The following strategies deal primarily with prevention from theft of personal property/money either from you or from your immediate control while out in the public. For the most part this information is applicable while on foot. But the strategies can be applied to motorists as well.
There is no
guarantee you will not fall victim to a street robbery or other theft. However,
this information will help reduce your vulnerability and minimize your loss. The
goal is to avoid becoming a victim in the first place. But in the event you are
victimized the strategies will help maintain your safety and minimize your loss
Typical Thefts Occurring In Public
In general you are much more vulnerable to a street robbery by force or threat of force at night than during the day. There tends to be less people out at night and the darkness provides reduced visibility. There are fewer potential witnesses to the crime. But if the conditions are right you can be victimized at any time. Because robbery, armed or unarmed, is a more serious offense the offenders will take steps to avoid being caught or identified through exposure to witnesses (including the victim).
Valuables not under your direct control can be stolen in the time it takes you to turn your head away. Crowded places like supermarkets or department stores are frequent locations for this to occur primarily because people tend to be distracted in these environments. Finally, property can be simply grabbed from you or your immediate area while out in public. These types of crimes can occur day or night. Here, the offenders rely on cunning, surprise, availability of a crowd to blend into, reduced visibility or a combination to avoid capture or identification. So be aware of you, your property and your surroundings any time you are out in public.
Donít Be A Victim
So the first step is to avoid situations that put you or your property in harmís way, if possible.
Avoid walking on the street at night. This would be especially true for areas with frequent street robberies and thefts. Try to walk with others but if you cannot then stick to areas that are well lighted. Donít take short cuts through parks, alleys, behind buildings or other darkened areas. At night and alone, avoid any place where you can potentially be isolated from public view.
Plan ahead. Explore other options. Can you change your routine so you are not on the street at night? Check into using public transportation or taxis before walking at night or in unfamiliar areas. Avoid walking into unfamiliar areas. Know where you are or find out. If you are driving then make sure you get directions beforehand to your destination.
Itís a good idea to carry a cell phone with you. Despite the fact that it could potentially be stolen it offers a way to quickly call for help. Of course, avoid excessively talking on the phone as you walk down the street. Not only are you advertising that you have a cell phone but your attention will probably be focused on your conversation. Also remember that at the current time 9-1-1 calls from cell phones are first answered by Massachusetts State Police. They will then transfer your emergency call to the appropriate agency.
Donít leave your valuables unattended. It only takes a moment for someone to grab your laptop computer from a coffee shop table. You could be away from the table getting napkins. All along the person who had been sitting next to you was waiting for an opportunity to take it. Are you going to remember what the people who had been sitting around you looked like?
A common crime occurring in supermarkets is the theft of pocketbooks from shopping carts. In most cases the victim left their pocketbook in the shopping cart then stepped away. While they were distracted the suspect took the pocketbook. Some victims didnít even realize their pocketbook was gone until they went to pay for the groceries.
Part of the victimization avoidance strategy is to not draw the attention of offenders and would be offenders. The bad guys look for easy victims. Casual offenders will seize an easy opportunity. Serious offenders will be out looking for victims. These types of offenders might follow a victim until the time is right to rob them. So walk with confidence and awareness. Let people know that you can see them. Donít wear excessive jewelry or openly display cash while on the street. Donít display any valuables while on the street. Use caution at ATMs, especially at night. There is an entire section on ATM Safety on this website. Please read this for more information.
If you think someone is following you try to get to a place where other people are or step into a store. Call police immediately if you think you are in danger. Always report suspicious behavior to police. You might have averted a robbery by taking preventive action. If the offender remains in the area the next person might not be so lucky.
The Ruse Approach
Be especially alert to persons approaching you. There are times when strangers will talk to you for legitimate reasons. But a common tactic used by persons with ill intent is to use this to distract you while they or an accomplice(s) take something from you. Never go any where with a stranger or entertain any business offers.
Reduce What You Carry - Reduce What You Lose
Minimize your potential losses by only having what you need. If you are only going out to a buy a newspaper and a coffee you donít need $50, your iPod and all your credit cards. Most businesses accept debit/credit cards so why carry any cash at all?
Do you really need to carry a pocketbook? Pocketbooks can be snatched from your arm or grabbed out of a shopping cart. If it is really necessary then be sure to carry it firmly and always keep an eye on it if you set it down.
Imagine everything that is inside your wallet or pocketbook. Picture the inconvenience of having to remember what exactly was inside it after it was stolen and replacing it all. Some contents like credit cards or checkbooks can be used fraudulently as well. This is just further victimization and more inconvenience.
Your Safety Comes First
If you are robbed DO NOT RESIST! Comply with the demands of the suspect. Resisting or stalling will dramatically increase the chance violence will be introduced to get you to comply. Try to remain as calm as possible. Focus on descriptive details of the suspect(s), weapons and which way they fled. Call police as soon as you feel it is safe to do so.
The intent of this information is not to make you paranoid but aware and prepared. Understand that careless behavior increases your chance of becoming a crime victim. Every time you leave the safety of your home you should have a basic awareness of where you are going, what you are doing and what you will have or need. What do you really need to take? Adjust your mindset accordingly. Are you going to work, for a jog, to the mall or to an area you are not that familiar with? Is it nighttime or daytime?
Pay attention to police/media alerts for crime trends or patterns. They are issued your safety. Seek crime prevention information from your local police either in person or through their websites (like you are now). Unfortunately, many crimes that have already happened or are about to happen could have been prevented.
Avoid being a victim; reduce your loss but above all else STAY SAFE! Always report anything suspicious to police. Calling police can have a positive impact on preventing future crimes from occurring.