Personal Safety Tips

The chance that you or a member of your family will be a victim of violent crime is low. Violent crimes are still comparatively rare and account for a very small part of recorded crime. But some people are still frightened that they, or someone close to them, will be the victim of a violent attack

The best way to cut the risk of attack is by taking sensible precautions. Most people already do this as part of their everyday lives, often without realizing it.

How you can stay safe

Staying Safe at Home

  • Make sure your house is secure. Always secure outside doors. If you have to use a key, keep it nearby - you may need to get out quickly in the event of fire.
  • If other people such as previous tenants could still have keys that fit, change the locks. Don’t give keys to workmen, as they can easily make copies.
  • If you wake to hear the sound of an intruder, only you can decide how best to handle the situation. You may want to lie quietly to avoid attracting attention to yourself, in the hope that they will leave. Or you may feel more confident if you switch on the lights and make a lot of noise by moving about. Even if you’re on your own, call out loudly to an imaginary companion - most burglars will flee empty-handed rather than risking a confrontation. Ring the police as soon as it’s safe for you to do so. A telephone extension in your bedroom will make you feel more secure as it allows you to call the police immediately, without alerting the intruder.
  • Draw your curtains after dark and if you think there is a prowler outside - dial 911
  • Use only your surname and initials in the telephone directory and on the doorplate. That way a stranger won’t know if a man or a woman lives there.
  • If you see signs of a break-in at your home, like a smashed window or open door, don’t go in. Go to a neighbor and call the police.
  • If you are selling your home, don’t show people around on your own. Ask your estate agent to send a representative with anyone who wants to view your house.
  • When you answer the phone, simply say ‘hello’; don’t give your number. If the caller claims to have a wrong number, ask him or her to repeat the number required. Never reveal any information about yourself to a stranger and never say you are alone in the house.
  • If you receive an abusive or threatening phone call, put the receiver down beside the phone, and walk away. Come back a few minutes later and replace the receiver; don’t listen to see if the caller is still there. Don’t say anything - an emotional reaction is just what the caller wants. This allows the caller to say what he or she wants to say, without causing distress to you. If the calls continue, tell the police and the operator and keep a record of the date, time and content of each phone call. This may help the authorities trace the caller.

Staying Safe When You’Re Out and About

  • If you often walk home in the dark, get a personal attack alarm or ask your local crime prevention officer where you can buy one. Carry it in your hand so you can use it immediately to scare off an attacker. Make sure it is designed to continue sounding if it’s dropped or falls to the ground.
  • Carry your bag close to you with the clasp facing inwards. Carry your house keys in your pocket. If someone grabs your bag, let it go. If you hang on, you could get hurt. Remember your safety is more important than your property.
  • If you think someone is following you, check by crossing the street - more than once if necessary - to see if he follows. If you are still worried, get to the nearest place where there are other people - a pub or anywhere with a lot of lights on - and call the police. Avoid using an enclosed phone booth in the street, as the attacker could trap you inside.
  • If you regularly go jogging or cycling, try to vary your route and time. Stick to well-lit roads with pavements. In parks, keep to main paths and open spaces where you can see and be seen by other people - avoid wooded areas. If you wear a personal stereo, remember you can’t hear traffic, or somebody approaching behind you.
  • Don’t take short-cuts through dark alleys or parks. Walk facing the traffic so a car cannot pull up behind you unnoticed.
  • If a car stops and you are threatened, scream and shout, and set off your personal attack alarm if you have one. Get away as quickly as you can. This will gain you vital seconds and make it more difficult for the car driver to follow. If you can, make a mental note of the number and description of the car. Write down details as soon as possible afterwards.
  • Don’t hitch-hike or take lifts from strangers.
  • Cover up expensive looking jewelry.
  • Self-defense and safety awareness classes may help you feel more secure. Ask your local police or your work if they have classes.

Staying Safe in Taxis

  • If you are going to be out late, try to arrange for a taxi. Check that the taxi that arrives if the one you ordered. Ask for a description of the car - color, 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. When you get home, ask the driver to wait until you are inside.
  • There are many reputable mini-cab or private hire car companies, but these must be booked either at their office or by phone. In some cases the driver will carry identification. Always keep the number of a reliable firm handy.
  • Always sit behind the driver.
  • If you feel uneasy, ask to be let out in a well-lit area where there are plenty of people.
  • If in any doubt, don’t get in a taxi.

Staying Safe on Public Transport

  • Try to stay away from isolated bus stops, especially after dark.
  • On an empty bus, sit near the driver.
  • On a train, sit in a compartment where there are several other people - ideally one which will be near the exit of your destination. Check to see where the emergency chain is.

When Driving

  • Before a long trip, make sure your vehicle is in good condition.
  • Plan how to get to your destination before leaving, and stay on main roads if you can.
  • Make sure you have enough money and fuel. Carry a spare fuel can.
  • Keep change and a phone card in case you need to make a telephone call. Carry a flashlight.
  • Before you leave, tell anyone you are planning to meet what time you think you will get there, and the route you are taking.
  • If someone tries to flag you down, drive on until you come to a service station, or somewhere busy, and call the police. Do not pick up hitch-hikers.
  • Keep doors locked when driving and keep any bad, car phone or valuables out of sight. If you have the window open, only wind it down a little. Don’t wind it down far enough to allow someone to reach in while you are stopped in traffic.
  • If you think you are being followed, try to alert others by flashing your lights and sounding your horn. Make as much noise as possible. If you can, keep driving until you come to a busy place.
  • After dark, park in a well-lit, busy place. Look around before you get out. If you’re parking in daylight, but coming back for your car at night, think about how things will look in the dark.
  • Have your key ready when you go back to your car. Make sure there is no-one in the car.
  • While on the hard shoulder or telephoning, keep a sharp look-out and don’t accept lifts from strangers - wait for the police or breakdown service. Don’t wait in the car - there is a high risk of an accident. Wait on the embankment nearby with the front passenger door open. If someone approaches you or you feel threatened, lock yourself in the car and speak to them through a small gap in the window.
  • If you frequently have to travel after dark, or if your job involves visiting people at home, e.g., a health visitor or a nurse, consider getting a cellular phone or ask your employer to provide one.