Safety consists of "attempts to minimize the risk of injury, illness, or property damage from the hazards to which one may be exposed" (Edlin et al. 1999, p. 522). Safety for one's home, one's community, and oneself is best achieved through a joint effort involving individuals, schools, law enforcement, and other private and public agencies.
Home safety can be improved by exterior lighting around doors and windows, secure locks that are consistently used, block watch programs, and informing neighbors of unusual individuals or events. Internal home safety is optimized by lighting on stairways, lack of clutter, and consistent maintenance of home and contents.
The National Crime Prevention Council has identified several strategies to improve community safety. Community mobilization is the process of bringing individuals together so that they can jointly guard property, report suspicious behavior to the police, combat criminality, and form a spirit of community. Examples of communitymobilization efforts include neighborhood watch groups, mobilizing senior citizens as volunteers, business watch groups, and early warning arson prevention. These efforts are a cost-effective way to combat crime and reduce fear.
Violence prevention at the local level recognizes the need to punish violent offenders, support victims, and teach nonviolence. Strategies can include teaching conflict management, public dialogue, and dispute resolution; combating teen dating violence; court-based programs for victims of domestic violence; mentoring; and parent education.
Communities should also make efforts to assure safe public places. Thriving communities need parks, downtown shopping areas, business districts, schools, and public-housing communities where residents can feel protected from the threat of crime and violence. There are several ways to create such places through joint efforts with government agencies, businesses, law enforcement, and citizens' groups. Poverty, discrimination, lack of education, and lack of employment opportunities are important risk factors for violence and must be addressed as part of any comprehensive solution to the epidemic of violence in urban communities. Strategies for reducing violence should reach children early in life, before violent beliefs and behavioral patterns can be adopted.
A new concern for parents and teachers is the concept of cybersafety. The Internet has many sites devoted to pornography, hate literature and excessive violence, and parents and teachers need to monitor the web sites that children visit. The best defense for children is for adults to educate them about issues that can cause them harm. Parents and teachers should carefully select an online service that offers control features to block out different types of sites, and children should be taught to not give out personal information, to never agree to meet anyone without their parent's consent, and to never send a photo of themselves over the Internet to someone they do not know.
The reduction of intentional (deliberate) and nonintentional (accidental) injuries is the concern of both individuals and communities. Such injuries include nonfatal head injuries, nonfatal spinal cord injuries, firearm-related injuries and deaths, motor vehicle-related injuries, poisonings, and deaths from suffocation. Prevention strategies for unintentional injuries include the use of safety belts, child restraints, motorcycle and bicycle helmets, graduated driver licensing, and functioning smoke alarms in residences.
Understanding the factors that cause injuries allows for development and implementation of effective prevention interventions to improve safety. Some interventions can reduce injuries from both unintentional and violence-related causes. For instance, efforts to promote proper storage of firearms in homes can help reduce the risk of unintentional shootings in the home. Higher taxes on alcoholic beverages are associated with lower death rates from motor vehicle crashes and lower rates for some categories of violent crime, including rape.
Women face special threats to their safety. Date rape (acquaintance rape) occurs when a date, boyfriend, or someone that a woman knows forces sexual relations. Women can help protect their safety while dating by openly discussing sexual expectations. Women also need to be very careful not to become intoxicated or be under the influence of any substance that will lessen their ability to make rational decisions while on a date.
Although recent tragedies and mass murders at schools have led to the conclusion that schools are becoming less safe, it is important to remember that 90 percent of the schools in the United States are free of violent crimes and serious safety issues (U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, 1998). In recent years there has been a decrease in criminality and the number of children carrying weapons to school. Some of the reasons for this change are due in part to increases in school security measures, zero-tolerance policies, and the implementation of school violence prevention programs (U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, 1998). Children are more likely to be the victim of a crime or seriously harmed in their own home or in the community than at school. Despite these facts, children are more fearful of school today than what has historically been reported.
To continue the decrease in school criminality and hopefully lessen the incidents of school shootings/mass murders, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice (1998) recommend the following for schools to do the following:
- Provide strong administrative support for assessing and enhancing school safety.
- Redesign the school facility to eliminate dark, secluded, and unsupervised spaces.
- Devise a system for reporting and analyzing violent and noncriminal incidents.
- Design an effective discipline policy.
- Build a partnership with local law enforcement.
- Enlist school security professionals in designing and maintaining the school security system.
- Train school staff in all aspects of violence prevention.
- Provide all students access to school psychologists or counselors.
- Provide crisis response services.
- Implement school-wide education and training on avoiding and preventing violence.
- Use alternative school settings for educating violent and weapon-carrying students.
- Create a climate of tolerance (address racism and discrimination).
- Provide appropriate education services to all students.
- Reach out to communities and businesses to improve the safety of students.
- Actively involve students in making decisions about school policies and programs.
- Prepare an annual report on school crime and safety.
Some specific measures that a school can initiate quickly are the following: "hiring security personnel, installing security devices, conducting random inspections, and providing students/staff with identification cards" (U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice 1998, p.
TAMMY A. KING
(SEE ALSO: Behavioral Change; Community Organization; Crime; Domestic Violence; Family Health; Legislation and Regulation; Occupational Safety and Health; Street Violence; United States Consumer Product Safety Commission; Violence)
Eldin, G.; Golanty, E.; and Brown, K. M. (1999). Health and Wellness, 6th edition. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
National Crime Prevention Council (2000). Cybersafety for Kids Online: A Parent's Guide. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. NCPC information is available at http://www.ncpc.org.
—— (2000). Date Rape Is a Power Trip. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
—— (2000). Invest in Home Security. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice (1998). Annual Report on School Safety. (Pamphlet released by Richard W. Riley, Secretary of Education and Janet Reno, Attorney General.)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2000). Health People 2010. Available at http://web.health.gov/healthypeople/.