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Safety Information: How to Be Streetwise and Safe

Knowing how to protect yourself can reduce the opportunity for muggers, purse snatchers and other criminals to strike.

Four Basic Rules

  • DO stay alert. Keep your mind on your surroundings, who's in front of you, and who's behind you. Don't get distracted. If you're worried about crime, ask a friend to accompany you when you go out.
  • DO communicate the message that you're calm, confident, and know where you're going. Stand tall, walk purposefully, and make quick eye contact with people around you.
  • DO trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a place or situation, leave.
  • DO know the neighborhoods where you live and work.  Check out the locations of police and fire stations, public telephones, hospitals, restaurants, and stores that are open late.

In The Car

  • Keep your car in good running condition to avoid breakdowns.
  • Drive with all your doors locked. Keep windows rolled up whenever possible.
  • Take the time to check the inside of your vehicle before you get into it.  If anything looks disturbed or suspicious, contact a friend or call 9-1-1 to have an officer check out the car before you get into it alone.
  • Never pick up hitchhikers.
  • If you see another motorist in trouble, signal that you will get help and then go to a telephone and call police.
  • If your car breaks down (and you do not have a cell phone), raise the hood, use flares, or tie a white cloth to the door handle or antenna. Stay in the locked car.  When someone stops, ask them to phone for help.
  • Park in well-lighted areas that will still be well-lighted when you return.  Lock your car doors.
  • Be particularly alert and careful when using underground and enclosed parking garages.
  • If you are being followed while driving, drive to the nearest police or fire station, open gas station or other business, or well-lighted residence where you can safely call police. Try to get the car's license number and description. If no safe areas are near, honk the horn repeatedly and turn on your emergency flashers.

When Walking

  • Plan the safest route to your destination and use it. Choose well-lighted busy streets and avoid passing vacant lots, alleys, or construction sites. Take the long way if it is the safest.
  • Know your neighborhood. Find out what stores and restaurants are open late and where the police and fire stations are.
  • Make sure you know where your children are going and when they go out, and encourage them to play with other kids. Show them safe places in the neighborhood where they can go if they ever feel scared.
  • Carry your purse close to your body and keep a firm grip on it. Carry a wallet in an inside coat or side trouser pocket, not in a rear trouser pocket.
  • Do not flaunt expensive jewelry or clothing.
  • Talk while you are facing traffic so you can see approaching cars.
  • Know businesses that are open.

In Elevators

  • Look in the elevator before getting in to be sure no one is hiding.
  • Stand near the controls.
  • Get off if someone suspicious enters. If you're worried about someone who is waiting for the elevator with you, pretend you forgot something and do not get on. (Do not worry about hurting someone's feelings-keeping safe should be your first priority.)
  • If you are attacked, hit the alarm and as many floor buttons as possible.

Jogging, Biking, and Other Outdoor Activities

  • Choose routes in advance that are safe and well populated.
  • Vary your route and schedule.
  • Avoid jogging and biking at night.
  • Consider carrying a "shriek" alarm.
  • Do not wear headphones-it is important to remain alert.

What if It Happens To You?

  • Try to remain calm, try not to panic or show any signs of anger or confusion.
  • If the attacker is only after your purse or other valuables, do not resist. You do not want to escalate a property crime into a violent confrontation.
  • Make a conscious effort to get an accurate description of your attacker: age, race, complexion, body build, height, weight, type and color of clothing.
  • Call the police immediately, identify yourself and your location.  Contact your local victim assistance agency to help you deal with the trauma that all crime victims experience. They can also help you learn about victim compensation laws and how to follow your case's progress.

On Foot: Day or Night

  • Stick to well-lighted, well-traveled streets. Avoid shortcuts through wooded areas, parking lots, or alleys.
  • Do not flash money or other tempting targets like jewelry or clothing.
  • Carry a purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps.  Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket, not a back pocket. Carry only what is necessary and try not to keep currency and credit cards all in one place.
  • Do not wear shoes or clothing that restrict your movements.
  • Have your car or house key in hand before you reach the door.
  • Try to use automated teller machines in the daytime. Have your card in hand and don't approach the machine if you're uneasy about people nearby.  Better yet, only use the ATM machines inside of grocery stores, malls, or gas stations.
  • If you think someone is following you, switch direction or cross the street. Walk toward an open store, restaurant, or lighted house. If someone harasses you, do not be embarrassed. Loudly say, "Leave me alone! Someone call the police! Get away!"

Vehicle Safety

  • Keep your car in good running condition. Make sure there is enough gas to get where you are going and back.
  • Always roll up the windows and lock car doors, even if you're coming right back. Check inside and out before getting in.
  • Avoid parking in isolated areas. Be especially alert in parking lots and underground parking garages.
  • If you think someone is following you, do not head home.  Drive to the nearest police or fire station, gas station, or other open business to get help.

If Someone Tries to Rob You

  • Do not resist. Give up your property. Do not risk your life.
  • Report the crime to the police. Try to describe the attacker accurately. Your actions can help prevent others from being victims. Take a Stand!
  • Make your neighborhood and working place safer by reporting broken street lights, cleaning up parks and vacant lots, and lobbying local government for better lighting in public places.
  • Initiate a Block Watch program in your neighborhood by contacting your local crime prevention unit. 

Email the Crime Prevention Unit