Teens At Risk

Road Rules

Getting a driver's license is a big deal for every teenager. It represents freedom, the chance to go new places, and a great deal of responsibility. The vehicle you drive ? the family car, a motorcycle, even your own car ? may seem like an oasis, safe from the hassles of everyday life. But you are still vulnerable to crime.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to help keep you crime free on the road:

  • Don't drink or do other drugs and drive. And don't ride with drivers who are under the influence.
  • Keep your car in good working condition and the gas tank full. If your car does break down, pull over and stay inside it with the doors locked and the windows rolled up. Wait for the police to arrive or ask a passing motorist to call the police for you.
  • Always lock a parked car, and look under and inside the entire car to see if someone has gotten into your car before you get back in.
  • Avoid parking in isolated areas. If you're uncomfortable about where your car is parked, ask a security guard or store staff to watch you or escort you to your car.
  • Drive to the nearest gas station, open business, or busy, well-lighted area to get help if you think you are being followed. Don't head home.
  • Use your cellular phone, if you have one, to call the police if you are being followed. Otherwise, stay off cellular phones while you are driving.
  • Don't pick up hitchhikers. Don't hitchhike.

Taking Your Anger on the Road

Road rage; uncontrolled anger or frustration because of traffic conditions or other drivers ? is becoming a serious problem throughout the country. A majority of drivers get angry when someone cuts them off or tailgates them. Here are some tips on avoiding road rage:

  • Keep calm when you're driving. Instead of retaliating, count to 10 and take a few deep breaths.
  • Back off when someone cuts you off. If someone tailgates you, change lanes. Don't get pulled into a game of chicken on the road. Your life and the lives of others are at stake.
  • Keep a reasonable distance between you and the car in front of you, and make sure that you aren't cutting someone off when you change lanes. Drive in the passing lane only when you are passing another car, and be sure to use your signals.
  • Use your horn sparingly ? as a warning, not an outburst.
  • Don't make obscene gestures to other drivers, no matter how mad they make you ? even if they make obscene gestures at you.
  • Don't fight over parking spots.
  • Stay out or move out of the way of other angry drivers.
  • Don't Make it Easy for a Thief To Steal Your Wheels, you don't want to lose your newfound freedom by losing your car.

The Basic Prevention Policy:

  • Never leave your car running or the keys in the ignition when you're away from it, even for "just a minute."
  • Always roll up the windows and lock the car, even when it is front of your home.
  • Never leave valuables in plain view, even if your car is locked. Put them in the trunk or at least out of sight. Buy auto stereo equipment that can be removed and locked in the trunk.
  • Park in busy, well-lighted areas.
  • Carry the registration and insurance card with you. Don't leave personal IDs or credit cards in your vehicle.
  • Leave only the ignition key with the attendant when you pay to park in a lot or garage. Do the same when you take the car for repairs.
  • Report your stolen car to the police immediately.

A Little Extra Protection

  • Etch the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) ? found on a metal plate behind the front windshield ? on the windows, doors, fenders, and trunk lid. This helps discourage professional thieves who have to either remove or replace etched parts before selling the car. Copy the VIN and your license plate tag number on a card and keep it in a safe place ? the police will need this information if your car is stolen.
  • Investigate security systems if you live in a high-theft area or drive an automobile that's attractive to thieves. You may get a discount on your auto insurance.

What About Carjacking?

Carjacking (stealing a car by force) has captured headlines in the last few years. Statistically, your chances of being a carjacking victim are very slim. There are preventative actions that can reduce the risk even more:
  • Approach your car with the key in hand. Look around, inside, and underneath the car before getting in.
  • Keep your car doors locked and windows rolled up at all times while you are driving.
  • Be especially alert at intersections, gas stations, ATMs, shopping malls, and convenience and grocery stores ? all are windows of opportunity for carjackers.
  • Park in well-lighted areas with good visibility, close to walkways, stores, and people.
  • Beware of the "bump and rob" where someone lightly hits your car from behind. When you get out to assess the damages, the carjacker's accomplice gets in your car and drives away.
  • Give up your car with no questions asked. Your life is worth more than a car.

