Crime takes on many forms and can occur in public or private locations such as grocery stores, movie theaters, apartments, or other residential areas. Most people do not live their lives in anticipation or fear of becoming a victim, but this can be a mistake. Although people should not live in paralyzing fear of criminal activity, it is important to recognize that it could happen and take steps that may prevent you from being robbed or attacked. Naturally, due to the unexpected and often random nature of crimes, there is no guarantee that a person will never become the victim of a crime, but awareness and having a plan can reduce the risk.
Whether commuting to work, chauffeuring children to daycare, or running chores, people spend a significant amount of time in their vehicles. Unfortunately, a large number of criminal acts are associated with vehicles in one way or another. Carjacking, for example, is when a person forcefully steals a vehicle that is occupied by its driver. Often, the driver is ejected from the vehicle and the car is stolen without its passengers, but there have been incidents when parents were unable to remove their children from the backseat before the car was driven away. Drivers can prevent this in several ways. First, keep all of the vehicle’s doors locked at all times and the windows closed or no further than halfway down. While on the road, drivers should not stop if they are being flagged down or if they see what appears to be an injured person or an accident. Instead, they should call 911 to assist the individuals who may be in need. While driving, stick to the center lane as much as possible; car thieves will be less likely to carjack a vehicle that they cannot easily force their way into when it slows down or comes to a stop. When stopping at a stop light or a stop sign, keep enough space between your car and the vehicle ahead of it to maneuver the vehicle and quickly drive off if necessary.
Parking lots are another area where people frequently fall victim to crimes. To prevent thieves from stealing your car or their belongings inside of it, lock all doors after exiting the vehicle, and stow personal belongings in the trunk or glove compartment rather than in plain sight. Because thieves are often watching for opportunities, people should never put goods in their trunk and then leave the vehicle. Drivers should have their keys in hand and stay alert to their surroundings when walking to their car, whether it’s in an open lot or a parking garage. You should also avoid walking to your vehicle alone if possible, particularly at night. Once you reach the vehicle, check the backseat before entering and walk away if anything seems amiss. If it’s clear, quickly unlock and enter the vehicle, then lock the doors, buckle in, and drive away.
Parking lot theft is most prevalent in areas where there is poor lighting or when the car is parked in an unpopulated spot that is not easily visible.
Theft is generally lower in parking lots with attendants present.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, parking lots and garages were the location of one in ten property crimes between 2004 and 2008.
Parking lot theft frequently occurs due to the driver’s failure to secure the vehicle or move valuables out of plain sight.
Crimes can and often do happen at home, too. In most cases, criminals want to sneak in and get out unnoticed. People can help keep crime away from their doorsteps by avoiding routines that watchful criminals may be looking for. In addition, people should avoid announcing vacations or any trips that may take them away from their home on social media. Another encouraging sign for criminals is a dark house. Whether one is at home or away, a house should never be entirely dark. Turn on front porch lights at night, and set up motion detecting lights in the back yard and on the sides of the home. Because a criminal’s intent may be something other than theft, one should always keep doors locked after entering and windows closed and secured. If a stranger comes to the door, keep it closed and do not let them in. Talk with the individual through the door only, regardless of how kind, attractive, or innocent the person may look or behave. Another way to prevent residential crimes is to install an alarm. Alarms can alert residents if a door is open or a window is broken. Setting it is key to an alarm’s success, and it should be set without fail whenever one leaves the home and at night.
Yards with very few medium-to-tall plants are less attractive to criminals, as they will be more exposed when entering or leaving the home, which increases their risk of being seen.
Open blinds or curtains at night are an invitation for criminals to get a good view of the homeowner and their belongings.
Homes are more likely to be broken into during the daytime hours, when thieves think no one is home. The sound of a television or radio that has been set on a timer can create uncertainty and may make criminals think twice about entering the home.
The bark and potential bite of a dog can be a deterrent to would-be criminals.
When left uncollected, the newspapers, mail, or unwanted telephone books that gather in the mailbox are a sign to burglars that someone is away from home and that the house is unattended.
