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ARCHIVED CRIME SAFETY ARTICLES

These articles contain tips and tricks to keep you and your family safe, against crime. There is always a safe way to do things and we offer information on how to avoid the most common problems and safety risks. For a list of all archived articles visit our Archived Articles List.

 




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CRIME PREVENTION FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

Be aware. Stay alert. Remain calm and confident.

Disabled people face many physical challenges. This makes them vulnerable to would-be assailants who assume the disabled are incapable of protecting themselves.

Look out for yourself:

  • Be cautious and aware of your surroundings, whether on the street, in an office building or the shopping mall.
  • Stay alert when driving or waiting for a bus or subway.
  • Send the message that you are calm, confident, and know where you are going.
  • Be realistic about your limitations. Avoid places or situations that put you at risk.
  • Know the neighborhoods where you live and work. Check out the locations of police and fire stations, public telephones, hospitals and restaurants or stores that are open and accessible.
  • Avoid establishing predictable activity patterns. Vary your daily routines. By never altering your schedule, you increase your vulnerability to crime.

At home:

  • Install approved locks on all your doors. Sturdy deadbolt locks are best. Make sure you can easily use the locks you install.
  • Install peepholes on front and back doors at your eye level. This is especially important if you use a wheelchair.
  • Get to know your neighbors. Watchful neighbors who look out for you, as well as themselves, are a frontline defense against crime.
  • If you have difficulty speaking, have a friend record a message (giving your name, address and type of disability) to use in emergencies. Keep the tape in a recorder next to your phone.
  • Ask your police department to conduct a free home security survey to help identify your individual needs.

Before you go on vacation:

  • Plan ahead. If you are traveling by car, get maps and plan your route.
  • Have the car checked by your mechanic or a knowledgeable friend before you leave.
  • Leave the numbers of your passport, driver’s license, credit cards, and travelers’ checks with a trusted adult.
  • Put lights and a radio on timers to create the illusion that someone is at home while you are away.
  • Leave shades, blinds and curtains in normal positions.
  • Stop mail and deliveries or ask a neighbor to collect them.

Out and about:

  • If possible, go with a friend.
  • Stick to well-lit, well-travelled streets.
  • Avoid shortcuts through vacant lots, wooded areas, parking lots or alleys.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Carry a purse close to your body — not dangling by the straps. Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket.
  • If you use a wheelchair and carry a purse, secure it to your wheelchair and tuck it snugly between you and the inside of your chair.
  • If you use a knapsack, make sure it it is secured to your chair and closed securely.
  • In case of an emergency, always carry your medical information.
  • Consider carrying a portable cell phone in your vehicle.

On public transportation:

  • Use well-lit , busy stops. Stay near other passengers. Sit by the driver.
  • Stay alert! Do not doze or daydream!
  • If someone harasses you, make a loud noise or say, “Leave me alone.” If that does not work, hit the emergency signal on the bus or train.

Take a stand

  • Join or help organize a Neighborhood Watch group. Make sure the meeting sites are accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Work with local law enforcement to improve responses to all victims or witnesses of crime. Role-play how people with disabilities can handle threatening situations.
  • Work with rehabilitation centers and advocacy groups to offer a presentation to schools and other community organizations on the needs or concerns of individuals with disabilities.

Don’t let a con-artist rip you off
Many con-artists prey on people’s desires to find miracle cures for chronic conditions and fatal diseases.
To outsmart con-artists, remember these tips:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Don’t let greed or excitement overcome common sense. Wait 24 hours and consult a trusted friend or lawyer before making any decisions.
  • Be wary of high pressure tactics, need for quick decisions, demands for cash only, or high-yield-low-risk investments.

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CRIME PREVENTION TIPS FOR SENIORS

Crime and the fear of crime create special problems for the elderly. Crime prevention is everyone's responsibility, not just a job for law enforcement. Seniors can learn how to protect themselves from crime by following these simple, commonsense suggestions. Share these tips with your neighbors and friends, to make it tough for criminals to work in your neighborhood.

AT HOME . . .

