Situational Awareness

Be aware. Be Safe.

SAFETY IN YOUR VEHICLE

Whether you are walking to your vehicle, sitting inside, or driving being vigilant and aware can prevent you from becoming a victim of theft or assault! Crimes occur everywhere, especially in parking garages, take necessary precautions to defend yourself and your possessions.

  • By virtue of their location and design, parking lots can attract undesirables and promote criminal activity. 
  • Many parking lots and garages come with design flaws—dark stairwells, high walls, structural columns, and multiple levels—that provide hiding places and poor sight lines that actually attract criminal activity.
  • If you see a suspicious individual looking into parked vehicles or closely watching others walk to and from their vehicles you should call for security or law enforcement because they might be targeting their next victim.
  • Turn the ignition off and take your car keys with you, even if you just have to run inside for one minute.
  • 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. If you are uncomfortable, ask a security guard or store staff to watch you or escort you to your car.
  • More than 1 in 10 property crimes occurred in parking lots or garages3.
  • 7.3 % of all violent crimes are reported to occur in these facilities.
  • Of those crimes, 16 % were violent victimizations, such as assault, rape, and robbery.4

Predator’s Target2

  • Someone looking friendly, timid, lost, absent-minded, or intoxicated – thus more easily manipulated.
  • Someone wearing earphones or distracted with a cell phone – unaware of their surroundings.
  • Someone unaware they are being followed until they’re isolated and face-to-face.
  • Someone parking close to trucks that prevent witnesses from seeing you – predators seek that kind of cover.
  • Someone “handcuffed” with both arms loaded with packages or a child.
  1. Always drive with your car doors locked and windows up far enough to keep anyone from reaching inside.
  2. When stopped in traffic, do not let yourself be a victim of a carjacking. Leave enough room to see the rear tires of the car in front of you. By giving yourself enough space, you leave yourself room to maneuver in case of an emergency. If someone unexpectedly appears by your car door, you can — with this space — floor the accelerator and escape.4
  3. Travel on well-lit busy streets. You can spare those extra minutes it may take to avoid an unsafe area.
  4. Keep your purse and other valuables out of sight, even when you are driving in your locked car. It is better to place them on the floor than the seat.
  5. Never pick up a hitchhiker. Even the most harmless-looking stranger can be dangerous.
  6. When you arrive home, leave your headlights on until you have the car in the garage, and the house door unlocked. If you can have a remote control garage door opener installed, it will allow you to remain in your locked car until your garage door closes.
  7. When parking on the street, try to park within sight of a busy store or hotel entrance, under a streetlamp, near a busy corner or out in the open away from things that might provide shelter to a thief (like thick or low-hanging trees). The busier the street, the better.
  8. A neat car is less likely to get broken into. Remove or lock up items such as GPS units or accessories for your cell phone – to remove temptation.
  9. Visual cues like a steering wheel lock or a blinking alarm system light will inspire thieves to move on to the next vehicle, even if you don’t have the alarm activated.
  10. If you think you are being followed: Do NOT drive home. Drive to an already identified safe spot (police stations, fire stations, public and well-lit places). Assess if you need to call 911 to protect yourself from a threat.1

RESOURCES​

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Safety in your Home

When it comes to home safety, it’s important to protect your home against threats like burglary, intrusion and fire. Precautions are necessary in order to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your possessions.5

