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United States of America (USA) - Crime and Safety
Crime rates are not the same everywhere, and high rates of crime tend to be focused in certain areas only. Despite the reputation of America as the “firearms murder” nation of the world, most areas of the country rarely, if ever, face criminal activity of this type. Statistically, chances are slim that you will find yourself involved in a violent crime. Of course, the chances of this occurring are higher if you find yourself in South Central Los Angeles than in rural South Dakota. Petty crime, such as theft or vandalism, is much more common.
However, fear of crime has had a major impact on American society and has been used to exacerbate interclass and sometimes interracial tensions. There are times when fear is justified, but it is frequently out of proportion to the risk of encountering criminal activity. Many Americans are fascinated by crime in their country, and this is reflected in the media coverage and the number of crime drams on television today. It has been suggested that the saturation coverage of crime in America reinforces Americans' anxiety about other people and increases their fear of loss of loved ones and property.
It may be wise to check local legislation as it affects you when you first arrive in the States. Of course, most “obvious crimes” are crimes in America too; however, some states may have laws that catch you by surprise (curbside recycling may be mandatory in some areas, for example).
Illegal drugs and controlled medicines are subject to various penalties for possession, use, or illegal marketing and distribution (drug trafficking).
Legal ages (sex, marriage, alcohol, driving)
The legal age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual sex varies by state, but in most cases it is 16 and 18, respectively. In most states, that age at which one can legally marry without parental consent is 18. A few states, mostly in the South, permit marriages between teens as young as 14, provided they have parental consent or a Court Order.
The legal age for the purchase of alcohol is 21 years, which is higher than in many other countries. However, many states permit under-21s to consume alcohol in certain situations, such as at home in the presence of a parent or guardian. You should be sure to check the legal age of consumption for the state you are in.
The legal age to drive in the USA is 16 years. However, there are certain types of exceptions where the age limit may even be as low as 14 years.
Emergency services and numbers
The phone number to call in an emergency (i.e., for police, ambulance, fire department) is 911.
Government agency phone numbers are listed in virtually all telephone books as well as both the emergency and non-emergency numbers for the police and fire departments. You should usually call the non-emergency number, but if your life or another's life is in danger, then you should dial 911 (this also applies when there is a crime in progress). You must provide the operator with your location, and if you do not speak fluent English you should learn some phrases for emergencies and know how to pronounce an address so help can get to you.
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