Staying Safe in Your Home and Neighborhood
The majority of most people's time is spent in their home. It is more than just a place to lay your head; it is your dwelling, your castle, it contains all of your personal items, and it is where you feel safe enough to sleep and make yourself vulnerable. The possible outcome from the center of your domestic universe being violated is staggering. The feelings of victimization and defenseless that you will experience in the aftermath of a burglary (or worse) can crush your reality. The average monetary loss during a burglary is $1400.00. Do not even put yourself in a position where this may happen to you or your family – secure your home the best you can, for your family's sake, and your own.
In 2009 in the United States (the last year data is available from the FBI), there were over 1.5 million home burglaries. That averages out to one every 19 seconds, meaning that by the time you get to this point in the article, there have been two or three. According to the same FBI crime statistics, there were twice as many residential burglaries during the day as there were at night – so do not make the mistake of having a false sense of safety just because it is broad daylight in your neighborhood. A home invasion is bad enough on it's own, but the intentions of a criminal breaking into your home vary widely. They may be there to steal your property, vandalize your home, hide from the police, or worse. You could become a victim of assault and battery, rape, or murder that begins as a home invasion crime. Up to 60% of rapes in the US happen during a burglary. It is absolutely vital that you prepare as much as you can to not only avert the unthinkable, but to harden your home in the event it is invaded.
How can this be done? What are the ways I can keep my family and I safe in our home? Following are some links and resources with a wealth of information to help you be as safe as you possibly can.
  • Crime Prevention Unit – Tempe, Arizona Police Department has compiled a fantastic resource for home protection covering every aspect of home security, from landscaping security to sliding glass doors.
  • Prevention Tips – San Diego, California Police Department web site that is another very informative resource that has many tips and ideas on preventing and dealing with a burglary.
  • Home Security Tips – The Miami Dade Police Department in Florida has created a home security checklist with questions to ask, also a list of 17 questions to ask when purchasing a home alarm.
  • Burglary Prevention – The Seattle, Washington Police Department offers tips on preventing burglary before it happens.
  • Home Security Checklist – The city of Bloomington, Minnesota has created a comprehensive checklist to use when assessing you own home.
  • Prevent Burglary List – Good list, with different catagories, on how to prevent burglaries in the home from the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety.
  • Neighborhood Security – Another website from the Seattle PD, this one instead focuses on neighborhood security.
  • Crime Prevention Resources – Phenomenal link resource and listing covering everything from apartment security to neighborhood security.
  • King County Security – The Sheriff's department in King Country, Washington has made a good listing of tips to secure your home.
  • Wisconsin Crime Prevention – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services created this tips page on home and personal security.
  • Catawba County – The Catawba County, North Carolina Sheriff's tips on crime prevention.
  • Home Security Systems – Web site from the Renton, Washington Police Department offering tips and resources when dealing with and choosing a home security system.
  • Louisville Home Security – Very detailed page from the Louisville, Kentucky Police Department with multiple links to other areas of concern.
  • Residential Security – Kansas has provided a two page residential security pamphlet with tips covering all points of entry into your home.
  • Phoenix Residential Protection – The Phoenix, Arizona Police Department and their take on how to prevent burglaries.
Who can be a sex offender? Any person who has been convicted in a court of law for a sex related offense. That sounds kind of broad, but a sex offender could have been convicted for a serious crime such as rape or molestation, or a relatively minor offense such as flashing or public urination. Essentially, any crime involving sexual deviancy whereby an offender was convicted. The exact definition will vary by state, but they are generally similar. Most jurisdictions also classify an offender into different categories, known as levels. The levels are normally one through three, with level one being low risk of reoffense and the danger to the public is not a large concern. Level two offenders pose a moderate risk to the public and are likely to reoffend is the circumstances are right. Level three sex offenders have a high probability of reoffending and pose a substantial danger to the general public.
The recidivism rate, or the rate at which an offender will reoffend, is startlingly low among sex offenders. The United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) released a report in 2002 that stated the rate of recidivism among convicted sex offenders was 5.3%. By contrast, the rate for non-sex offenders to be rearrested for any crime was 68%. Within three years of release from prison, 2.5% of convicted rapists were arrested again for a subsequent rape. By contrast again, the rate for homicide recidivism in the same time period was 1.2%. Not a substantial difference, but indicative of the overall recidivist nature of crime in the US. There several theories to explain the low recidivism rate, ranging from complete rehabilitation to increased intelligence into the perpetration of crime.
In many (most) jurisdictions across the US, former sex offenders must register in a database referred to a sex offender registry. This tool allows law enforcement to track the residences of offenders, and in most cases, the individuals must notify their jurisdiction if they move. Depending on the location and level of offender, the information contained in the registry is accessible to the public. A simple internet search of your local law enforcement agency will tell you about offenders in your area, if the jurisdiction participates. There are further restrictions on where and how an offender can live, again dependent on location. Many locales will not allow offenders to live within a certain proximity to a daycare or school zone, have minors living with them, or even possess toys or other items stimulating to children. Further, places frequented by minors are also off limits to offenders, irrespective of their residence. Some of these places include playgrounds, schools, parks and swimming pools, or anywhere minors can be expect to congregate.
Additional Resources:
  • Family Watchdog - “Awareness is your best defense.” That is the motto of the site, and it hopes to keep your family as safe as possible through information. Includes an offender search function.
  • State Legislation – National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) page that has fact sheets, reports, laws and more dealing with sex offenders.
  • Sex Offender Laws – Resource compiled by Ken Strutin, a well known lawyer and writer that has information, news and links.
  • Juvenile Sex Offenders – Links page dealing exclusively with juvenile sex offenders.
  • CSOM – The Center for Sex Offender Management home page, working to enhance public safety through prevention and management.
  • Megan's Law – Information about Megan's Law, which is the informal name for laws in the US dealing with sex offender registration.
  • Fact Sheet – USDOJ fact sheet (.PDF) with summary information on every states' offender registries.
  • Most Wanted – USDOJ list of the 10 Most Wanted sex offenders in the US.
  • SMART – Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking home page, operated by the USDOJ.
  • NSOPW – National Sex Offender Public Website, ran by the government, allows searching by many different criteria nationwide.
  • State Registries – FBI link listing of every states' sex offender registry web site.
  • AMBER Alert – AMBER alert home page, helping to find missing children as quickly as possible.
  • Code Amber – Great AMBER alert resource, with a national news listing from over 450,000 web pages across the internet.
  • Child Safety – Fantastic resource from Harvard University about how to keep children safe online.
  • ATSA – Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers page with questions and answers about facts of adult sex offenders.