The Privacy Act: What the Government Can Collect and Disclose about You

June 28, 2013

Privacy is the watchword in the news these days. With the revelations in recent weeks about far-reaching domestic surveillance programs by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other Federal agencies that were expanded under the Patriot Act, Americans are scrambling to determine what privacy rights they have to information collected by the Federal Government.

Overview-of-the-Privacy-Act-of-1974-2012-Edition-9780160914461Thus, the timing is ideal to review a biennial publication, Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 (2012 Edition), available in print from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore.

The Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 provides a valuable function to consumers, the media, Government and members of the legal profession by not only providing the current text of the Privacy Act and all its subsequent amendments, but also by consolidating the current regulations and updates, interpreting the Act’s provisions and giving detailed legal analysis of the latest court decisions that have decided challenges to how the Privacy Act has been enacted by various White House Administrations and Federal Agencies since the Act was passed.

What is covered by the Privacy Act?

The Privacy Act of 1974 established a “Code of Fair Information Practice that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personally identifiable information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies.”

The Privacy Act protects certain federal government records pertaining to individuals. In particular, the Act covers “systems of records” that an agency maintains and retrieves by an individual’s name or other personal identifier, such as your social security number.  (For clarification, a “system of records” refers to a group of records or a file under the control of a particular Federal agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifier assigned to the individual.)

With the advent of wide-spread use of computers and databases by the Federal Government, the Privacy Act was amended through the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988, which added certain protections for the subjects of Privacy Act records whose records are used in automated matching programs, such as the establishment of Data Integrity Boards at each agency.

Privacy Act Requirements

But what rights do individuals have under the Privacy Act? According to the Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 (2012 Edition), it gives individuals the right to review records about themselves, to find out if these records have been disclosed, and to request corrections or amendments of these records, unless the records are legally exempt.

From reading the publication, it seems the Act also requires that a Federal Government agency must:

  • give the public notice of their systems of records by publishing them in the Federal Register (also available as a subscription from GPO);
  • follow strict record-keeping requirements;
  • request the written consent of the subject individual for disclosure of their personal information– “unless the disclosure is pursuant to one of twelve statutory exceptions;” and
  • provide individuals with a means  by which they can access and amend (review and correct) records stored about them.

Your-Right-to-Federal-Records-2011-coverYour Right to Federal Records

For information about your rights to “discover, access and amend” Government records about you and frequently asked questions and answers about the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), you might want to check out the free publication, “Your Right to Federal Records available from the GSA’s Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC).

You may also be interested in learning more about the Freedom of Information Act by reading the Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, also published by the Justice Department and available in print from GPO.

Scope Issues

The Privacy Act does NOT apply to data collected about persons outside the United States, nor does it protect the privacy of your records that are maintained by the private sector, such as your credit report, bank account and medical records or even local or state government records like your driver’s license. Since many Americans today assumed that the battle to keep this non-Federal data private was already lost, it was comforting to discover that there is still a measure of privacy in data kept about you by the Federal Government.

And finally, while The Privacy Act does apply to the records of every “individual,” it nevertheless only applies to records held by an “agency.” Thus, any records ”held by courts, executive components, or non-agency government entities are not subject to the provisions in the Privacy Act and there is no right to these records.”  The Overview covers many questions about scope.

Exemptions and Exceptions

The most fascinating part of reading the publication to me– and timely considering the current news cycle– was to learn that there are situations where the Government is not legally required to follow the Privacy Act . According to the Overview, there are currently Twelve Exceptions to the “No Disclosure Without Consent” Rule of the Act and Ten Exemptions to the Privacy Act altogether where Federal agencies are not required to disclose records. 

Two of the ten exemptions outlined by the Overview are the “General Exemptions,” which apply to records about individuals maintained by

1)      the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and

2)      law enforcement agencies— or a component thereof— that primarily perform criminal law enforcement duties, “including police efforts to prevent, control, or reduce crime or to apprehend criminals.”

