The most important protection you can have against crime is knowing how to avoid it and how to maximise your personal safety in the event of a crime. Here are some tips that can help you lower your risk of becoming a victim.
Send the right message. Project confidence and walk with purpose. If possible keep an arm’s length away from strangers. Don’t feel embarrassed or shy about protecting your personal safety. If you don’t, who will?
Stay away from high-risk situations. Stay on well-lit, well-travelled streets and avoid unlit doorways and dark areas. Try to avoid being out alone, especially at night. Go shopping, jogging or travelling with a friend if possible. If you do go out alone, stay in busy areas and avoid deserted streets. Don’t use shortcuts that take you down dark alleys or deserted paths. Your personal safety is more important than saving time.
Be aware and alert. Always stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Trust your instincts. If someone makes you uncomfortable, get away quickly. When you go out, let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
Be smart on foot. In new towns or cities plan your route and know where you are going, so you won’t appear lost or confused. If you often walk home in the dark, get a personal attack alarm from a DIY store, or ask your local Police Crime Reduction Advisor where you can buy one. Make sure it’s designed to continue sounding if it’s dropped or falls to the ground, and make sure you know how it works.
Carry your bag close to you with the clasp facing inwards and carry your house keys in your pocket. If someone grabs your bag, let it go. If you hang on, you could get hurt. Remember that your safety is more important than your property. When approached by a stranger, such as for directions, be alert. Keep your distance and don’t go near a car to answer a question.
Don’t let yourself be distracted. Criminals often work in pairs – one person gets your attention while the other steals your purse, wallet or shopping bag. If you think someone is following you, switch direction or cross the street. Walk toward a busy store, a restaurant or a lighted house and call the police. Avoid using an enclosed phone box in the street as the attacker could trap you inside. If you feel threatened, yell for help.
If you’re being followed, do not go home. Go to a busy well-lit area. If a car is following you, turn and run in the opposite direction. While the car is turning around, you’ll have a chance to get away. If you regularly go jogging or cycling, try to vary your route and time. Avoid wooded areas, especially when you’re alone. If you wear a personal stereo, remember you can’t hear traffic or somebody approaching behind you.
Stay alert on the bus, underground or train. Use only well-lit, busy stops and don’t enter poorly lit tunnels or stairwells alone. Try to stay with a group of people. When boarding, have the exact fare ready so you don’t have to open your handbag or wallet in a crowd. On a bus, the safest place to sit is near the driver but away from the door. Try to choose an aisle seat so you can easily move if necessary. Try to sit in the middle cars of trains where there are other passengers. If someone makes you uncomfortable, change seats.
If someone harasses you, loudly say “Leave me alone!” If the person won’t leave you alone, hit the emergency alarm or alert the driver. Observe the people getting off at your stop. If you feel uncomfortable, go to the next stop or go quickly to an area where there are other people.
Staying safe in taxis. If you’re going to be out late, try to arrange a lift home or book a taxi. If using a mini cab, use one that you know to be reliable and licensed. Ask for a description of the car – colour, make etc and check this when it arrives. If you gave your name when you booked, check that the driver can tell you it before you get in. Ask ‘who are you for’ rather than ‘are you for *Name*’. Avoid mini-cabs that tout for business.
Always sit behind the driver, if in a group the last person to be getting out should sit in this position. If you feel uneasy, ask to be let out in a well-lit area where there are plenty of people. If in doubt, don’t get in the taxi.