How safe are you? If government statistics are any indication, there's
reason to feel somewhat secure.
The latest U.S. Department of Justice crime figures show personal crimes --
which include rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault
-- are at their lowest levels on record. Property crimes -- which include
burglary, car theft, and theft -- have stabilized after years of decline.
Yet this is no time to be complacent. Many criminals prey on people who are
off guard, say crime and self-defense specialists who talked with WebMD.
Criminals look for people who are not paying attention to their surroundings,
and then use the element of surprise to their advantage.
Victims From All Walks of Life
"Criminals don't want to get caught," says Tony Farrenkopf, PhD, a
clinical and forensic psychologist in private practice in Portland. "They
ask themselves, 'Does this person look attackable? Does this person look
vulnerable? Can I get away with something here?'"
In the U.S., criminals were able to carry out 24 million crimes in 2004. For
every 1,000 people age 12 and older, there occurred:
1 rape or sexual assault
2 assaults with injury
Regardless of the improved crime rate, crime still affects everyone in all
types of neighborhoods; it crosses economic and racial lines, says Larry
Jordan, author of The Dirty Dozen: 12 Nasty Fighting Techniques for Any
Self-Defense Situation. He is a former member of the U.S. Army Rangers and
Special Forces and is a master-level instructor in several forms of martial
Taking Charge of Your Safety
"It is a reality," Jordan says of crime. "People are being
victimized or are being targeted to be victims each and every day."
To avoid becoming a victim, you need to take charge of your own safety.
There are no guarantees, but actively tuning your thoughts and actions toward
crime prevention and self-defense can help lower chances of becoming a
"There's a saying in the martial arts world that the best form of
self-defense is not putting yourself in a position where you have to defend
yourself," says Bill Nelson, a sixth-degree black belt master instructor in
Soo Bahk Do Karate, and author of Your Weapon Within: How to Lower the Risk
of Sexual Assault. "We all have a responsibility to be safe."
WebMD has compiled expert advice to show you how to avoid dangerous
situations and how to defend yourself once you're in them. If you regularly
practice the recommended ways of thinking and acting, there is hope that you
will not become a victim, but rather, an active defender of your life and
Preventing crime from happening requires an active mind and body. It means
paying attention to your instincts, to other people, and to your surroundings.
It means constantly training your brain and limbs to act defensively. It is
more than just a few martial arts moves. It is a way of life.