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Tips on Staying Safe at Home or While Traveling

Tips on Staying Safe at Home or While Traveling
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BY MYRA FAYE TURNER

Crime is on the rise. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, “Preliminary figures indicate that law enforcement agencies throughout the nation showed an overall increase of 1.7 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention for the first 6 months of 2015 when compared with figures reported for the same time in 2014.” Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The good news is property crimes decreased during that same period— down 4.2 %. Property crimes include burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft.

If you live in a small community, you may think you’re immune from the possibility of becoming a crime statistic. Think again. Crime happens in both large cities and small, cozy communities. The crime rate is usually lower and the types of crimes are not as violent, however, criminal activity can happen anywhere two or more people reside.

October is National Crime Prevention Month and perhaps this is a good time to review tips on staying safe at home and as you travel throughout your communities —both large and small. Don’t poke your head in the sand, thinking that it won’t happen to you. You don’t have to be hypervigilant or afraid, but not planning for a possible crime is irresponsible. Read on to see how you can stay safe.

Safety When You Travel

  • One of the best ways to avoid being a crime stat is to always remain alert and aware of your surroundings.  Today, we spend so much time yacking it up on our cellphones that we often are oblivious to what’s going on around us. While I enjoy listening to good music, having earphones on while you’re out is not a wise move — unless you have them in one ear.
  • Personal security products can help scare off a potential attacker. Non-lethal items, like pepper spray, are good choices. You can also carry a whistle or safety alarm to signal when you’re in trouble. While you shouldn’t go toe-to-toe with an attacker, it’s okay to learn a few simple self-defense maneuvers. Often you can find free or inexpensive classes in your community.
  • Keep a charged phone with you at all times. I never leave home without my phone being at least 90% charged. Recently, I got a backup phone with pre-paid minutes. Like many people, I don’t have a home phone and if I’m home alone and something happens to my cell phone that can create a problem. This actually happened to me once when my phone died for no apparent reason. So now, I have this little phone as a backup. It’s fully charged and I leave it in the glove compartment of my car. I feel extra safe knowing I will always have a charged phone with me.
  • Ladies, keep an eye on your purse. Don’t leave it in a basket while you shop. In general, keep your purse on your shoulder with the closure toward your body. I tend to buy purses that have zippers on top and I usually carry the smallest purse I can find—just big enough for my wallet, cellphone, keys and a few items. If you carry a larger purse, make sure you don’t carry it in such a way that you suffer bodily harm if someone tries to snatch it. This means you shouldn’t drape it across your chest or wrap the strap around your wrist.
  • There’s safety in numbers, so if possible travel with friends or family members. Always walk with confidence and if you think you’re being followed let the other person know they are on your radar. Change directions if possible and if they still follow, head toward other people and/or call the police. I wouldn’t hesitate to whip out my cell phone and take a picture if I feel threatened.
  • Be especially vigilant when you travel at night. I have night blindness, so I drive at night only when I absolutely positively have to. When I am out at night, I make sure I stay in heavily-trafficked, well-lighted areas. You should do the same.  If I have to go to an unfamiliar location, I make sure I have directions before I leave home and you can bet I have already done a Google Maps search to see if a live view exists. This way I already know exactly what my destination is supposed to look like. Let me stress that you want to remain super aware of your surroundings when you travel at night. If you look lost, or inattentive, it’s like you have a bull’s eye on your head to a criminal looking for a target.
  • Make sure your car doors are locked when you leave your car and lock them immediately when you get inside. Have your keys ready before you get to your car. Don’t rummage through your purse looking for keys. Protect your personal property by never leaving expensive items visible to tempt a thief. Make sure you know exactly where you parked your car (snap a pic if necessary). You don’t want to wander around a parking lot or on an unfamiliar street looking for your car. Again, this could set you up as a target.
  • Don’t take more with you than you actually need. This includes cash, credit cards and other valuables. When shopping, don’t overload yourself with bags and make sure, especially during the holidays, you put your bags in the trunk if you have to make multiple stops.

Safety at Home

  • When arriving home, have your house keys ready before you reach the door. If you’re being dropped off, ask the driver to wait until you go in and check that it’s safe. If your house looks like it has been broken into, leave immediately, even if you don’t see anyone inside.
  • Women who live alone (or with no other adults) should use only their initials or just the last name on your mailbox (if at all). If you have a house phone, use a generic recorded voicemail (or have a male acquaintance record) for your outgoing message or say, “We can’t take your call right now”, rather than “I”. As much as possible, don’t advertise that you live alone.
  • Don’t hide spare keys outdoors; crooks know all of the hiding spots. That ugly ceramic frog that you think is the perfect spot is a beacon for criminals. Ditto on the flowerpots, big rocks, etc. It’s better to give your spare key to a trusted friend or relative.
  • Don’t let anyone inside your home who claims to be from the cable or utility company, etc. unless you placed a service call. Even then, I would ask for identification. If you think it’s legit, ask them to wait outside while you call for verification. It’s okay not to open your door to strangers. If you’re a stranger standing on my doorstep when I’m home alone, chances are, I am not going to answer. I figure if it’s important enough, drop a note or leave a business card in my mailbox.  And I don’t care if they see my car in the driveway or hear sounds coming from inside. It’s my right not to answer my door. Under no circumstances do I ever answer my door after dark to a stranger when I’m alone.

As I said before, no one is immune from crime, but by making smart choices and following these tips, you can stay safe.

 

 

 

 

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