Reducing Risks of Crime

University of Nevada, Reno
Southern Area Cooperative Extension
Seniors CAN

Lesson Plan

Lesson: Reducing Risks of Crime

Lesson Number: S-4


The “Reducing Risks of Crime” lesson is designed to help Learners understand ways to reduce the risk that they will become crime victims.

Learning Overview: The Learner will participate in a lesson designed to teach him/her techniques to reduce the risk that he/she will become a victim of crime. Factual information regarding the incidence of violent crime toward seniors should lessen self-imposed isolation due to disproportionate fear of crime.

Lesson Objectives:

  1. During the lesson, the Learner will be exposed to:
    • Information regarding the risks that seniors will become victims of violent or other types of crime.
    • Techniques for reducing risk of crime victimization at home and in the community.
  2. During the lesson, the Learner will engage in group discussion regarding crime and/or crime risk reduction, describing with clarity at least one example from his/her life experience.
  3. During group discussion, either spontaneously or in response to Facilitator request, the Learner will state with clarity that s/he has selected at least one idea presented during the lesson, what that idea is, and that s/he will try this idea during the following week to see if it works for him/her. Alternatively, the Learner will state with clarity that s/he does not want to try out any of the ideas presented, and the reason for the decision.


Set up at previous meeting:

Next week, we will be exploring how we can reduce the risk of becoming victims of crime. Optional: "We will have a guest speaker from the local police department."


Set up immediately prior to this meeting:

Facilitator briefly walks through building and around outside prior to the start of the meeting so that Facilitator can begin to become aware of possible security problems in the building.



Provided by Facilitator: One of the following for each learner:

Fact Sheet: Reducing Risks of Crime (UNCE, FS 01-13).

Checklist: Home Security Checklist (LVMPD, 2008).

Examples of home security items: A double cylinder deadbolt lock, spring lock, rim lock, deadbolt lock with a one-inch throw, wide-angle lens peephole, Non-removable door hinge, “Charlie Bar”, wooden dowel or broomstick, assortment of nails and screws of various sizes and thicknesses, lock for latch on casement window.

Note: Facilitator should review lesson plan for this week, last week and next week because information provided at the beginning of each lesson plan is needed for a smooth transition between lessons.





American Association of Retired Persons. (2008). Be a Wise Consumer [Accessed: 8/4/08].

National Crime Prevention Council. (2006). McGruff Safer Seniors Kit [Brochure].

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. (2003). Crime Prevention Hints for Senior Citizens [Brochure]. Las Vegas, NV.

National Institute on Aging (Age Page). (2006). Crime and Older People [Brochure]. Gaithersburg, MD.


Begin Lesson:

Transition from last week

Last week we talked about (name of last week’s unit). Each of us selected one idea to try out. Let’s talk about how those worked (or didn’t work) for us, and also what we learned from last week’s meeting.

Anticipatory Set:

(Begin with these discussion questions with Learners):

  1. How likely do you think it is for an older adult to become a victim of crime?
  2. How many of you restrict what you do on a day-to-day basis due to concern that you might become a crime victim? (If yes): Could you give some examples to the group?

Share the Objective:

  1. We will be talking about how crime is most likely to affect senior citizens. We will also discuss techniques for reducing the risks that you will become victims of crime.
  2. During this lesson, I will be providing information, but it is also important that we share information and ask questions in group discussion. I would appreciate it if each of you could bring up at least one example from your life experience.
  3. Also during the lesson today, I’m going to ask each of you to select one idea from the lesson to try out on your own over the next week. I’ll pick one, too. Then each of us can share with the group next week how it worked out.