  • Never open your door automatically. Install and use a peephole.
  • Lock your doors and windows. (Three quarters of the burglaries involving older persons involved unlocked doors and windows; and, less than one half of these robberies are reported.) Keep your garage doors locked.
  • Vary your daily routine.
  • Use "Neighbor Watch" to keep an eye on your neighborhood. A concerned neighbor is often the best protection against crime because suspicious persons and activities are noticed and reported to police promptly.
  • Don't leave notes on the door when going out.
  • Leave lights on when going out at night; use a timer to turn lights on and off when you are away for an extended period.
  • Notify neighbors and the police when going away on a trip. Cancel deliveries such as newspapers and arrange for someone - a neighbor's child, perhaps - to mow the lawn if need be. Arrange for your mail to be held by the Post Office, or ask a neighbor to collect it for you.
  • Be wary of unsolicited offers to make repairs to your home. Deal only with reputable businesses.
  • Keep an inventory with serial numbers and photographs of resaleable appliances, antiques and furniture. Leave copies in a safe place.
  • Don't hesitate to report crime or suspicious activities.
  • Install deadbolt locks on all your doors.
  • Keep your home well lit at night, inside and out; keep curtains closed.
  • Ask for proper identification from delivery persons or strangers. Don't be afraid of asking . . . if they are legitimate they won't mind.
  • If a stranger asks to use your telephone, offer to place the call for him or her yourself.
  • Never let a stranger into your home. Do not hide your keys under the mat or in other conspicuous places.
  • Never give out information over the phone indicating you are alone or that you won't be home at a certain time.
  • If you arrive at home and suspect a stranger may be inside, DON'T GO IN. Leave quietly and call 911 to report the crime.

WALKING . . .

  • If you are attacked on the street, make as much noise as possible by calling for help or blowing a whistle. Do not pursue your attacker. Call 911 and report the crime as soon as possible.
  • Avoid walking alone at night. Try to have a friend accompany you in high risk areas . . . even during the daytime.
  • Avoid carrying weapons . . . they may be used against you.
  • Always plan your route and stay alert to your surroundings. Walk confidently.
  • Stay away from buildings and doorways; walk in well-lighted areas.
  • Have your key ready when approaching your front door.
  • Don't dangle your purse away from your body. (Twelve percent of all crimes against the elderly are purse snatchings and street robberies.)
  • Don't carry large, bulky shoulder bags; carry only what you need. Better yet, sew a small pocket inside your jacket or coat. If you don't have a purse, no one will try to snatch it.

WHILE SHOPPING . . .

  • Carry your purse very close to you . . . don't dangle it from your arm. Never leave your purse in a shopping cart. Never leave your purse unattended.
  • Don't carry any more cash than is necessary. Many grocery stores now accept checks and automatic teller cards instead of cash.
  • Don't display large sums of cash.
  • Use checks where possible.

IN YOUR CAR . . .

  • Always keep your car doors locked, whether you are in or out of your car. Keep your gas tank full and your engine properly maintained to avoid breakdowns.
  • If your car breaks down, pull over to the right as far as possible, raise the hood, and wait INSIDE the car for help. Avoid getting out of the car and making yourself a target before police arrive.
  • At stop signs and traffic lights, keep the car in gear.
  • Travel well-lit and busy streets. Plan your route.
  • Don't leave your purse on the seat beside you; put it on the floor, where it is more difficult for someone to grab it.
  • Lock bundles or bags in the trunk. If interesting packages are out of sight, a thief will be less tempted to break in to steal them.
  • When returning to your car, check the front and back seat before entering.
  • Never pick up hitchhikers.

BANKING . . .

  • Many criminals know exactly when government checks arrive each month, and may pick that day to attack. Avoid this by using Direct Deposit, which sends your money directly from the government to the bank of your choice. And, at many banks, free checking accounts are available to senior citizens. Your bank has all the information.
  • Never withdraw money from your bank accounts for anyone except YOURSELF. Be wary of con artists and get-rich schemes that probably are too-good-to-be- true.
  • You should store valuables in a Safe Deposit Box.
  • Never give your money to someone who calls on you, identifying himself as a bank official. A bank will never ask you to remove your money. Banks need the use of your money, and they don't want one of their customers to invite crime by having large amounts of cash around.
  • When someone approaches you with a get-rich-quick-scheme involving some or all of YOUR savings, it is HIS get-rich-quick-scheme. If it is a legitimate investment, the opportunity to contribute your funds will still be there tomorrow-after you have had time to consider it.
  • If you have been swindled or conned, report the crime to your local police. Con-artists count on their victim's reluctance to admit they've been duped, but if you delay you help them get away. Remember, if you never report the crime, they are free to cheat others again and again and you have no chance of ever getting your money back.

 

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IDENTITY THEFT

What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft.

The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn’t make—or until you’re contacted by a debt collector.

Identity theft is serious. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record.  Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.

How do thieves steal an identity?
Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold.

Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:

  • Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
  • Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
  • Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
  • Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
  • Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
  • Pretexting.  They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.   

How can you find out if your identity was stolen?
The best way to find out is to monitor your accounts and bank statements each month, and check your credit report on a regular basis. If you check your credit report regularly, you may be able to limit the damage caused by identity theft.
Unfortunately, many consumers learn that their identity has been stolen after some damage has been done.