  • Most burglaries take place between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m when the majority of people are at work or school.
  • The typical burglar resides within two miles of the target home and can burglarize a home in less than ten minutes.2
  • Intruders use social media sites to determine when homeowners are away on vacation. Wait to post your vacation pictures until after you have arrived home.
  • Every 13 seconds a home intrusion is committed. 
  • A typical burglary last from 90 seconds to 12 minutes.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a household member is present during approximately 28% of burglaries, and 7% of these victims experienced some type of violent crime.2
  • 34% of burglars break in through the front door, 23% first-floor window, 22% through the back door, and 9% through the garage.4
  • If you see anyone acting suspiciously around your house or a neighbor’s house, call 911 immediately.
  • If you see a vehicle that’s parked on your street for an extended period of time and you know that it does not belong to your neighbors nor does it belong to anyone visiting your neighbors, you have every right to be suspicious. Write down their plate numbers.
  • If you see someone who is trying to give the impression that they are walking or jogging, but you can tell that they are spending a lot of time looking at your home, this should set off a red flag, especially if the individual is not dressed in exercise clothing.
  • Burglars may knock on the door saying that there is an emergency or that they simply need a glass of water. Once in your home, they can unlock a door or unlock a window and then use it as an entrance point when you are away.
  • Uncertified workmen, unsolicited fundraisers, or religious workers may, in fact, be individuals looking for an opportunity to gain access to your home. Contact the company to verify that they sent individuals to your home.4
  • A dog’s bark is a deterrent to thieves, but even if you don’t have a dog—put up a “beware of dog” sign anyway. It might be enough to intimidate and make a burglar think twice about breaking in.
  • Don’t tempt intruders! Throwing out the box for your new flat-screen TV on the curb lets everyone passing by know that you have expensive possessions inside. Break down packaging and place it inside the garbage or recycling can instead.
  • Motion-sensored lights outside your home are a great deterrent for burglars.
  • Use blinds or curtains, especially at night. If someone can see inside your home, they can see what you’re doing, where you’re storing your wallet, which room you’re sitting in to watch TV, and which rooms are dark and vacant.
  • Set timers for lights to create the illusion that someone is home and actively turning the lights on and off.
  • Keep all doors and windows closed and securely fastened. An open window or door is like an open invitation for burglars.
  • Keeping a car parked in the driveway with a garage door opener inside is an easy way for an intruder to get into your garage or even your house.
  • Large hedges and shrubbery provide the perfect hiding place for quick burglars or voyeurs. Keep shrubbery trimmed away from your entrances and walkways.1
  • If your house is broken into, call police immediately. Don’t touch anything that the criminal may have touched. Wait outside for police to arrive.3

SAFETY IN PUBLIC PLACES

Whether you are going to the mall, a movie theater, grocery store, jogging outdoors or running errands around town you are giving up certain aspects of your personal safety. It is important to know and understand the risks of being in public and how to limit your chances of being a victim.

There are many factors that play into how safe a public area appears. According to the National Institute of Justice, geography has a major influence on crime. The features and characteristics of cityscapes and rural landscapes can make it easier or more difficult for crime to occur. The placement of alleys, buildings and open spaces, for example, affects the likelihood that a criminal will strike. This means that no matter where you live or what public spaces you visit, you need to know how to stay safe.2

  • Common locations for crime are2:
    • 15.1% at schools
    • 11.3%  at commercial establishments
    • 7.6% at parking lots and garages
  • Purse snatchings and pocket pickings typically occur away from home. The most common places of occurrence were:4
    • 39.1% in commercial places such as restaurants, bars, and other commercial buildings
    • 28.2% in open areas such as the street or on public transportation
  • About 10% of personal thefts occurred in or near the victim’s home or the home of a friend or neighbor.
  • If you know someone is following you, you could be in danger. Try to go to an area with a lot of people and call 911 to report the suspicious individual.
  • Study the body language of those around you – it gives us advance warning about the actions that a person or group of people are about to undertake.
  • Look for movement warning signs, nervous twitches that signal that the person is about to act. Two common signs of impending action are pacing and standing on the balls of their feet.3
  • Be aware of your surroundings – keep the headphones out when walking by yourself.
  • Trust your intuition – if you feel uncomfortable for whatever reason, try to get yourself out of that situation, fast.
  • Body language says a lot – walk with your head up and with confidence.
  • Keep your keys separate from your bag and easy to access. Not only does it mean you can get inside quickly, but if your bag is stolen, you can still get home.1
  • If you are attending a performance, such as a movie or a concert, sit in the back row by the aisle. Stay alert at all times, have your cell phone with you at all times, and park close to a well-lighted space near the exit door. 
  • Drinking impairs your ability to react quickly to situations. If you are going to drink, ensure there is a sober person with you to be the designated driver and to accompany you wherever you roam.
  • Always have an escape plan
  • Carry pepper spray or a loud noise deterrent.2