I. Here’s some information about crime and older people.

  1. From the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department:
    1. Generally, older persons are not victimized by crime to a greater extent than the rest of the population, except in crimes such as purse snatching.
    2. Crimes of violence, although feared the most, happen the least.
    3. Most murders and assaults are committed by relatives or acquaintances as the result of a dispute. Very few are committed by strangers.
    4. Despite widespread fear, the crime of rape rarely happens to women over 65. In fact, only about one percent of all known rape victims are women over 50.
    5. The most frequent crimes are property crimes, such as burglary and theft from yards and are most likely to happen when residents are away.
  2. From other sources, such as the U.S. Justice Department:
    1. People over the age of 65 have lower overall rates of becoming crime victims than other age groups, especially when compared to 12 to 25 year olds.
    2. Older people in urban areas are, however, more likely than other groups to be victims of something known as “personal larceny with contact,” and that includes purse-snatching and pick-pocketing.
    3. Older adults in urban areas are no more likely than other adults to be victims of robbery.
    4. The homes of older adults in urban areas are less likely to be burglarized than those of younger families.
  3. Does any of this information come as a surprise?
  4. Sometimes, because of media attention to crime, people get the mistaken impression that crime is unavoidable, happens everywhere, and that older people are the prime targets. This isn’t true. The elderly are less likely to be victims of crime than are teenagers or young adults.
  5. Sometimes, people’s fear of crime becomes so overblown that it paralyzes them into staying home, in effect, isolating themselves and enjoying their lives less.
  6. It’s important to recognize that there are steps you can take to reduce the risk that you will become a crime victim.