  • You may find out when bill collection agencies contact you for overdue debts you never incurred.
  • You may find out when you apply for a mortgage or car loan and learn that problems with your credit history are holding up the loan.
  • You may find out when you get something in the mail about an apartment you never rented, a house you never bought, or a job you never held.

What should you do if your identity is stolen?
Filing a police report, checking your credit reports, notifying creditors, and disputing any unauthorized transactions are some of the steps you must take immediately to restore your good name.  

Should you file a police report if your identity is stolen?
A police report that provides specific details of the identity theft is considered an Identity Theft Report, which entitles you to certain legal rights when it is provided to the three major credit reporting agencies or to companies where the thief misused your information.  An Identity Theft Report can be used to permanently block fraudulent information that results from identity theft, such as accounts or addresses, from appearing on your credit report. It will also make sure these debts do not reappear on your credit reports. Identity Theft Reports can prevent a company from continuing to collect debts that result from identity theft, or selling them to others for collection. An Identity Theft Report is also needed to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report.

In order for a police report to entitle you to the legal rights mentioned above, it must contain specific details about the identity theft.  You should file an ID Theft Complaint with the FTC and bring your printed ID Theft Complaint with you to the police station when you file your police report.  The printed ID Theft Complaint can be used to support your local police report to ensure that it includes the detail required.

A police report is also needed to get copies of the thief’s application, as well as transaction information from companies that dealt with the thief.  To get this information, you must submit a request in writing, accompanied by the police report, to the address specified by the company for this purpose.   

What can you do to help fight identity theft?
A great deal.  Awareness is an effective weapon against many forms identity theft. Be aware of how information is stolen and what you can do to protect yours, monitor your personal information to uncover any problems quickly, and know what to do when you suspect your identity has been stolen.

Armed with the knowledge of how to protect yourself and take action, you can make identity thieves' jobs much more difficult. You can also help fight identity theft by educating your friends, family, and members of your community. The FTC has prepared a collection of easy-to-use materials to enable anyone regardless of existing knowledge about identity theft to inform others about this serious crime.

 

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ID THEFT

Every hour someone is getting their identity stolen.  Things we take for granted can open the door for a thief.  You tell yourself that you have to use a credit card to pay for this or that, or you try to play it safe and write a check at the store instead.  You get such a great discount if you apply for this one store’s credit card.  All things we all do every day to exist.

Identity theft is happening in every city, town no matter what the size.  It is defined by Wikipedia.org as “a form of stealing someone's identity in which someone pretends to be someone else by assuming that person's identity, typically in order to access resources or obtain credit and other benefits in that person's name.”  It is not just the current economy that brings about this crime, it has happened for decades.  As long as there are dishonest people, someone will try to steal something that does not belong to them. 

The problem with identity theft is it happens behind the scenes. Most people don't even know anything is wrong until it is too late. These thieves take your information and get credit cards, open a bank account, change mailing address and spend your money.  They depend on most people to not check their accounts regularly. When someone does notices something, they could have racked up devasting amounts of debt and/or had their bank accounts cleaned out.

Exactly what information do they need to be successful at stealing an identity?  Not much.  If they can obtain your birth date, address or phone number, they are on their way.  They can begin to set up a post office box, a fake driver license, store credit card all in their name and with their photo!  Each step they take, they build credibility.

Information is obtained from many sources:  school, health insurance carrier and any other mail you leave in your mailbox for “pick up” the next day.  Some even go so far as picking through your garbage to get more information from bills, credit card slips and any other documents you do not shred.