RESOURCES​

Safety While Traveling

Traveling throughout the United States or internationally can be a great experience. Whether you are traveling for work or pleasure, solo or in a group, staying for a few days or several years, planning ahead can help ensure your vacation is both enjoyable and safe. When you’re venturing into the great unknown, it is important to learn how to protect yourself to ensure a happy and secure journey.13

  • Public Wi-Fi makes it easy for thieves to hack into the information stored on your mobile phone or laptop.1
  • Pick-pocketing and purse snatching are rampant in places where tourists gather. Bus stations, airports, and busy spots are the favorite places for pickpockets and they often target Americans.2
  • Other scams to be aware of14:
    • Counterfeit change scams prey on travelers unfamiliar with the appearance and feel of their destination’s paper currency. For example, a tourist pays for their meal, the waiter leaves and comes back with a counterfeit bill explaining that the tourist gave a counterfeit bill originally and that they need to pay with actual currency. In turn, the tourist then pays for their bill twice. 
    • Distraction schemes, where pairs or teams of thieves work together. The basic concept is that a lead thief creates a situation that diverts your attention, allowing the thief or an associate to relieve you of valuables.7
    • Romance Scam: Be wary of anyone you meet who quickly offers romance, friendship, or marriage. These individuals may be after your money or may be involved in human trafficking.
    • Lottery Scammers: They may claim you have won a lot of money, but you need to pay some taxes and fees first.
    • Drug traffickers: They may offer you money to carry a package or documents home with you or may offer to pay for your travel expense. Do not transport anything for anyone you do not know.
  • About 33 % of identity theft took place when people were traveling.
  • Over 400,000 pick-pocketing incidents occur in the world each and every single day. The top five cities for pick-pocketing occurrences are as follows: Barcelona, Rome, Prague, Madrid, and Paris.11
  • Between 2009 and 2013, 1,151 Americans – out of a population of 316 million – were killed abroad. 
  • The top 5 countries by Americans killed per capita are Pakistan, Thailand, Philippines, Haiti, and Honduras. Mexico is ranked #10.16
  • In some countries there are a lot of non-registered taxis – for foreigners. They’re hard to recognize as they also have a “taxi” sign. More often these private taxis are involved in muggings and it’s recommended not to use them.2
  • Crowded buses are a breeding ground for petty theft. When people are pressing in all around you, it’s harder for you to watch and protect your belongings. Crowds are not a traveler’s friend – in fact, they can make it far easier for pick-pockets and thieves to do their dirty work and escape quickly.7
  • Monitoring bank and credit card accounts, as well as credit reports, is helpful in detecting suspicious activity.1
  • Get to know your destination in depth before you arrive. Read traveler reviews and consult with those who have traveled to those locations for information about the safest neighborhoods, places to stay and incidences of crime.5
  • Carry a “burner wallet,” with an old ID and a few $20 bills, to give to an assailant in the event of an assault.5
  • Use a money belt to secure the most important items underneath clothes – it is not visible for others and nearly impossible to access for pick-pockets.2
  • Avoid bringing your Social Security card or birth certificate with you. Do not bring all of your credit and debit cards; choose instead to carry only a select few. If you do bring sensitive documents with you on your trip, lock them up in a hotel safe or other secure location.1
  • Take note of the logos and colors of local taxis and buses even if you don’t need one immediately. This will help you spot the ones that are legitimate and those that are fake later. Fake cabs have been used by criminals to part you from your money in several ways. In some regions, fake cabs are used to kidnap tourists.
  • Nothing screams tourist like a camera permanently hanging from your neck. Not only do you stand out, but you may also get targeted by thieves. Carry a camera or smartphone that you can fit into your small bag.8
  • Withdraw money only inside banks during the opening hours because ATMs are skimmed mostly during the off-peak-hours and in public areas like shopping malls.2

RESOURCES​