New proposed exemptions are offered all the time by subsequent Congresses and Administrations, such as the George W. Bush Administration’s agreement signed with the European Union in 2007 to share an airline’s Passenger Name Record as well as the utilize the Automated Targeting System.

Protecting-your-privacy

The questions about what constitute personally identifying data; what legal exemptions and exceptions apply; and how the Privacy Act has been interpreted over time by Federal Agencies, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Federal courts make up a good part of the Overview.

With post-9/11 security concerns driving Agencies’ desire for more information coupled with rapidly evolving technologies that enable greater collection and analysis of data, the publishers of the Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 will certainly be kept very busy in upcoming years reporting on and analyzing new privacy regulations and court decisions that will follow.

How Can I Obtain These Privacy Publications?

Anyone concerned with the laws governing what the Federal Government is collecting and disclosing about individuals in the United States—and how much individuals can learn about it—should read this important publication.

  • Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 (2012 Edition) in Print
    • Shop Online: Buy a print edition on the GPO U.S. Government Online Bookstore NOW ON SALE!!
    • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
    • Visit our Retail Store: Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
    • Find it in a Library: Search for it in a Federal Depository Library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Glad Dad: Best Books and Sites for Fathers

June 11, 2013

Fathers-day-in-multiple-languagesMany of our personal characteristics, such as where we are born, the color of our eyes, our native language—are due to luck. If we get good parents, this is due to luck, too. When we become parents ourselves, though, we need to rely on our own hard work. Being a parent is the happiest and hardest job I’ve ever had, and I know many people say the same. Any help you can get with that job, whether it is from your own parents, friends, your child’s teachers, parents of your child’s friends, is welcome. As the African proverb goes, it takes a village to raise a child.

Image: How do you say Father? Source: Craftionary

The Federal government wants to be part of that village, and provide parents with any assistance it can give. And with Father’s Day this Sunday, the Government Printing Office wants to highlight these terrific Federal publications and websites to help Dads be all they can be. Whether he’s called Papi, Papa, Pop, Baba, Daddy, Da, Abbu or just plain Dad, celebrate the fathers– and father figures– you know by sharing these resources with them.

National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse

Fatherhood.gov Despicable Me National Responsible Fatherhood ClearinghouseThe Government supports fathers in many ways; one of them is through the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse at Fatherhood.gov. Dads can check out this site to find fatherhood programs and resources, connect with mentors, read the latest blog posting on DadTalk, and take the Fatherhood Pledge.

Eleven Federal partners are involved in the Responsible Fatherhood Working Group: the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, Veterans Affairs, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The level of Federal investment shows how seriously the President and the Federal Government takes this initiative. Another way to reap the benefits of Federal support of fathers is to read Federal government publications prepared in support of responsible fatherhood.

Promoting Responsible Fatherhood

Hero poster for FatherhoodFirst.org Promoting Responsible Fatherhood: Every Father Taking Responsibility for His Child’s Intellectual, Emotional, and Financial Well-Being discusses the various programs and initiatives that President Obama has been promoting as part of his Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative, including the Head Start-sponsored Fatherhood First program (see poster on the left).

President Obama believes in the importance of fatherhood, as he said in 2009:

“I came to understand the importance of fatherhood through its absence—both in my life and in the lives of others. I came to understand that the hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill” (p. 2).

To keep that void from opening, the Federal Government has started the aforementioned initiative, and the president has asked for Federal budget support for the Child Support Enforcement Program and to sustain funding for the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grants.

President Obama playing with daughters and new dog BoThis book discusses these and similar Federal Government programs started and/or supported by the Obama Administration, and what the programs have done to help fathers and their families.

Image: President Obama playing with his daughters Sasha and Malia along with then-new (and rambunctious) dog, Bo, on the White House lawn. Source: The White House

This volume is mostly a high-level program summary of interest to policy wonks, public policy workers, social workers, local government officials and students of those disciplines. However, the general public can also glean information about what resources they can get from the Federal Government to assist their families.