II. Here are some techniques for avoiding crime both in the community and at home.

  1. Avoiding crime in the community
    1. While Walking
      • a. Stay alert when you are on the street, in your own neighborhood and even at your own door.
      • b. Avoid walking at night, especially alone. If you must walk at night, stay in well-lit, open areas and walk close to street lights.
      • c. Day or night, stay away from dark alleys, dark parking lots and dark corners. Avoid areas where an assailant might hide, such as dark passageways, shrubbery and spaces between parked cars.
      • d. Day or night, walk with a friend, if possible. Both men and women are safer in the company of someone else.
      • e. If anyone bothers you while you are out walking, ignore them. Don’t engage in conversation or try to be polite. If they persist, tell them in a loud voice, showing anger, to leave you alone. According to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, “a loud voice and a show of anger will usually be effective. One of the first defenses against this sort of aggravation would be a loud whistle or scream.” Based on this, you may want to carry a whistle with you.
      • f. If you are followed, run to the nearest place you can find people. Don’t be afraid to knock on somebody’s door.
      • g. Don’t walk with good jewelry, furs or other items of value. In other words, don’t be a flashy dresser – otherwise, you might tempt a robber. Leave these items someplace safe.
      • h. Don’t carry a purse. Purses are easily snatched when you are carrying them. Also, it’s easy to place a purse down in a grocery cart, at a casino or a beauty salon, where it can easily be stolen.
      • i. If you do carry a purse and someone is trying to steal it from you just sit down. Sitting down on the sidewalk will eliminate your risk of being injured by being knocked down by an aggressor and also draws attention to you.
      • j. An alternative suggested by LVMPD is to actually carry a wallet or purse with nothing valuable in it. You give it to the robber and he runs -- he is not likely to stand there with you while he checks through your purse or wallet. The robber is less likely to hurt you, as he isn’t continuing to stand there with you while you dig through pockets for valuables.
      • k. Don’t carry a lot of cash or more credit cards than you need.
      • l. Put money, credit cards and/or wallet in an inside pocket of your clothing. Even if you insist on carrying a purse, put money, credit cards, and/or your wallet someplace other than in your purse.
      • m. Carry keys in a pocket, not a purse. If your purse is stolen, you will still have your keys. Don’t put your name or address on your keys, because if they are stolen or lost, they will inform a thief who you are and where you live.
      • n. For people who insist on carrying a purse, consider a sound alarm. This is available at a security store and looks like a pager. When you take the peg out it makes a horrendous noise. Hook the pager (alarm) part to a purse and attach the peg to your belt. If the purse gets snatched, the alarm will sound encouraging the thief to drop the purse. You can also use this device adapted to a door of home as a type of burglar alarm.
      • o. Placement of a rubber band around a wallet is a deterrent to pickpocketing because the rubber band creates resistance.
      • p. Have Social Security or monthly pension checks sent to your bank account by direct deposit.
      • q. If you go to the bank often, don’t go at the same time each day. Add some variation to your schedule.
      • r. If anyone steps behind you at ATM, step away—say: “You go first, I forgot my card.”
      • s. If you are stopped by a robber, hand over any cash you have. Hand over your purse if you are carrying one. Don’t resist the robbery because you will be risking injury to yourself.
    2. While driving
      • a. Drive with the car windows up and all the doors locked.
      • b. Keep car in good operating condition.
      • c. Never allow gas tank to get below half full.
      • d. Do not pick up hitchhikers.
      • e. If you become the victim of a carjacking, hit a telephone pole or brick wall (have your seatbelt on) or do something else to bring attention to you and your car. Remember, the thief doesn’t want to get caught.
      • f. If you have trouble with your car, stay inside with windows up and doors locked. Turn on emergency flashers. Or tie a white handkerchief to antenna or door handle. Have a pay as you go cell phone for these types of emergencies.
      • g. Avoid driving alone at night, if possible. It is safer to drive at night with someone you know.
      • h. For safety reasons, people who live alone should go to the store with a friend who lives nearby—arrange to do their grocery shopping together. Riding to the store with someone else helps both of you for safety reasons. If you do go alone, always let someone know where and when you are going and when you plan to return home.
      • i. Police suggest that the following precautions be taken if valet parking is used:
        1. Only give the valet your car key, not all your keys. Be aware if your car’s ignition key also locks or unlocks the glove box.
        2. If you keep your car registration (which has your address) in your car, lock it in your glove box.
        3. Also lock in your glove box your garage door opener and anything else you don’t want stolen.
  2. Avoiding crime at home
    1. Always keep doors and windows locked, when at home and when away.
    2. Make sure that locks, windows and doors are strong and cannot easily be broken. The best locks are double cylinder deadbolt locks. Next best are securely mounted deadbolts with a one-inch throw or rimlocks. Spring locks or any type with a button are, on the other hand, easy for a burglar to force.
      (Show group examples of each type of lock.)
    3. Consider using an alarm system.
    4. Always look to see who is at your door before you answer it. Use a peephole or a safe window. If you don’t have a peephole, consider getting one, because they are inexpensive and easy to install.
      (Show group example of an uninstalled peephole.)
      • a. If the person is a stranger, you do not have to open the door. You can keep it closed and locked. Don’t make the mistake of opening the door to a stranger with just a chain guard on the door for protection—these are easily broken.
      • b. Ask any stranger to tell you his or her name as well as to show an official picture ID indicating that he is from the company he says he is from. If you were not expecting this person, ask him or her to wait outside while you call the company.
      • c. One method for stealing -- Someone comes to the door and says they are from the telephone company and that they need to check your line. They come in, start coughing, and ask for a glass of water. While you get them the water, they pocket your valuables. They often also ask if there are other phone jacks in the house in order to get to valuables in other rooms. Do not open the door unless you are positive this person is who s/he says s/he is.
    5. If you live alone, you should use a buddy system with a friend or neighbor. Check on each other once a day; often when an isolated person is a victim of crime, no one knows about it for days.
    6. Consider lighting:
      • a. If you leave and expect to come home after dark, leave on a few lights and have your keys ready before you get to the door.
      • b. Keep outside lights on when you are home at night. At night, also keep shades and curtains closed.
      • c. Also, lights on in a room or two indicate one or more people are home, which discourages burglars.
      • d. Keeping lights on at home is not an extravagant expense when you consider the deterrent that lights are to criminals because criminals do not want to be seen. As an added bonus, keeping lights on is a safety technique which helps you avoid tripping over objects. As you may be aware, changes in the eye occur with aging and older eyes do not adjust to dim lighting or to changes in light conditions, such as when you walk from a brightly-lit room to a dimly lit room. Keeping several rooms of your house lit can help you avoid slips, trips, falls and will discourage criminals.
    7. If you are home in bed at night and hear someone breaking in, grab a cell or cordless phone that you keep charged up in your room by your bed, take it with you to the bathroom, lock yourself in the bathroom, and dial 911. If you attempt to use a weapon, it could be grabbed from you and used on you.
    8. If at some point your property is stolen, it helps to have already done some preparation work that will assist you in recovering stolen items.
      • a. Mark property that is valuable by engraving an identification number on it. Make a list of expensive items like jewelry and silver. Take pictures of these items and store them in a safe place such as a bank safety deposit box.

III. One final point, older people have been found to be more susceptible to crimes that can devastate them economically through fraud, medical quackery, con games, as well as commercial fraud by sales people. We (will be talking about / have already talked about) these kinds of consumer fraud during a separate meeting.

Modeling and Guided Practice:

Explore and address the following points:


All outside doors should be constructed with a solid core or be metal reinforced. Hollow doors are easily kicked in.

All outside doorframes should be solidly built and attached firmly to the house structure.

Any doors with hinges outside should have hinges replaced with non-removable hinges. Show an example of non-removable door hinge.

