Crime Prevention and Victim Resources

It's impossible to stop all criminal activity, but law enforcement agencies and the community may take action to help prevent it. Many groups, like non-profit legal aid organizations and victim assistance programs, offer resources to crime victims. These services include mental health resources and crime victim compensation programs.

This section includes articles and resources about crime prevention and resources for crime victims. It provides links to national and local agencies providing advocacy for victims. You will also find an overview of neighborhood watch programs, which engage community members in preventing neighborhood crime. This section also provides information about self-defense, restitution, and citizen's arrests.

General Crime Prevention

Preventing crime is always preferable to charging criminals after the fact. However, crime prevention is a challenging and ongoing process. It requires efforts from everyone involved, including the community and law enforcement.

If you witness a crime or suspect illegal activities, contact the police as soon as possible. Refrain from attempting 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.

Crime Prevention Tips

The following tips may help you prevent crime in your neighborhood:

  • If you're heading out alone, take your phone with you or make sure you have some way to reach out to others.
  • If you walk or run, 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.
  • Always lock your car, whether parked at your house or elsewhere.
  • Try to avoid carrying large sums of cash.
  • Park in well-lit, busy areas. Do not leave your car in an unsupervised parking lot for a long time.

Every state offers programs and services for victims of crimes. These resources may include supporting victims of crime through the criminal justice process. Others inform victims of their various rights. For example, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General offers assistance to crime victims.

Neighborhood Watch Programs

Neighborhood Watch is a nationwide crime prevention initiative. It involves citizen volunteers who patrol their neighborhoods for criminal activity. These organizations focus on reducing the opportunities for crime. They also attempt to raise awareness of social issues that lead to crime.

In general, participants cannot make arrests or undertake other law enforcement actions. Being part of Neighborhood Watch also does not authorize someone to carry a gun.

Most neighborhood watch participants communicate observations and incidents to the police. Taking other actions, such as stopping someone for questioning, could expose you to liability for false arrest or imprisonment claims.

Citizen's Arrest

In some situations, a private citizen may conduct a warrantless arrest. These citizen arrests occur when ordinary people detain a criminal or direct police to do so.

Someone conducting a citizen's arrest may face personal liability for their actions. For example, a citizen's arrest gone wrong may expose the citizen to liability for:

The risk increases when the arrestor uses force or when a court finds the arrestee not guilty. 

A citizen may not conduct an arrest for every kind of crime. Many misdemeanors do not justify a citizen's arrest. Additionally, a citizen arresting someone may only use reasonable force.


Private citizens have a right to defend themselves. State laws vary regarding self-defense. Consider checking your state's laws for more specific information.

A person acting in self-defense must use reasonable force. Self-defense is often an affirmative defense, which means a defendant may assert a claim of self-defense to defend against a lawsuit.

A successful self-defense argument requires the defendant to prove they used a reasonable amount of force. They must also show they had a reasonable belief that someone else meant to cause them harm.

Other important limitations affect when and how a person might use force for protection. In the past, a person had a duty to retreat and avoid violence before using force.

Some states, like Texas, have removed this burden from the person who uses self-defense. Again, these laws vary from state to state.

Some states have a castle doctrine. This allows a person to use lethal force against intruders unlawfully entering the home. Others have "stand your ground" laws. These only permit the use of deadly force in certain situations.

Online Crime Prevention

In today's digital era, protecting yourself online is just as crucial as physical safety. Below are some tips for protecting yourself from crime online:

  • Use strong, unique passwords for your online accounts and enable two-factor authentication where possible: Cybercriminals use various advanced tools to hack passwords. A strong password helps protect your information from cybercriminal's automated hacking tools. A unique password is one you don't use for any other account. Using a unique password protects your other password-protected information. If a hacker gets hold of one password you use for everything, they could gain access to all of your accounts. Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts.
  • Learn about phishing attemptsPhishing is an online scam where scammers trick you into revealing personal information. For example, a phishing email might look like it's from your bank and ask you to update your account details. If you click on the link, it will take you to a fake website meant to steal your information.
  • Update your devices and applications with the latest security software: Updating your devices and applications is crucial for online security. Developers often release updates to fix vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit. Updating your software helps protect you against these threats.
  • Avoid sharing personal information online to avoid identity theft: Identity theft occurs when someone accesses your personal information without authorization. Often, identity thieves use your information 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.

