"Children need to learn how to identify risks and threats and dangers online, and they need the critical-thinking and analytical skills to make safe and responsible decisions," says Denny Shaw, i-SAFE chief operations officer.
Prevention is the answer to the Internet safety problem, he says, because there are more bad guys using the Internet than law enforcement can ever catch.
"If we can keep children from making victims of themselves," he says, online predators are not going to be able to commit crimes.
All the tools law enforcement needs to be proactive are free. Broad and in-depth training are available through i-SHIELD Online, a five-video series. There is also live, interactive online training available.
It doesn't make sense for law enforcement to try to reinvent the wheel by writing its own Internet safety education programs, Shaw says. Furthermore, he says providing safety briefings, or awareness tips, is a good start, but that's not enough.
"We are into culture change so children can be savvy and safe online," he says.
I-SAFE's National Assessment Center reports 85 to 95 percent of the i-Safe students are changing their online behavior.A perfect storm
While there are always new crimes, old crimes still cause problems.
"We still have people doing things like not locking their doors," Boykins says. "We still have to remind people what they need to do when it comes to basic, personal safety issues."
NCPC works with and manages two associations: the Crime Prevention Coalition of America (made up of national, state, federal and community-based organizations including law enforcement) and the National Crime Prevention Association (for crime prevention practitioners) to help stay current with crime trends.
Today, she says, "We're in sort of a perfect storm for crimes of opportunity — with high gasoline prices, an economic downturn, a housing market in the state of flux, banking and mortgage companies in financial trouble. In some cases, people have not been able to access their money. When you have all these things going on, some people who wouldn't necessarily be looking at turning to a life of crime or taking those crimes of opportunity may now start to do so."
Across the country, communities are dealing with many issues that require law enforcement to take preventative measures. New technology helps us get things done in a different way, but it is a supplement to what can't be replaced.
Boykins reminds, "You can't replace that law enforcement one-on-one interaction with the community."
Rebecca Kanable is a freelance writer specializing in law enforcement topics for more than a decade. She lives in Wisconsin and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Web resources
- celebratesafecommunities.org — This site is hosted by the National Crime Prevention Council on behalf of the National Sheriffs' Association and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. It was designed to help local law enforcement agencies and their community partners kick off celebrations of Crime Prevention Month every October.
- www.ncpc.org — The National Crime Prevention Council offers many campaigns and resources through its site, including the Prevention Works Blog.
- www.nrahq.org/safety/eddie — The National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program teaches children what to do if they come across an unsupervised gun.
- www.isafe.org — Ten-year-old i-SAFE, a non-profit foundation, states its mission is to educate and empower youth to make Internet experiences safe and responsible. According to the Web site, its goal is to educate students on how to avoid dangerous, inappropriate or unlawful online behavior. The organization combines educational programs for elementary, middle and high school students with community outreach for parents, law enforcement and community leaders in its effort to promote Internet awareness and online safety.