Key Tips In Staying Safe

  • Don’t leave outgoing mail in your mailbox.  Drop it off at the post office or a local box at a business.
  • Don’t advertise personal information on social media.
  • Don’t give out personal information on phone surveys, via email or on the Internet unless you initiated the process; like signing up for a new online account.  BEWARE: it is always best to get a special charge card that you use only for Internet purchases.  Ask the bank to put a limit on the amount that you might normally spend on a given shopping spree.  Be reasonable and conservative.  Having a $10,000 limit is not a limit.  Try capping the card at $1,000 or less. Check with your bank.
  • Buy a shredder and use it.  Shred all documents received in the mail that has your name, address and any other personal information before you throw it out.  This includes insurance forms, bank statements and unsolicited memberships.
  • Make your passwords difficult.  If they are easy enough for you to remember without looking, they are too easy to steal.  The best passwords are the longest and those that merge upper and lower case letters with numbers.  It has been said that using a 3-word statement is the hardest to crack.  Of course never use the name of the site, your name, your mother’s maiden name, your birth date or any numbers from your social security number.  e.g.: gokart20tabledrive12.
  • Limit the number of credit cards you hold and especially ones you carry.  Never carry your social security card, birth certificate or passport, unless necessary.
  • Never use a credit card on the Internet unless you see it is a locked and encrypted site.  (Https://  instead of  http://).  Look for a lock icon on the page.
  • Limit your personal information being distributed as much as possible.  Put as little information as you can on your checks.  Never put your social security number or phone number on your checks or any other forms without viewing their privacy notice.
  • Approach ATMs with caution.  Don’t let anyone get in line directly behind you when you are entering your information.  Either ask them to step back or leave without doing your transaction.  If they get your PIN number, they will have access to your entire account.
  • Always keep a list of your credit cards, numbers and customer service phone numbers in a safe place. Keep your passwords and pin numbers with them.
  • Ordering checks or a new credit card?  Circle the date they said you would receive them and then call if you don’t receive it that day.
  • Keep track of your monthly bills.  Know approximately when they normally arrive.  If anyone is late, call the company and express your concern.  This is a good indication of identity theft.
  • Order your credit report at least twice a year. Reports should be obtained from all three major sources: Equifax at 800-685-1111; Experian at 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); or TransUnion at 800-680-7293.

If you are the victim of identity theft, contact your local law enforcement agency, all your credit card agencies and complete an identity theft packet (provided by local law enforcement).

Washington County ID Theft packet PDF

Article written by: Helen Neal of HLN Web Designs

 

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TIPS TO PREVENT CRIME

It is estimated that $65 million is lost each year in the United States in home invasions, muggings, and in other violent crimes. It is estimated that $600 billion is lost per year due to fraud. Work place violence caused an estimated $30 billion to American businesses last year.

It is important to be aware a crime can occur, anticipating the location, time, and taking action to reduce the chance of it happening. Crime prevention is key to stopping the ability and opportunity for a criminal. The use of instinct, knowledge, common sense, and awareness can make you a tough target.

Three Basic Rules

  • Stay alert.
  • Keep your mind on your surroundings, who's in front of you and who's behind you. Don't get distracted.
  • Walk purposefully, stand tall, and make eye contact with people around you.
  • TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, leave.

Personal Protection

  • Make yourself a "tough target."
  • Don't think that it can't happen to you.
  • Should you resist? Everyone and every situation is different.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • If being followed or stalked, call 911 or drive directly to a police station

If You’re Attacked

  • Keep your head. Stay as calm as possible and evaluate your options and resources.
  • It may be more advisable to submit than to resist and risk severe injury or death. You will have to make this decision based on the circumstances. But, don't resist if the attacker has a weapon.
  • Keep assessing the situation as it is happening. If one strategy doesn't work, try another. Possible options include negotiating, stalling for time, distracting the assailant and fleeing to a safe place, verbal assertiveness, screaming, and physical resistance.
  • You may be able to turn the attacker off with unusual behavior such as throwing up, acting crazy, or stating you have a sexually transmitted disease.

After a Sexual Assault

  • Go to a safe place and call the police.
  • The sooner you report the crime, the greater the chances your attacker will be caught.
  • DO NOT shower, bathe, douche, or destroy any clothing you were wearing. Do not disturb any physical evidence.
  • Go to a hospital emergency room for medical care.
  • Call someone to be with you. You should not be alone. Contact a rape treatment or crisis center to help you deal with the consequences of the assault.

While Driving

  • Keep your car in good condition with the gas tank at least half full.
  • Park in well-lighted areas and lock your doors, no matter how long you'll be gone.
  • Put valuables out of sight or in the trunk.
  • Check front and rear seats, and floorboards before entering your car.
  • Drive with all doors locked and windows rolled up.
  • Never pick up hitchhikers. If your car breaks down, put the hood up, lock the doors, turn on the flashers, and move to the passenger seat. Do not leave your car. If someone stops to help, roll down the window slightly and ask them to call the police or a tow truck.
  • Avoid underground and enclosed parking garages if possible.
  • When parking or returning to your vehicle, carry your keys and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Consider investing in a cellular telephone.

Public Transportation

  • Try to use well-lighted and frequently used stops.
  • Try to sit near the driver or conductor.
  • Avoid sitting near exits. An attacker can reach in and grab a purse or jewelry as the bus or subway pulls away.
  • Be alert to who gets off the bus or subway with you. If you feel uncomfortable, walk directly to a place where there are other people.

In an Elevator

  • Look in the elevator before getting in.
  • Stand near the controls.
  • Get off if someone suspicious enters. If you're worried about someone who is waiting for the elevator with you, pretend you forgot something and don't get on.
  • If you're attacked, hit the alarm and as many floor buttons as possible.

