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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Although the crime rate has been dropping nationwide for the past several years, our citizens still fear being victimized. Of the crimes that are committed, the majority could have been avoided if the victim had taken some preventive measures.

Most law enforcement agencies have crime prevention specialists available to their citizens free of charge. A wide variety of literature and training courses are available to the business and residential communities. Some of the training and programs offered are: auto theft prevention, personal safety, fraud prevention, workplace violence prevention, robbery prevention and survival, Neighborhood Watch, programs for senior citizens, and burglary prevention -- including on-site security inspections of homes and businesses.

Parents tell their children not to talk to strangers, but most children who are abducted are taken by someone they know. The Internet can be a very dangerous place for a child. These and other child safety issues can be addressed by a crime prevention specialist.

Anyone can become the victim of a crime. As a police officer, I assure you that we would rather educate people in crime prevention techniques than work with them as crime victims. Abby, I would encourage your readers to contact their local law enforcement agency to find out what crime prevention services are offered and take advantage of those services. When it comes to criminal activity, an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. -- GARRY CUOSO-VASQUEZ, CHIEF OF POLICE, MONTEBELLO, CALIF.

DEAR CHIEF CUOSO-VASQUEZ: Thank you for a thought-provoking letter. I'm sure that many readers will be pleasantly surprised to know about the crime prevention programs that are available in their communities simply by asking their local police departments for them.

DEAR ABBY: This is another letter on the subject of grandparents raising grandchildren.

When I was 55, I took early retirement because our two grandsons, ages 8 and 6, came to live with us while their grandma worked and their mother went back to school.

For the next several years, they divided their time between their mother and us, sometimes staying with us for several months. The older boy made it permanent when he was 16, and stayed until he finished school and went out on his own. Now 20, he still sends me a present for Father's Day.

My younger grandson, now 18, is living with his mother and stepfather. When he graduated from advanced infantry training at Fort Benning, Ga., guess who was invited to attend? I must have been the proudest grandpa there.

Raising teen-agers wasn't easy. There were quarrels and raised voices, but we got over it. We loved them when they were here and missed them when they were gone. Would I do it again? Absolutely! I wouldn't change a thing. -- GLENN R. SHARP, PROUD GRANDPA, HILLSBORO, ORE.

DEAR GLENN: What an inspirational story of how love can bind a family together! You are justifiably proud. My congratulations on a job well done.

NOT CONFIDENTIAL TO MORT PHILLIPS: Happy 60th anniversary, Darling! Every night is New Year's Eve and every day is Thanksgiving since I married you. Thank you for making me the luckiest woman alive.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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