At the document’s end, there’s a list of things fathers, individuals, NGOs and places of worship can do to support fatherhood in their own communities as well. The document’s authors try to show how the Federal government stretches out a hand, but it ends on a note of helping oneself, much like the next volume.

Download an electronic copy of Promoting Responsible Fatherhood: Every Father Taking Responsibility for His Child’s Intellectual, Emotional, and Financial Well-Being for FREE from GPO. 

Dad’s Play Book: Coaching Kids to Read

Dad’s Play Book: Coaching Kids to ReadDad’s Play Book: Coaching Kids to Read is geared to get dads to help their kids to read, using case studies and helpful tips. The writers use two of the most important behavior modification tools at their disposal: we all want to be like our peers (hence the case studies) and men love sports (hence the extended coaching metaphor). Twenty dads are profiled on how they are helping their kids learn to read, giving their names, photos, occupations and ages, so they’re more relatable to readers.

The middle pages cover five skills that children need to have mastered to be readers by third grade; everyone who has responsibility for a pre-K through 3rd grade child should be taking some time to study this cheat sheet. Each tip has a paragraph subtitled, How Can a Dad Help? that gives specific suggestions for a dad to improve reading—for example, with fluency. This title is short but sweet; there’s a lot more to know about helping a child learn to read, but this friendly, picture-filled piece is definitely worth the time it takes not only to read it, but to study it and employ in your life as well.

You can either


How can I find these publications: Promoting Responsible Fatherhood: Every Father Taking Responsibility for His Child’s Intellectual, Emotional, and Financial Well-Being and Dad’s Play Book: Coaching Kids to Read?

About the author(s): Our guest blogger is Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). (Article was adapted by Government Book Talk Editor, Michele Bartram, GPO Promotions & Ecommerce Manager, from an original  post on the FDLP Community site blog by Ms. Davis.)


National Police Week: Exploring Law Enforcement Lives and Leadership

May 13, 2013

Being a police officer is a dangerous job. The officer’s family members worry every day that she or he will be safe while on duty. A police officer’s retirement party is a happier occasion than any other professional retirement: not only has the officer concluded a successful career, but the officer has also survived—it is a lucky day, since police officers do put their lives on the line every day.

Today as I took the Metro (Washington, DC’s subway), I saw dozens of law enforcement officials, friends and family all heading to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial for the 25th annual candlelight vigil tonight for the many fallen Federal, state and local law enforcement personnel, just as we were putting the finishing touches on our own collection of Law Enforcement books for the occasion.

National-Police-Week_Law-Enforcement-Books-at-GPO-BookstoreThus, we are reminded that it is National Police Week, an annual commemoration held every May to honor the work of law enforcement officers and to honor the sacrifices of officers who have fallen in the line of duty in the previous year and add their names to the memorial. GPO would like to honor the day as well, by discussing two recent titles that deal with the dangerous careers of law enforcement officials.

Two recent Federal publications that highlight the dangerous lives and leadership challenges of law enforcement officers include Police Leadership Challenges in a Changing World and 2011 The FBI Story.

Police Leadership Challenges in a Changing World

Police-Leadership-Challenges_Report-coverPolice Leadership Challenges in a Changing World is a report in PDF format that discusses the difficult issues relating to integrating a new generation of recruits into the force of established officers. Traditionally, police organizations foster a “paramilitary culture and industrial-type bureaucracy”. Younger officers come from a generation used to a more dynamic environment, in part due to their experiences of growing up in the Web generation. Police management staff will need to learn to adjust to these different experiences of the younger recruits and learn how to exploit their skill set as strengths for the organization. At the same time, management needs to work with older staff to grow them into the idea of utilizing the different dynamics of the younger recruits. Communication and a tight-knit team are key requirements for successful police work. Police leaders will have considerable issues that they can turn into significant resources with some thoughtful adaptation of older and younger officers’ working styles.

Police leaders—especially if they come from the “paramilitary culture” are going to have to struggle against their own habits if they want to make the organizational culture more open to change and accountability. According to the report, the paramilitary culture does not allow for change and accountability much—it’s designed to provide routine—and today’s citizens are going to have different expectations of the force that is supposed to protect them.