Streetwise: The Way to Be

Teens are the age group most vulnerable to crime. But putting into practice some basic crime prevention tips can help you and your friends avoid becoming the victims of crime.

How Streetwise Are You?

Do you...
  • Stuff your backpack or purse with cash, keys, pager, cell phones, credit cards, checkbooks ? and then leave it wide open at school or work, near your desk, or on the floor?
  • Pay attention to your surroundings or do you think about school or your friends when walking, driving, or riding the subway or bus?
  • Think it's a waste of time to use your locker for valuables or to lock your car when you'll be back in a few minutes?
  • Walk or jog by yourself early in the morning or late at night when the streets are quiet and deserted?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you need to change a few habits. Even if you answered "no" and made a perfect score, read on. Spend a few minutes now to prevent trouble later.

Keeping Street Sense in Mind:

  • Stay alert and tuned into your surroundings wherever you are ? at school or the mall, on the street, waiting for a bus or subway, or driving.
  • Send the message that you're calm, confident, and know where you're going.
  • Don't accept rides or gifts from someone you don't know well and trust ? that includes people you've met on the Internet.
  • Trust your instincts. If something or someone makes you uneasy, avoid the person or situation and leave as soon as possible.
  • Know the neighborhoods where you live, go to school, and work. Keep in mind locations of fire and police stations and public telephones. Remember which stores and restaurants stay open late.

Strolling; Day and Night:

  • Try to walk places with your friends rather than alone.
  • Stick to well-lighted, well-traveled streets. Avoid shortcuts through wooded areas, parking lots, or alleys.
  • Take the safest route to and from schools, stores, or your friends' houses. Know where to go for help if you need it.
  • Don't display your cash or any other inviting targets like pagers, cell phones, hand-held electronic games, or expensive jewelry and clothing.
  • Carry your backpack or purse close to your body and keep it closed. Just carrying a wallet? Put it inside your coat or front pants pocket, not in your back pocket or in your backpack.
  • Have your car or house key in your hand before you reach the door.
  • If you think someone is following you, switch directions or cross the street. If they're still there, move quickly toward an open store or restaurant or a lighted house. Don't be afraid to yell for help.
  • Have to work late? Make sure there are others in the building and that someone ? a supervisor or security guard ? will wait with you for your ride or walk you to your car or bus or train stop.
  • Be alert in the neighborhood. Call police or tell an adult about anything you see that seems suspicious.

Cruising

  • Keep your car in good running condition. Make sure there's enough gas to get where you're going and back.
  • Turn the ignition off and take your car keys with you, even if you just have to run inside for one minute.
  • Roll up the windows and lock car doors, even if you're coming right back. Check inside and out before getting in.
  • Avoid parking in isolated areas. If you are uncomfortable, ask a security guard or store staff to watch you or escort you to your car.
  • Drive to the nearest gas station, open business, or other well-lighted, crowded area to get help if you think you are being followed. Don't head home.
  • Use your cellular phone, if you have one, to call the police if you are being followed or you've seen an accident. Otherwise, stay off your cellular phone while you are driving.
  • Don't pick up hitchhikers. Don't hitchhike.

Taking Buses and Subways

  • Use well-lighted, busy stops. If you must get off at a little-used stop, try to arrange for a friend or an adult to meet you.
  • Stay alert! Don't doze or daydream.
  • Say, "leave me alone" loudly if someone hassles you. Don't be embarrassed.
  • Watch who gets off your stop with you. If you feel uneasy, walk directly to a place where there are other people.

If Someone Tries To Rob You

Give up your property, don't give up your life.
Report the crime to the police. Try to describe the attacker accurately. Your actions can help prevent others from becoming victims.

Take Crime Prevention To Work

Going to work? You need to take your street smarts along. Almost any crime that can happen at home or school can happen at work. But common-sense prevention skills can help make your workplace safer.