Check locks and compare them with locks shown during the “Input” portion the lesson plan. Show that a double cylinder deadbolt lock is best because a burglar can break any glass within 40 inches of the lock, then reach in, and turn the lock if it is not a double cylinder deadbolt. If the double cylinder cannot be used, non-breakable glass should be installed on any glass within 40 inches of the lock.

Check the peephole on outside doors; explain briefly how they are installed. If renting, you can complain to the manager that a peephole is not accessible as management is likely to adjust it due to the fear of civil liability should a crime occur that could have been prevented by this adjustment.

A lock on a door does no good unless it is used!

Sliding Doors: (1) Both door panels should be prevented from being lifted out of their tracks. The top track should have small screws protruding down so the door barely clears them.

(2) Stationary door—should be secured with a screw from the inside into the door and frame.

(3) Sliding door—when locked, should also be wedged with a swinging metal rod –or “Charlie Bar”—to keep door shut even if lock is penetrated. Another option, though not as effective, is to wedge a wooden rod into the bottom track. You can even use a piece of PVC pipe or irrigation pipe to fit the track. Show an example of a “Charlie Bar,” and holding appropriately sized screws, demonstrate approximate points and angles at which they should be installed.


Double-hung windows—are the most common type and are easy to jimmy open. To prevent entry: drill a hole in downward sloping direction through top of bottom sash and into (not through) bottom of top sash. Insert pin or nail through hole to prevent opening of either sash. Use a nail of appropriate size to demonstrate approximate points and angles at which they should be installed. Sliding Windows--treat in same manner as sliding doors.

Casement windows—usually have secure latches; make sure latches are strong, tight-fitting. Locks available for this type of latch to install to increase security. Show an example of a lock for a latch on a casement window.

Jalousie and awning type windows—not very secure because individual panes are easy to pry open or remove. Metal grating can be installed on inside of the windows; or consider replacing them entirely with more secure windows.

Keep in mind in securing windows that you want to have easy exit from all points of entry into your home in case you have to get out quickly, such as in a fire.

You should secure windows using a lock, plus a wooden dowel, plus the nail or screw securing method, to extend the time and trouble a burglar has to go through to get into the window, which is a crime deterrent.


If Learners are considering alarm systems:

The system should protect all points of entry into the home.

You should compare alarm companies, check their reputations and get written estimates.

High price does not necessarily mean it’s the best system for your needs. You should consult with local police for advice on the best alarm system for your needs.

The major advantages of alarm systems are that if you are home, you know immediately that someone is in your home; if you have an outside speaker for your alarm, neighbors are alerted by the noise and may well call the police either to help you or in order to get the alarm sound to stop.

Be aware that having a security company monitor your alarm may not always be a good deal. You pay a monthly fee for someone from the company to drive to your home. Response times vary and if there appears to be a problem, the company will typically call the police, not intervene in any crime in progress.

Home Exterior:

Look at trees, bushes and shrubs. Could a person conceal himself behind or within these? If so, they may need to be trimmed.

Consider planting cactus or other prickly shrubs under vulnerable windows in your home. This will deter entry into these areas by burglars.

Do outside lights illuminate areas around doors and windows? If not, some may need to be installed.

Motion sensor lights alert you and scare potential burglars, and are relatively inexpensive.

Do Learners know that before they leave home for an extended time they should ask someone they know to watch their home and collect mail and newspapers? As an alternative, the post office can hold mail while newspaper delivery can be temporarily suspended. Learners should also continue with yard maintenance by someone they trust while they are gone. Remember, you want the house to continue to look “lived in” while you are away.

Monitoring / Discussion:

Q: What’s the easiest, simplest way to protect yourself when you are at home?
A. Lock doors and windows; don’t open door to strangers.

Q: When we were talking about different ideas for preventing crime, were there any ideas presented that you thought would be easy to start using? Were there any ideas you especially liked?

Q: Were there any ideas that you didn’t like?

Q: Were there any suggestions that you thought sounded impractical for you? How could you change those suggestions, or what would have to change, so that you could use those suggestions?

Independent Practice:

This can be done at any time during the lesson. It seems to work better when it is not done in the rush at the end of a meeting.

"I’d like for each of us to select at least one idea, from what we're learning, to try out this week. Let’s choose something easy to experiment with. Next week we can all compare our experiences and see what worked and what didn't."


Look at next week’s lesson plan for: “Set up at previous meeting.”

It begins: “Next week, we will be exploring . . ..”