The FBI Story

2011-The-FBI-Story-ISBN 9780160902574

In the report 2011 The FBI Story, the writers cover the stories of major events that happened during the report year. Each page covers a different story.

Some of the stories are historical pieces, such as page 13, subtitled “A Byte Out of History: Early African-American Agents”, which gives brief but fascinating vignettes of early agents, including the probable first African-American agent of the FBI, James Wormley Jones, and a father and son team working in Los Angeles from the 1940s through the 1970s, Special Agents Jesse and Robert Strider.

Other interesting stories include the capture of James “Whitey” Bulger, the takedown of a casino cheating ring, the indictment of a human trafficking ring which involved 600 Thai victims, the Bureau’s ongoing search for the I-35 bank robber bandit in Texas, reviews of cutting edge forensic techniques and investigative technologies, and a quick look at some of the major cases of the report year. It’s a fascinating review of one of the more exciting government agencies, and the report is easily accessible for any adult audience to read.

If you’re curious to know what your police force is doing in their day-to-day service, reading one of these reports will give you a good idea of the challenges of being a police officer. The reports are also of high interest for criminal justice students, scholars, and law enforcement professionals from the uniformed service all the way to supervisory criminal investigators and chiefs.

And if you’re in Washington, DC, tonight, drop by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, stop by the Candlelight Vigil and leave a rose in honor of those who sacrificed all to keep the rest of us safe. If not, click below to watch the live webcast online, United By Light, and to dedicate a candle to a special law enforcement officer:

2013-National-Police-Week-DC-United-by-Light-Candlelight-Vigil-Simulcast

How can I obtain a copy of these publications: Police Leadership Challenges in a Changing World and 2011 The FBI Story?

Or explore our entire collection of Law Enforcement print and electronic publications on the U.S. Government Online Bookstore.

Adapted by Government Book Talk Editor and U.S. Government Online Bookstore Manager Michele Bartram from a post written for the FDLP Community Blog by guest blogger Jennifer Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP).


Help is Just a Call, Click or Page Away: Federal Disaster Helplines & Emergency Medical Resources

April 19, 2013

Sadly, most adults in this country can remember some disaster or tragedy that’s happened to them or one of their loved ones in recent history. Most people in my office have their own exit strategy story from 9/11.  We all remember how we tried to cope, and we feel deep sympathy for fellow citizens in similar situations.

After the horrific events at the Boston Marathon and the Texas fertilizer factory explosion this past week, many Americans are again in the unfortunate position of needing assistance in the face of life-changing events. Your Federal government is here to help both the injured citizens and the local medical personnel who rush to their aid, both during and after the disaster occurs.Complementary Federal and local disaster response

Image credit: Vanderbilt University Medical Center Department of Emergency Preparedness  

I. Federal Disaster Resources for Civilians

The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is, in the words of their own staff,

“…the first 24/7, year-round national crisis hotline exclusively dedicated to providing free, immediate and confidential crisis counseling and support to people in distress related to any natural or man-made disaster, such as the explosions in Boston. We offer this counseling 24/7/365 through phone (1-800-985-5990) and through SMS/text messaging (text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746) – and DDH is for those affected, family member and loved ones, as well as for responders.”

SAMHSA-Disaster-Distress-Helpline

Operated by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Disaster Distress Helpline’s Web page www.disasterdistress.samhsa.gov also has a section devoted to incidents of mass violence.

If you are suffering from trauma related to the Boston Marathon attack, or similar events, reach out to the Disaster Distress Helpline. Get help, get some shelter. You’re going to wake up tomorrow, and the day after that. Make your day bearable; as Malcolm X said, “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

Additional Federal disaster and emergency resources for civilians include:

GPO is helping in its own way; you can find the catalog record about the Disaster Distress Hotline in GPO’s Catalog of Government Publications or your local federal depository library.