Being aware of common cybercrimes and scams can be helpful in keeping you safe.

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.

Your state or local government may have more specific information about crime prevention. Consider visiting their websites or contacting them for more specific information.

Additional Crime Prevention Resources

Remember, state laws constantly change. It's important to know your state's current laws. For more legal information, check out these links:

Consider contacting your state or local government for more information about crime prevention.

Resources for Crime Victims

National, state, and local governments provide many resources for crime victims. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) created the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) in 1988.

The OVC provides programs and services to help victims beginning in the moments after a crime and in the months and years after it. Its programs help with financial assistance after a crime, restraining orders, and referrals to non-DOJ programs, among other things. It also provides links regarding different types of crimes, such as elder abuse and fraud.

Crime victims may also seek restitution from criminals. Restitution involves payments from a criminal to a victim or the victim's family members. The goal is to put the victim in the financial position they were in before the crime occurred. Restitution may cover medical expenses, property damage, and more.

FindLaw's Criminal Charges section provides many articles about different types of crimes. For more information about specific crimes, consider reading the following articles:

For additional information about resources for crime victims, consider browsing the links below.

Crime Victim Resources: Helpful Links

The following is a list of support and legal services for crime victims. The list includes several non-profit organizations and government agencies. These programs help victims of crimes in various ways, from mental health resources and financial assistance to help with legal advice and the criminal justice system.

General Resources for Crime Victims

This section provides general resources for victims of crimes. The DOJ offers national resources. Your state or local government also likely has helpful services and programs.

If someone committed a crime against you and you still need to report it to your local law enforcement agency, do so immediately.

Resources for Victims of Domestic Abuse and Sex Crimes

Domestic abuse presents a serious danger to the abused. These links provide hotlines and other resources for someone experiencing domestic abuse and sex crimes.

  • RAINN: The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network advocates on behalf of victims of sex crimes. It also maintains the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673).
  • National Defense Center for Criminalized Survivors: This link provides legal references to victims of domestic violence who face criminal charges. It is part of the Battered Women's Justice Project (BWJP). The BWJP is a national resource for victims of gender-based crime.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: This link brings users to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. It provides victims with advocates and counselors in a confidential setting (1-800-799-7233).
  • National Human Trafficking Resource Center: The National Human Trafficking Resource Center provides educational materials and advocacy to combat human trafficking. Survivors may call the Human Trafficking Toll-Free Hotline (1-888-373-7888 or text “BeFree" to 233733).
  • Civil Sexual Assault Lawsuits: FindLaw's article provides information for victims of sexual assault about the differences between filing criminal charges and civil lawsuits against the perpetrator.

If you fear for your safety, contact one of these programs or your local law enforcement. Your state or local government offers resources and programs as well.

Resources for Child Victims

These links provide information for child victims.

  • ChildHelp: ChildHelp is a national organization involved in advocacy and education to prevent child abuse and neglect. It also maintains the National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-422-4453). The hotline allows people to report child abuse or talk to a counselor.
  • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC): NCMEC works to reunite missing and exploited children with their parents and loved ones and reduce child sexual exploitation.

If you believe someone is abusing a child, contact your local law enforcement agency.

Other Resources and Service Providers

This section provides other resources you may find helpful if someone commits a crime against you.

  • National Elder Fraud Hotline: The DOJ created a free resource for victims of elder abuse (anyone 60 years or older) (1-833-372-8311).
  • Justice in Indian Country: The DOJ provides information and resources related to Native American tribal law, tribal justice systems, legal help resources, and related matters.
  • Help for Crime Victims: The DOJ provides a list of hotlines and websites for crime victims, including cyber civil rights and domestic violence.

Your state or local government may offer specific programs or services for crime victims. Consider checking your state or county's website for information about available resources.

Contact an Attorney for Legal Help

The sad truth is that crime is prevalent in today's society. If someone committed a crime against you, many resources may help your recovery. Contact the authorities at once if someone commits a crime against you or someone you know.

In the case of domestic violence, consider contacting a family law attorney for legal representation and information about resources available to you. If, on the other hand, the government has charged you with a crime, consider contacting a criminal defense attorney for legal help.

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