At the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, we want you and your family to be safe each and every day in your home and in your community. October is National Crime Prevention Month; as people across the country have a heightened sense of awareness about crime and safety concerns in their neighborhoods, so should you. Here are five things you can do right now to keep your family safe:
Lock your vehicles
Nearly every day, we have one (if not multiple) cases of unlocked cars being burglarized. Let’s not make it easy on the bad guys. Lock your vehicles and keep your valuables out of sight. Place any items that may be attractive to crooks (purses, money, jewelry, electronics) in your trunk before you arrive at your destination.
Talk to your kids about cyberbullying
Our School Resource Deputies see it far too often – bullying in school that begins with inappropriate texting. Often, it’s a student-to-student interaction, where one student sends a racy text message only to have it disseminated to many of his or her peers. Have a discussion with your children about appropriate communication with friends and classmates and know who your child is communicating with on a regular basis. There are a number of apps that allow parents to monitor their child’s chat threads on various social media platforms.
Have a discussion about basic internet safety
Unfortunately, having access to some or all of your kids’ social media may not be enough. You need to talk to them about keeping personal information private when it comes to communication with strangers on the internet. Explain to your children that it’s dangerous to tell someone they don’t know where they live, what school they go to or where they hang out.
Trick-or-treat with caution
There are approximately 2,000 sex offenders and predators living in Hillsborough County right now and your kids shouldn’t be near a single one of their homes on Halloween. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has a feature on its website where you can search a radius to view sex offenders and predators living in your neighborhood. Check out the website. Take note of the homes to keep your kids away from and notice that the lights will be off with little to no holiday decoration at the homes of sex offenders and predators. Walk with your children on their trick-or-treating route, keep them in sight at all times, never walk into a home or garage of a stranger and check your kids’ candy for any signs of repackaging.
Stop for school buses
Now that the new school year is in full swing, it’s a perfect time to remind everyone about being vigilant near school buses. School buses stop… a lot! They stop at railroad crossings and multiple times to pick-up and drop-off students. The biggest excuse we hear from drivers is that they didn’t see the bus or they were going too fast to slow down and stop for it. This year alone during a one-day survey, 357 drivers in Hillsborough County did not stop when they should have for a school bus. That’s 357 incidents where the safety of children was put at risk. Watch for school buses and make a complete stop for them.
Originally published in the October 2018 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.