It's smart, responsible and mature to avoid becoming a victim. It doesn't matter whether you're working part-time after school, on the weekends, have a summer job, or starting your first full-time job.

Work Sense is Common Sense

  • Keep your purse, wallet, keys, or other valuable items with you at all times or locked in a drawer or closet.
  • Let your parents know your work schedule, especially if you're going to be leaving work early or staying late.
  • Be sure to let your supervisor know when you are going on a break or leaving the premises, even for a few minutes.
  • Mark your personal items, such as a radio, CDs, or cellular phone, with your name or initials and an identification number like your driver's license number, if you choose to bring them to work.
  • Report to maintenance any broken or flickering lights, dim corridors, doors that don't lock properly, and broken windows. Don't wait for someone else to do it.
  • Don't advertise your social life or your family's vacation plans to people at work.
  • Be clear about and always follow official procedures for handling cash.
  • Check with your parents if your supervisor asks that you close up in the evening. If you feel uncomfortable, ask that someone else stay with you.
  • Do not use drugs or alcohol at work or while working.
  • Do not take anything from work. It's theft. You can be fired or arrested.
  • Report any suspicious activity or person immediately.
  • Cooperate if you are confronted by a robber. Merchandise and cash can always be replaced ? people can't.

Trouble Spots:

  • Stairwells and out-of-the-way corridors - don't take the stairs alone. Talk to your supervisor or building manager about improving poorly lighted corridors and stairways.
  • Elevators - don't get into elevators with people who look out of place or behave in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you find yourself in an elevator with someone who makes you nervous, press the next floor button and get off as soon as possible. Also, stand near the emergency phone or button in the elevator.
  • Restrooms - attackers can hide in stalls and corners. Make sure restrooms are locked and only employees have keys. Be extra cautious when using restrooms that are isolated or poorly lighted.
  • After hours - don't work late alone. Create a buddy system for walking to parking lots or public transportation or ask security to escort you.
  • Parking lots or garages - choose a well lighted, well-guarded parking garage. Always lock your car and roll windows up all the way. If you notice strangers hanging around the parking lot, notify security or the police. When you approach your car, have the key ready. Check the floor and front and back seats before getting in. Lock your car as soon as you get in ? before you buckle your seat belt.
  • Public transportation - exercise caution when using subways and buses. Wait at well-lighted, busy stops. Sit close to the driver or exit doors. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, tell the driver or subway personnel.

What About Violence in the Workplace?

There are many forms of violence in the workplace, from raised voices, profanity, or sexual harassment to robbery or homicide. Although you hear about homicide most often, that kind of violence is the most extreme and not very common. To assess your workplace's vulnerability to violence ask yourself these questions:
  • If you work in an office, is it secure? Do you have easy-to-use phone systems with emergency buttons, sign-in policies for visitors, panic buttons, safe rooms, security guards, good lighting, and safety training?
  • Are all employees trained on security procedures?
  • Are you encouraged to report unusual or worrisome behavior? Is there a clear written policy that spells out procedures in cases of violence and sanctions for violators? Make sure you know whom to report unusual behaviors.
  • Are there procedures in place to report sexual harassment? Is it clear that violators will be punished and victims will not?
If the answers to these questions are "no," you can approach someone in the personnel department with your concerns. Employers are liable for any harm that may come to you while you're at work and most of them want to lower the risks. If your employer doesn't take action, look for another job.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse in the Workplace

Drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace are problems that affect everyone, not just the abuser. Approximately 68 percent of illegal drug users are employed full- or part-time. There's a good chance that someone where you work abuses alcohol or drugs.
  • Workers who abuse alcohol and drugs are far less productive, miss more work days, and are more likely to injure themselves or someone else.
  • Employers pass on the costs of drug and alcohol abuse on to other employees through reduced salaries, benefits packages, and privileges. Co-workers often shoulder the burden of filling in for absent or tardy users.
  • Don't enable a troubled co-worker to continue abusing alcohol or other drugs on the job by ignoring the problem, lying or covering up for him or her, doing his or her job, or lending money. Talk to your supervisor.