II. Federal Disaster Resources for First Responders and Civilian Medical Personnel

With the tragic terrorist bombings in Boston,  fertilizer factory explosion in Texas, mass shootings in Sandy Hook, and other recent disasters, medical personnel, civilian first responders and mental health personnel have had to learn to deal with injuries both physical and mental that are usually only experienced on the battlefield.

With the experience gained in treating the wounded and traumatized in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and mass violence and disasters in the US, the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice, and Transportation–

including FEMA, US Fire Administration, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, US Special Operations Command, and particularly the Army’s Office of the Surgeon General, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, USAMRIID- US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, and the Borden Institute

— have produced a number of outstanding resources and publications which are of extreme value to emergency medical personnel, including EMTs and surgeons, mental health counselors, fire and rescue personnel, and first responders of all kinds.

[UPDATE 4/30/2013] One great resource for first responders is the Public Health Emergency website maintained by the US Department of Health and Human Services. This is meant to be a one-stop resource for all of the federal medical resources and information for emergency response. The military version, the Department of Defense Force Health Protection and Readiness National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) Page, is here.

[UPDATE 4/26/2013] One of the best resources we have seen was provided by one of our readers, a Regional Emergency Coordinator with the Department of Health and Human Services. It is a one-stop site for all emergency medical resources called the WMD, Emergency Management, and Medical Web Sites List. The author says it is updated every six months to keep it accurate, and it “is intended to provide an extremely “comprehensive list of internet sites of use for emergency planning and in particular Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and medical emergency planning.

boston-marathon-emergency-medical-responseImage: First responders at the Boston Marathon bombings, including fire and rescue and emergency medical personnel. Image credit: EMSWorld

All of these Federal publications below can help civilian emergency response and medical personnel quickly learn from these Federal and military experts on how to respond to disasters and how to treat gunshot and blast wounds (such as from bombs and IEDs), amputations, and other combat-style injuries both in the field as well as the rehabilitation and psychological factors afterwards, including post-traumatic stress.

Some of the more pertinent disaster response and treatment publications that can be found on the U.S. Government Bookstore include:

About the Authors

Part I: Excerpted from a post on the FDLP Community Blog on April 18, 2013, by guest blogger Jennifer Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP) who wrote about the Disaster Distress Helpline.

Part II: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram writes about the disaster and emergency response publications that can help civilian personnel respond to disasters with combat-style injuries. Ms. Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


School safety by the numbers

March 9, 2012

Guest blogger GPO Public Relations Specialist Emma Wojtowicz discusses a publication about safety in schools.

School safety is a concern. The recent school shooting at the public high school in Chardon, Ohio, reminds us that any school is susceptible to violence and tragedy. Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2010, a publication by the Department of Education and Department of Justice, thoroughly examines the various indicators that threaten the safety of our nation’s schools.

The information and data in this report was collected through surveys conducted from 2007-2009. While this report is regularly published to help policymakers and schools develop ways to keeps schools safe and prevent crime and violence, it makes for an interesting read given recent events.

The report identifies 21 indicators that threaten the safety of schools. The indicators encompass a variety of problems like victimization, bullying, injury, fights, use of drugs and alcohol and weapons possession. Charts and graphs illustrate the data collected about each of the problems with breakdowns by age, ethnicity, gender, public versus private school, and urban versus rural school location.

Is your child afraid at school? For example, this chart shows the number of students from 12-18 who feel threatened at school or away from school. Here, Black students feel the most afraid at school, with Hispanics second, but Hispanic students feel more threatened outside of school than any other group. (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)

There are also comparisons for some indicators between being at school and outside of school.

Who’s carrying? For example, the above graph from the book shows the percentage of high school students who carried a weapon on and off school property at least once in the last 30 days. The highest weapon-carrying groups were American Indians, Pacific Islanders and White students, with Asian and Black students as the lowest groups. (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)

The content is organized well with a brief explanation about each indicators followed by the data depicted through charts and graphs making for easy navigation if there is a specific topic you are interested in.

