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  • Laura Minutello

Protect Yourself: Self-Advocacy and Crime Prevention -- New Horizons Support Group Hosts Safety Spea

Members of the New Horizons Support Group with Tampa Bay Crimes Task Force speaker Bryan McNeal and FSAC Journalist Laura Minutello

Crime is an ever-increasing fact of the world in which we live. And for people with disabilities, the probability of being victimized is even greater than it is for their non-disabled counterparts.

In fact, according to a 2012 survey conducted by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, persons with disabilities over the age of twelve were victims of violent crimes at a rate of 60 out of every1000 persons. In contrast, those without disabilities were targeted at a noticeably lower rate of 22 out of every 1000 persons. The same survey, which also collected data in regard to non-violent and various other types of crime over several years, concluded that on the whole, victimization rates among those with disabilities were markedly higher as compared to those without.

While it is a subject for another day, it is also worth noting that neither the BJS survey, nor most other published crime statistics give full account of the victimization experienced by children with disabilities and individuals living in non community-based settings; a fairly significant fact, considering that the risks for those populations are thought to be even higher than in the disability community at large.

Given the challenges people with disabilities face, as well as some of the unfortunate perceptions that much of society holds about people with disabilities, the increased vulnerability to crime, while sobering, is hardly surprising. The important question is: what does one do about it? How do individuals with disabilities, especially self-advocates, help to protect themselves and others with disabilities to the best of their ability through information and education?

In an effort to answer these questions and create further dialogue amongst themselves, self-advocates of the New Horizons Support Group in Tampa dedicated their June meeting to expanding their knowledge of all things crime prevention. Bryan McNeal, a community crime prevention expert with the Tampa Bay Crimes Task Force, spoke to the group at their regular monthly meeting. Mr. McNeal shared basic self-protection strategies with those in attendance, and led the group in an improvisation exercise to help them brainstorm how they would respond if victimized.

According to Mr. McNeal, the three major keys to protecting oneself are:

Though awareness and crime prevention, particularly among those with disabilities, are major issues that cannot be solved purely through conversation, presentations such as Mr. McNeal’s and the contributions of self-advocates, are certainly a great starting place. For more crime prevention tips, or to view the full results of the BJS survey, check out the links below.

2012 survey of crime and disability from the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

City of Orlando guidelines:

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