’re on vacation, and install timers on interior and exterior lights to make it look like someone’s home when they’re not.
  • If your home abuts an alley, secure all back gates, doors and windows. Alleys are out of sight, and thieves are more likely to attempt a break in where no one can see.
  • Home Safety Links

Apartment Building Security Strategies

Much of the security of apartment buildings and multi-unit complexes relies on the vigilance of the owners and management. They are responsible for the safety of the tenants outside of their apartments. It falls to them to ensure that all exterior lighting, cameras, and locked entrances are in working order. They must maintain the safety of communal areas, such as laundry rooms, storage facilities, parking lots and garages, and walkways.

Ensuring your personal safety and the security of your belongings is as simple as the ABCs.

  • Always lock your doors and windows. Whether you’re in the apartment or not, the best way to keep someone out is to lock everything.
  • Be aware of your surroundings while in communal areas. Note any suspicious behavior, activity, or people; keep to well-lit areas when walking between your car and your apartment.
  • Call management or maintenance if you spot any burned out or broken lights; are concerned about the safety of certain parts of the complex; notice any damage done to your or another resident’s personal property.
  • Do not hold building doors open for unknown guests. Do not buzz in anyone who isn’t there to see you specifically. Do not leave your belongings unattended in the laundry room or your storage unit unlocked.
  • Exits from your apartment and building should remain clear and accessible in case of an emergency, but do not prop exit doors open.
  • Fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should never be disabled in your unit.
  • Go another way. If you feel uncomfortable, remove yourself from the situation.
  • Apartment Building Security Links

Theft Prevention & Home Security Technology

From putting a “This house is protected by…” sign in your yard to equipping your home with the latest in safe room technology, theft prevention and home security technology is quickly becoming affordable and available at our fingertips.

Traditional home security systems—with code pads, alarms, and a direct connection to emergency services—aren’t yet a thing of the past. Such systems give users peace of mind. The alarm is set when they leave for the day, and they feel secure in the knowledge that their system is a good deterrent for would-be thieves.

Many systems today are going a step further by providing their clients with a way to remotely access the lights, thermostat, and locks within their home. Some packages include cameras, allowing homeowners to visually check on their homes, families, and pets.

Smartphones are becoming integral in the protection of homes. Many security system providers have created applications for Android, iOS, and Microsoft phones. For a monthly fee for most services, app users can live stream any and all activity at home. They can receive alerts to emergencies and any activity or movement around parts of their homes they feel are most susceptible to break in.

Digital cameras, code pads, alarms, and signs in the yard have evolved to meet the expectations, needs, and standards of our technological and connected times.

Auto Safety and Security Strategies

Auto Theft and Carjacking Prevention: Though seemingly interchangeable, auto theft usually occurs when the vehicle owner isn’t looking. Cars are stolen from parking lots, driveways, or off the streets when there are no witnesses and the car is easily accessible and started. Carjacking tends to take more forethought, and the means of stealing the automobile are sometimes more violent.

An auto theft is a crime of opportunity. To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of such an act, keep the following in mind:

The prevention of becoming a victim of carjacking is as simple as remaining aware of your surroundings.

Alarming vehicles, always locking the doors, and keeping the keys on your person are a few ways to prevent car theft. Equipping your car with a tracking device and etching your license number in conspicuous places on your automobile will help with recovery should you become a victim of this crime. Installing a kill switch or extra steps to start the car will also prevent theft.

Road rage is not directly linked to car theft or carjacking, but it is a growing problem in our nation. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly 56 percent of motor accidents are the result of aggressive driving. Road rage behavior includes tailgating, erratic lane changing, illegal passing, and refusing to signal intent. Small or perceived offenses can turn situations on the road dangerous in seconds when road rage takes hold of someone. Below are ways to prevent road rage in yourself and ways to avoid it around you.

  • Be courteous and aware of what’s happening around you.
  • Safely change lanes to let someone wanting to pass around you when possible.
  • Keep both hands on the wheel and avoid using any gestures that can be seen as aggressive
    • Hand movements
    • Shaking your head
    • Making eye contact and frowning
    • Enunciating words where the other driver can see
  • Keep your own temper in check and avoid any aggressive or passive aggressive behavior.

If another drive becomes aggressive with you and will not let up after you let them pass:

  • Do not engage them further. Don’t look at them; don’t try to wave them around you. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.
  • Do not tap your breaks to stop tailgating. This could cause an accident. Keep driving and your eye on those in front of you in case they make any sudden changes.
  • Exit the motorway as soon and safely as possible. Stop somewhere populated—a convenient store, police station, shopping center, or hospital—if they continue to follow you.
    • Do not get out of your car
    • Honk to get the attention of someone in the surrounding area
    • Call the police if the other driver persists
  • Road Rage Links

Bicycle Security

Unlike with cars, bicycles can’t be equipped with an alarm system. Below are some tips on how to protect your bike from theft.

  • Purchase a good quality lock. Keep in mind that wire locks are easier to cut than most U-locks.
  • Lock your bike up properly. The back tire is more expensive to replace than the front. The best way to prevent theft is to thread the lock through the frame of the back and the back tire.
  • Register your bike. Your bike’s information will be saved in a database with your name and contact details, making the recovery of stolen property more efficient.
  • Bicycle Security Links

Graffiti Abatement

Some crimes against property, such as graffiti, are known as “quality of life” offenses. While they don’t physically attack or hurt anyone, they are harmful on more emotional levels. Spots that are regularly tagged with graffiti become demoralizing for the community as a whole. Below are a few tips on how to dissuade taggers.

Effective Community Action Plans

So, you’ve decided to take action against the crime in your neighborhood. What will your next step be? There is a wealth of free information and resources available, so it’s best to begin there. To get you started, we have listed some of the best online resources.

Community Prevention Strategies

According to Community Oriented Policing Services

“Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.”

In other words, community policing is the cooperation of the members of a community and law enforcement to make the quality of life for a neighborhood better. This includes, but isn’t limited to, neighborhood watch groups and Citizens on Patrol.

Neighborhood watches normally consist of residents coming together and watching the neighborhood. They are encouraged not to take any action beyond reporting suspicious activity and behavior in their neighborhood.

Citizens on Patrol are citizens who “act as the eyes and ears for law enforcement.” They are individuals who have been screened, background checked, and trained by local police. They patrol their communities in four to eight hour shifts and become very familiar with their communities. They report any suspicious activity the proper authorities.

Neither group carries or uses weapons, nor are they are not authorized to make arrests. They:

  • Work with local law enforcement office to develop a community action plan for residential security.
  • Stock up on group supplies, such as flashlights and whistles.
  • Collaborate with local businesses to host awareness events and raise funds for more security equipment.

Residents and police officers work together to create a secure and safe environment. This gives everyone a sense of community. Bonding together to prevent crime, to create a safe place to live, builds a support system within the group.

National Crime Prevention Organizations Links

How to Report a Crime

The resources listed in this handbook provide you with launching points for improving your personal safety and the safety of your community. These resources list strategies, which aim to help residents build a secure presence within their community and deter criminals.