Creative crime prevention

From MySpace to McGruff: resources to getting the community involved


     Although law enforcement is often the focal point in community crime prevention, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) reminds us the responsibility of crime prevention is everyone's.

     "There isn't a single member of the community who shouldn't be involved and engaged in crime prevention," emphasizes Michelle Boykins, NCPC media relations and marketing director.

     While involving the community isn't always easy at first, there are many tools from NCPC and others that law enforcement can use to talk about safety and get people interested in taking an active role in crime prevention. The tools an agency uses depend on what it is trying to achieve, and, of course, how much money an agency can spend to reach its goals.

NCPC resources

     McGruff the Crime Dog first put on his trench coat and went out into the public speaking about topics like home security and neighborhood safety 28 years ago. Today, McGruff's safety lessons include topics like the dangers of drug abuse, gun violence, bullies and Internet surfing.

     To help the popular crime prevention icon deliver his safety messages, the old dog has learned new tricks. McGruff is everywhere. He's on MySpace.com and has a weekly blog.

     Boykins suggests local law enforcement tap into social networking sites because they have far-reaching abilities and require little effort and few financial resources. For example, she says, agencies could combine their efforts and put together a YouTube video with tips on how to prevent gasoline theft.

     While the Internet, or more specifically social networks, may be the perfect way to reach teens and young adults, that's not where most senior citizens get their information. If a crime prevention message needs to reach a broader audience, she says that same crime prevention message could be sent in different formats.

     "We always take a look at what is the appropriate medium to communicate the message," Boykins says. "We still have to use TV and newspapers as a way to get the message out there."

     NCPC has free PDFs, brochures, Webinars, CD-ROMs of PowerPoint presentations and more on its Web site, www.ncpc.com.

     "We try to make sure that everything we're doing we're providing as a resource to help law enforcement in doing their local outreach," Boykins says.

     Many crime prevention topics are covered in an NCPC calendar. The Crime Prevention Month Action Kit (a calendar) is free (in bulk orders the calendars are $2 each) and includes reproducible educational brochures. The calendar can be ordered or downloaded from the NCPC site. Other items for purchase include posters and trading cards.

     "Technology is great, but sometimes people just want something tangible they can stick on a refrigerator or tack to a wall," Boykins says.

Interactive robots

     Not all McGruff tools are available directly from NCPC. A robotic McGruff (and a McGruff costume) can be purchased from Robotronics Inc., which has more than 8,000 other interactive robotic characters, along with thousands of costumes including McGruff's nephew (Scruff), puppets and printed educational materials featuring its safety characters, all geared toward children ages 14 and younger. The company's robots are industrial grade — with an average life of nearly 15 years. In addition to McGruff, Robotronics' popular crime prevention characters include Faux Paw the Techno Cat (a new Internet safety character), Eddie Eagle (from the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program), Daren the D.A.R.E. Lion and Bucklebear. Robotronics is also licensed to produce other well-known safety characters such as Smokey Bear, Woodsey Owl and Sparky the Fire Dog.

     Robots leave a lasting impression with children, says Paul Schwen, Robotronics director of marketing and sales.

     The key with any teaching tool is to get the message across in a way that sticks, adds Dave Jannke of Probotics America, a company specializing in custom-designed robots.

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