Some interesting findings during the 2007-2008 school year:

  • Victims of bullying are about same for males and females: 30% of male students and 33% of female students reported being bullied
  • 5% of students reported being afraid of attack or harm at school
  • 1% of public schools have daily metal detector checks and 5% of public school have random metal detector checks
  • 6% of students reported carrying a weapon to school and 17% of students reported carrying a weapon anywhere in a 30-day period
  • 21 school-associated homicides occurred
  • 43% of public schools reported they have an electronic notification system for a school-wide emergency in place

It is difficult to analyze these statistics and determine whether or not schools are safe. From scanning the various line graphs, it is easy to notice there has been a decline over the years from the mid-1990s to 2009 regarding most of the indicators. Hopefully, this data is used to improve and strengthen the safety of schools. As our country was reminded on February 27 in Chardon, Ohio, any school is at risk and we must be steadfast in the effort to reduce the risks that leads to tragedy.

What measures are in place to keep your child safe at school? This chart from the book shows what school security measures have been put in place overall since 1999, the year of the Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. While all measures increased since 1999, many have dropped from a former high rate in 2003-5, such as use of security guards, metal detectors, locker checks or visible student ID badges. The only measures that have consistently grown over the years are: use of security cameras, instituting a code of student conduct, locked entrance and exit doors during the day, and a requirement that visitors to the school sign in. (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)

HOW DO I OBTAIN THIS “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2010” BOOK?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

Child Abduction: A Family Matter

June 7, 2011

 This one was hard to read – not because of the language, but because of the painful subject matter. The Crime of Family Abduction: a Child’s and Parent’s Perspective, a 2011 Library Journal notable Federal Government document, tackles the astonishing and heartbreaking fact that more than 200,000 children each year are abducted by a family member. This little book from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention highlights a little-understood crime – and it is a crime, in all 50 states and theDistrict of Columbia.

I say “little understood” because, despite the fact that this is the predominant form of child abduction, it is too often ignored, as if abduction by a parent is somehow understandable or excusable.  Just how inexcusable it can be was brought home to me by the exquisitely painful first-person stories of abducted children and searching parents. The kids involved lose their families, friends, and homes, sometimes are forced to take on new identities, and live in the frightening shadow of discovery. For those returned to searching parents after years of absence, the reunion can be painful or even terrifying, depending on what the abducting parent has told them. According to the testimony presented in The Crime of Family Abduction, the trauma can last a lifetime.

This heartrending book is packed with information for anyone faced with what must be an excruciating situation. It’s also a somber and moving snapshot of a crime that victimizes those even peripherally involved. It’s not a light read, but it’s an important one. You can find it here or find it in a library.


West Side Story Project Toolkit: Crime Prevention on a New Stage

April 20, 2011

Guest blogger Jana Sabol looks at how police and kids can find common ground on the stage of a classic American musical

Many of us are familiar with the plot of West Side Story, the award-winning adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Set inNew York City in the mid-1950s, the story revolves around the rivalry between the Jets, a white working-class gang, and the Sharks fromPuerto Rico. The rival gangs battle for territory and respect as a romance forms between a Jet and the sister of a Shark.

Working off the theme of West Side Story, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (the COPS Office) has created a toolkit to address youth violence and youth-police relations. Schools across the country perform their own adaptations of the class West Side Story every year, so it seems like a great next step to bring these tool kits into schools and communities to help address the issues of gang prevention, youth–police relations, and cultural conflict. For those unfamiliar with the musical, the toolkit not only provides the tools to reduce conflict, solve problems, and build relationships but also the opportunity to experience musical theatre.

The West Side Story Project Toolkit: Crime Prevention on a New Stage consists of a set of 5 booklets, a CD, and a DVD. Incidentally, GPO’s own Creative Services group designed and developed the toolkit brand/logo and created a kit folder for the training and guidance materials. It’s a great opportunity to get a community involved in collaboration with kids, police, and local arts groups to curb youth-violence and improve youth-police relations, while at the same time introducing live musical theater to those who previously were unacquainted with it. You can get your copy here or find it in a library.


%d bloggers like this: