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WHAT RECOURSE FOR CRIME VICTIMS?

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Did you know that one in every five Americans limits where he chooses to work based on fear of crime in various neighborhoods?

Or that 73 percent of women limit the places they go by themselves because of the threat of crime?Or that almost half of the women in America also limit the places and times they will shop - for the same reason?

Or that 60 percent of Americans are afraid of being attacked or robbed while in their own house or apartment?

We mention these points because various Utah law enforcement and public safety organizations are preparing to join in observing National Crime Victims' Rights Week starting April 26 in hopes of heightening public awareness about the rights and needs of victims.

And because it's much easier to outline the dimensions of crime in this country - which costs Americans some $1.5 billion a year - than it is to specify the problem's solutions.

But there are at least some steps that can be taken by the growing numbers of Utahns concerned about crime in their communities and even their own neighborhoods.

One of those steps is to band together and form a neighborhood watch group to keep tabs on suspicious activities where you live.

Another step is to ask the local police department to teach you and your neighbors how to make your homes less vulnerable to burglaries and other crimes.

Still another is to report crime to the proper law enforcement authorities. Incredibly, while 35 million Americans become victims each year, less than a third of all crimes are ever reported.

Moreover, how about pressing for preventive detention of violent, habitual criminals while they are awaiting trial for new offenses? Yes, we know that preventive detention can be abused by being applied too quickly and indiscriminately. But the country is now erring on the side of too much laxity on this score.

Just ask the U.S. Department of Justice, which reported only a year ago that in the nation's 75 largest counties, an estimated 59 percent of all felons arrested for a violent crime were released into the community pending the disposition of their cases. Twenty percent of those violent felony defendants failed to appear in court. Sixteen percent were rearrested for another felony while awaiting trial.

Even after becoming victimized, the individual has some recourse outside the courts. Utah is among the states that have programs to compensate crime victims.

But that's no help to the many individuals who are victimized simply because the threat of crime restricts their freedom to work, shop and go where they want. And even though the victim compensation program helps, it's better to work to prevent crime than it is to try to repair the damage afterward.