 

 

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WARM WEATHER CRIMES

After being stuck inside all winter, many people anxiously await the arrival of the warm spring season weather. But, there are some who dread the potential increase in crimes caused by rising temperatures.

Tracy Siska, executive director at the Chicago Justice Project, says there is a correlation between rising temperatures and violent crimes.

“Violence increases, especially street violence, muggings, assaults, battery,” Siska says. “Across the boards most crimes increase.”

Siska speculates that the spike in crime may be due to the increase in the number of interactions that people have with one another during the warmer months. Warmer weather can bring together potential wrongdoers, victims, and belongings all in the same place.

Roger Humber, director of the Criminal Justice department at South University — Montgomery agrees that warmer temperatures alone may not be to blame for an increase in crime. Like Siska, he says the rise in social interactions may be a factor.

“A factor may be the heat, or it may just be that we are all active more during this time,” he says, adding that people may experience a form of heat aggravation in warm weather that causes them to lose their temper more easily. 

Examining Factors Behind Crime Increase
Although many law enforcement departments across the country report increases in crime during warm weather months, Laura Brinkman, associate director at the University of Chicago Crime Lab says there is no clear causal explanation for the pattern that is consistently applicable across different urban settings.

Violence increases, especially street violence, muggings, assaults, battery.
“For example, it could be that it’s not the weather, but the academic summer break that leads to a spike in violent crime,” Brinkman says. “Juveniles are the most likely to commit crime, in general, so it seems almost obvious that crime may peak during summer months when students are off from school with idle hands.”

Chicago received a great deal of media attention during the spring and summer 2010 months, due to a rash of violent crimes in the city’s South Side area.

Siska says the level of violence during this time period wasn’t necessarily greater than usual, but the press put more emphasis on it than they have in the past. 

Brinkman says statistics have shown that homicides in Los Angeles, which has warm temperatures most of the year, are the highest during July and August, but are almost as high during December and January as well.

“So despite the fact that juveniles contribute to a large portion of violent crime, there is nothing special about summer that causes an increase in offending in Los Angeles,” says Brinkman. “This could suggest that the relationship between homicide and summer in Chicago is due to temperature, rather than the fact that students are on summer break.” 

Brinkman adds that these statistics could also simply mean that Los Angeles has found a better way to decrease the homicides that occur during the summer months than is used in Chicago.

“Adding to the tenuousness of the summer-break murder-spike theory in Chicago is the fact that the majority of school-age homicide victims in Chicago are actually not enrolled in school, making summer break no different a time of year for these individuals than when school is in session, aside from weather of course. That is unless the addition of school children to the mix of individuals out and about in a given neighborhood somehow exacerbates pre-existing tension, which is again, hard to measure.”

Regardless of the reason behind the violence, Humber says that law enforcement should provide extra resources in areas with the highest amounts of crime.

“Additional patrols in high-risk areas, shortening response time to calls for service during times when criminal activity is most pronounced may help,” Humber says.

Siska believes that for the most part, there is adequate police coverage even in the areas of Chicago with the highest crime rates. He says that although some police officers could be transferred from areas with lower crime rates to the areas that see the most crime, it wouldn’t necessarily lower crime in the city.

“There’s a difference between prevention and displacement,” Siska says. “It changes who was victimized.”

Siska says that for the past 50 years, Chicago has been saying they were going to find a way to end the violence in the city and they haven’t, so something else needs to be done to stop it.

Seasonal Safety
Sergeant Dave Jacobson, of the Oak Park Police Department, in Oak Park, Illinois, says he has occasionally  seen an increase in crimes that could be attributed to warmer weather, for example property crimes such as bike thefts and auto break-ins.
“With warmer weather, people tend to start bringing out and leaving out valuables, such as bicycles, lawn furniture, etc,” Jacobson says. “This creates more opportunities for would-be criminals to commit theft.”

“You also might see more fights between teenagers as they start to spend more time hanging out outside,” Jacobson adds.
Although the spring can be a dangerous time in major cities, people are advised to always take safety precautions.

“Always be aware of your surroundings; when possible avoid unfamiliar or potentially unsafe situations; don’t leave valuables outside where they can easily be stolen; and never hesitate to call 911 if you observe anything suspicious,” Jacobson advises.

Author: Laura Jerpi

 

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Information and recommendations are compiled from sources believed to be reliable. The Sheriff’s Office  makes no guarantee as to and assumes no responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency or completeness of such information or recommendations. Other or additional safety measures may be required under particular circumstances.

Last Revised: 07/14