The Reality of Gangs

What's the Deal With Gangs?

Gangs are neither just a big city or inner city problem, nor are they a problem of a particular race or culture. Gangs cross all ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, gender, and geographic boundaries. They bring fear and violence to neighborhoods, traffic in drugs, destroy property, involve youth in crime, and drive out businesses. Gangs pull teens away from school and home into a life of violence.

One of the scariest aspects of gang violence is it's often indiscriminate and unpredictable. Gang members have been known to kick, punch, hit, or even kill their victims. People get hurt if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. If gangs or gang members are in your school or neighborhood, you know it.

Learn About Gangs:

  • Gangs can be organized around race or ethnic group, money making activities, or territory.
  • Gangs usually claim a particular area of town which they call their "turf." They spend much of their time fighting rival gangs to keep them out of this territory.
  • Most gang members are males ranging in age from 8 to 22 years old.
  • Females, especially Asian and Hispanic, are moving away from the traditional role of being merely girlfriends of gang members and are forming their own gangs.
  • Gangs wear particular items, styles, brands, or colors of clothing. Some gangs wear bandannas of a certain color or baseball caps of a specific team. Some gangs mark their bodies with tattoos with their gang symbol or name.
  • Gangs often use special hands signs or handshakes to tell others the gang to which they belong.
  • "Gangsta" rap paints a realistic picture of daily gang activity. The lyrics glorify violence, abuse of women, and disrespect for authority, especially the police.
  • Contrary to what you may think, gangs are not around to help you. These groups of young people break the law, beat up people, and murder.

Why Do Young People Join Gangs?

Among the most common reasons are to:
  • Belong to a group
  • Receive protection
  • Earn money
  • End boredom and seek more excitement
  • Be with friends and be more popular.
  • For some it is even a family tradition.
None of these reasons are good reasons to belong to a gang. Most of the other kids who don't belong to a gang will be afraid of you and won't hang out with you. If you think you will be safer joining a gang, you're wrong. Most likely, you will increase your chances of being injured or killed.

Think you'll be rich? Not likely. Over a lifetime, gang members make far less money than those who are not in gangs. And by joining you usually don't end up with a good education, making it hard to find a good job.

Join a Gang?

Joining a gang is like entering enemy territory. Belonging to a gang has a warlike existence where beatings and shootings happen all the time. Typical scenarios of joining a gang involve violence and rape.
  • Boys usually have to fight several other gang members at the same time. This is called being "rolled-in" or "walking the line."
  • Girls may be forced to have sex with several gang members or fight other female gang members.
  • New members may be required to prove themselves by beating up an innocent person, robbing a store, or shooting someone ? including drive-by shootings. If you break the rules after joining a gang, your punishment may be death.

What Does the Future Hold for a Gang Member?

Gang membership can severely hurt one's health and future.
  • Gang members may be killed or injured.
  • Many put themselves in danger of disease, prison, and death.
  • Many become dependent on alcohol and drugs.
  • Gang members usually drop out of school, limiting their chances for higher education or good employment.
  • They are likely to be involved in crime throughout the rest of their lives.
  • They may commit serious and violent crimes that lead to lengthy jail time.
  • Once you are in a gang, it's not easy getting out. You may risk your life if you leave a gang.

Take Action

  • If you are threatened by gang members, don't overreact. Stay cool and try not to act scared.
  • Ignore their threats and tell them you have no argument with them.
  • If threats from gangs continue, tell your parents, the police, or school officials.
  • Don't be a "wannabe" by dressing or acting like you want to be in a gang.
  • Hang out with kids who are not involved and don't want to be in a gang.
  • Get involved in activities that are not gang-related, such as organized sports, summer jobs, community organizations, volunteer groups, faith groups, or arts and drama groups.
  • Start showing gangs you have zero tolerance for their activities. You can start a graffiti clean-up program in your community
  • Start a youth group or club whose purpose is to improve the neighborhood or school.
Crime Prevention Tips Provided by: National Crime Prevention Council