Preventing crime is always preferable to charging criminals after the fact. However, crime prevention is a challenging, ongoing process that requires efforts from everyone involved, including the community and law enforcement. From petty theft to cybercrimes or crimes related to eviction or foreclosure, it's always better to stop crimes before they occur.
If you ever witness a crime or suspect illegal activities in your vicinity, contact the police immediately. Don't attempt to handle the situation yourself. Resorting to self-help by taking the law into your own hands can create legal problems for you, or worse.
Also, your timely report to local law enforcement can help the criminal justice system serve your community. It will help the police force know where to use its resources.
We've compiled practical tips and useful legal resources to keep you safe and well-informed. These crime prevention resources will also help you to be prepared in case of crime. We include information for people with low income who may lack the resources to obtain legal help.
Crime Prevention Tips
The following tips will help you prevent crime in your neighborhood (check out FindLaw's Crime Victim Resources page as well):
- If you're heading out alone, don't forget to take your cell phone or some way to reach out to others.
- If you go walking or running, always do so in well-populated areas and during daylight hours.
- If someone tries to rob you, remember that your belongings aren't worth more than your safety. It's okay to give up things like cell phones or electronics.
- Don't leave anything in your car where people can see it. Even small stuff can tempt thieves to break into your car.
- Always lock your car, whether it's parked at your house or somewhere else.
- Try not to carry large sums of cash.
- Park in well-lit, busy areas. If possible. Don't leave your car in a parking lot for a long time that lacks supervision.
If you are a victim of crime, there is help. Some states have programs for victims of crimes. For example, Maryland's Attorney General's office offers assistance to crime victims.
Online Crime Prevention
In today's digital era, protecting yourself online is just as crucial as physical safety. Here are some suggestions for protecting yourself online:
- Use strong, unique passwords for your online accounts. Enable two-factor authentication where possible. A "strong" password is difficult for others, even those using automated hacking tools, to guess. Generally, this means it's long and includes a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. A "unique" password, meanwhile, is one that you don't use for any other account. Using the same password for multiple accounts can be risky. If a hacker gets hold of one password, they could gain access to your other accounts that use the same password. Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts. In addition to your password (the first factor), 2FA requires you to input a second factor — usually a code sent to your phone or email — to log in. This means that even if someone else gets your password, they still won't be able to access your account without the second factor.
- Be aware that phishing attempts in emails or text messages may request personal information. Phishing is an online scam where scammers impersonate a business to trick you into revealing personal information, such as your password or credit card numbers. This is often done through emails or text messages that appear to be from a trustworthy source. For example, a phishing email might look like it's from your bank. You are asked to click on a link to update your account details. If you click on the link, you'll be taken to a fake website that looks legitimate and relays the information you provide to others.
- Regularly update your devices and applications to ensure they have the latest security patches. Updating your devices and applications is crucial for online security, according to computer experts. Developers regularly release updates to fix vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit. Computer experts recommend that you set your devices to update automatically and ensure you don't miss any important security patches. By keeping your software up to date, you ensure that you're protected against these threats.
- Be careful about the personal information you share on social media to avoid identity theft. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your consent. This is typically done for financial gain. One common way that identity thieves get this information is through social media. If you share too much about yourself, a scammer can use this information to impersonate you. Social Security recipients have seen their accounts drained because of fraudulent activities.
Crime Prevention: Resources and Organizations
The following crime prevention resources include links to non-profit organizations and other entities focused on reducing or preventing crime.
Some service providers offer help for crime victims:
- Help for Crime Victims: A list of hotlines and websites for crime victims, including cyber civil rights and domestic violence
- National Crime Victim Law Institute: Provides resources to help crime victims learn about their rights and their access to assistance. Operated by the Lewis & Clark Law School
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: A 24-hour hotline that connects domestic violence victims with advocates and counselors
- Victim Notification System: The U.S. Department of Justice and most states grant crime victims the right to be notified about the status of their perpetrator's criminal case
- State programs: Some states have programs for victims of crimes. For example, Maryland's Attorney General's office offers assistance for victims of crime
Additional Crime Prevention Resources
If you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offense, you likely have many questions. Remember, state laws are constantly changing. It's important to be up to date on the laws you're researching. For more legal information, check out these links:
If you've been charged with a criminal offense and convicted, there is something you can do about your criminal record. Expungement erases an arrest or conviction from a person's criminal record. In essence, it's as if the arrest or conviction never happened, at least as far as the public record is concerned.
The primary advantage of expungement is that it clears your criminal history. This makes it easier for you to pursue employment, housing, and educational opportunities that might be negatively affected by a criminal record.
The eligibility criteria for expungement vary widely based on state law. A legal professional can provide more details.
Expungement isn't always a completely clean slate. The arrest or conviction may still be accessible by certain government agencies or law enforcement. A criminal defense attorney can provide more information.
Get Help With Your Criminal Law Matter Today
Legal issues can be challenging. If you or someone you know is facing civil or criminal charges, getting expert legal advice as early as possible is crucial. You'll want to go into your civil or criminal case as prepared as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide a defense strategy and represent you in court. This expert legal advice and legal help will create a better outcome for you.
It's also worth noting that there is legal assistance for individuals with low income. Public defenders provide advocacy and legal representation in criminal cases. They can provide much-needed legal counsel. They ensure that everyone has access to legal aid and legal services.