Washington — Want to know how to protect yourself against crime? The US government will tell you. Leave a light on when you go to bed. Think about owning a dog. Prepare a check list of names and family information if you fear kidnapping or extortion. If you believe you are being followed on the streets remember that "a mailbox is a relatively safe place to deposit your purse or wallet to avoid theft."
Many citizens will rub their eyes over the matter-of-fact government distribution of a 203-page paperbound pamphlet, "How to Protect Yourself from Crime." The instructions offered are surprisingly specific, and the distribution carries the inference that crime is so prevalent in the United States that the government has sponsored a booklet on crime-avoidance. It contains such down-to-earth matters as advising that "the telephone should never be discontinued while you are away: A temporary disconnection is a clear indication that you haven't paid your bill -- or that you are out of town."
The pamphlet, offered by the Office of Community Anti-Crime Programs (OCACP) of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), warns that "burglars . . . regularly read the obituaries." To "thwart them" it recommends that somebody sit in the house while the family is away."
The Reagan administration recently has cut funds for the controversial LEAA, which was set up to help local police departments. The pamphlet is the work of Ira A. Lipman, head of Guardsmark Inc., a security protection company, published first by the Atheneum Press in 1975 and reprinted by the US Government Printing Office in 1981.
The pamphlet on self-protection comes at a time of spreading concern over crime in the United States. A government survey says that one family in three was touched by crime in the past year, and annual statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation show crimes of violence are up 13 percent. The assassination attempt on President Reagan, the unsolved child murders in Atlanta , and the argument over the sale of handguns, of which 60 million are now estimated in the United States, continue the discussion.
Now come government instructions on "how to protect yourself from crime." A press officer at OCACP said a limited number of free booklets is available at the following address: 633 Indiana Avenue, Washington, D.C., 20531.
Some Americans feel crime is changing the nation's way of life. US Chief Justice Warren E. Burger told an American Bar Association meeting at Houston Feb. 8 that "crime and the fear of crime have permeated the fabric of American life," and that "today we are approaching the status of an impotent society -- whose capability of maintaining elementary security on the streets, in schools, and for the homes of our people, is in doubt."
It is not often that a government press release tells you, as does one from the Department of Justice on the crime-protection pamphlet, April 12, 1981, that "if you walk at night, avoid the curb. Someone could hide between two parked cars and ambush you, or, if driving by, could reach through a car window and snatch your purse or attache case."
The LEAA reprinted 2,000 copies of the Lipman book, it says, at a cost of $3, 375.
What should a woman do if attacked? "Carry everyday items for use as defensive weapons: a pen or pencil, red pepper, lemon juice in a squeeze bottle, a key ring, or an umbrella.
"Attack an assailant at his throat, stomach, temples, eyes, or kneecap. Stomp on the foot, at the instep, as a defensive measure."
The pamphlet takes the citizen through the real or imagined hazards of living alone, on the streets, in the family, in the office, and also into special cases , such a s "Antikidnap and Extortion Problems for Executives."