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.
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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 arts.
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 casualty.
"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 property.