Absorbing daily media leaves people with the impression that unprovoked violent attacks are commonplace when in fact they are very rare. That said, there are a number of common sense personal safety guidelines to follow to reduce the chance that you or your loved ones are prey to mentally disordered or violent offenders.
In most cases you are in control of the circumstances in which you place yourself. Just by being aware that you are a potential victim of a personal crime is the first step toward prevention.
Probably the least expensive measure you can take to protect yourself against crime is to incorporate certain habits into your daily routine that make you and your family less vulnerable, to adopt a "security conscious" lifestyle. The best prevention is precaution. A basic rule is to stay alert to your surroundings. Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a place or situation, leave.
In The Home
- Keep doors and windows locked at all times.
- Install a peephole so that you can see who is outside without having to open the door.
- Never open the door to a stranger. Verify identification first.
- If a stranger asks to use your phone, offer instead to make the call. Do not let them into your home.
- Do not advertise the fact that you live alone.
- Women alone should use their first initials only in telephone directories, on mailboxes, etc.
- Never give the impression you are at home alone if strangers telephone or come to the door.
- Don't reveal personal information to anyone on the phone or at your door. You are not required to participate in any surveys.
- Teach children never to open the door to a stranger or reveal information on the phone.
- Have your keys ready when approaching your home.
On The Go
- Plan and use the safest route to your destination.
- Choose busy, well-lighted streets. Avoid short-cuts or routes that pass by high-risk areas (i.e. vacant lots, alleys).
- Try to avoid isolated bus stops.
- Walk facing traffic so you can see approaching cars.
- Walk near the curb to avoid the element of surprise. Someone may be hiding between shrubs or in a doorway.
- Stay out of reach if someone in a vehicle stops to ask directions.
- Be wary of approaching strangers.
- If you suspect you are being followed, break the pattern by crossing the street or changing direction. If you must flee, run to the nearest place of safety. Try to get a description of the person and/or vehicle.
- If you are in trouble, attract help any way you can. Scream, yell for help, or consider carrying a shriek alarm.
- Do not carry large sums of money in your purse or wallet. Carry your purse close to your body but DO NOT wrap the straps abound your arm or hand. You could be injured during a purses-natching. "Transfer the risk" by carrying most of your valuables on your person instead of in your purse.
- Don't leave a purse unattended, even for a moment.
- Automated banking machines have created an opportunity for robberies to occur. Try to avoid using them late at night.
- Be alert to persons or vehicles loitering in the area. In the event of a robbery or purse-snatching, DO NOT resist. You could risk serious injury.
- Don't display large amounts of cash in public.
In Your Car
- Drive with your car doors locked. Keep windows rolled up whenever possible.
- Never pick up hitchhikers.
- Keep your car in good running order. If it does break down, do not accept a ride with a stranger. Simply ask them to call some assistance for you and remain in your own vehicle. Similarly, do not offer a stranded motorist a lift, but rather call some assistance for them.
- Park in areas that are well-lit. Always lock the car.
- Look around the car before you get out especially at night or in deserted areas (under-ground parkades).
- When returning to your car, have your key in your hand.
- Look in the back seat before getting into the car.
- If you are being followed, don't drive home. Go to the nearest place of safety where you can contact the police. Try to obtain a description of the vehicle.
What If It Happens To You?
When faced with danger, trust yourself. Stay as calm as possible. Think rationally, without panic. Evaluate your options. There is no one right way to respond to a confrontation. Every situation is different. The response depends upon the circumstances: location of the attack, your personal resources, the characteristics of the assailant, and the presence of weapons. There are many strategies that are effective but you must rely on your own judgment to choose the best one:
- No resistance
- Stalling for time
- Distraction and then fleeing
- Verbal assertiveness
- Screaming to attract attention
- Physical resistance
Always make a conscious effort to get an accurate description of your attacker(s) and call the police immediately.