Just like theft, assault is a crime that can sometimes be prevented. Being alert and traveling, partying, or simply walking with a companion are two of the greatest defenses against sexual and other forms of assault. If walking or traveling alone, stay away from areas that appear isolated or dark and avoid areas that are unfamiliar, which can be a problem if you find yourself in a situation that requires you to flee an attacker. Instincts will often alert a person to suspicious behavior or situations before they become obvious: If something seems suspicious about a location, a person, or a group of people, trust that instinctual feeling and leave immediately.
Because it isn’t always possible to stop an assault, carry deterrents that can be used to stop and scare away an attacker. Personal alarms or electronic whistles are loud and can bring attention to the attacker. It is also important to avoid activities that place you at a higher risk of being assaulted. This includes getting intoxicated in the presence of people who are not trusted friends, accepting food or drinks from strangers, and leaving drinks or food of any kind unattended.
Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows personally.
In most cases, drugs and alcohol play a role in sexual assault. Individuals should know their limits when drinking.
Walking with purpose, with the head up and making eye contact, helps make individuals seem like a more difficult target for criminals than someone who appears less confident.
Vehicle Security: Drivers can be especially vulnerable to crime, which is why vehicle security is so important. Anyone who drives a car can freshen up on how to stay safe by reading these vehicle security tips.
Protect Yourself in a Parking Garage: Garages offer plenty of opportunities for the determined criminal.
Crime Prevention Inside Parking Lots and Garages: Parking lots and garages are an unavoidable part of the driving experience. On this page, readers can review crime prevention advice offered by the city of Winston-Salem.
Reduce Your Chances of Becoming a Victim When Shopping: Don’t let a shopping trip turn into a crime incident. Read this Consumer Reports guide on how to avoid becoming a victim when shopping.
Carjacking Prevention (PDF): For some car thieves, even the presence of a driver isn’t enough to deter them from stealing a vehicle. Drivers who read this document will discover driving rules that can help keep them safe from a carjacker.
How to Avoid, and Survive, Being Carjacked: This video and report on the ABC News website explains how drivers can avoid a carjacking or, if unable to avoid it, survive the experience.
Guarding Against Robbery and Assault: On this page, the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia explains and provides advice on how to avoid several different types of crime.
Crime Prevention Tips:
Burglary: Read this page and watch the video on how to avoid being the victim of a home burglary.
Eight Signs Your House Is Waiting to Be Robbed: Good Housekeeping reveals eight things that raise the risk of a home being robbed.
Eight Easy and Cheap Ways to Prevent Home Theft: Protecting your house does not have to cost a lot of money or be overly difficult. This article gives eight tips on how someone can inexpensively protect their home.
Crime Prevention Tips: Families and businesses are both susceptible to theft and other crimes. Click this link to read about home, vehicle, and business safety.
21 Things a Burglar Won’t Tell You: People can get ideas about how to prevent their homes from being burglarized by reading this Reader’s Digest article, which features tips from a burglar’s perspective.
Nine Ways to Protect Your Home From Burglary: Click this link to view a slide show on how to protect your home from burglary.
Sex Assault Prevention Tips: People can reduce their risk of sexual assault by following this list of tips provided by the Denver Police Department.
Prevent Sexual Assault (PDF): Anyone interested in preventing sexual assault can click this link to learn how to avoid becoming a victim and how to prevent others from becoming one as well.
Rape Prevention Tips: Trinity College offers advice on how people can prevent rape personally and as a bystander.
Alcohol Safety: Alcohol frequently is a factor in cases of sexual assault. This article gives advice on how to drink safely and in the company of friends and how to avoid adulterated drinks.
Personal Safety and Awareness: Learn about personal safety in violent situations by clicking on this link.
How to Avoid Being an Easy Target: This article explains how it takes seven seconds for a criminal to determine if a potential victim is an easy target. Readers will discover what it takes to become a hard target and lower the risk of becoming a casualty of a crime.
Robbery Prevention Tips (PDF): People who read this document will learn what they can do to avoid being robbed at home, at work, and in their vehicle.
Nine Ways to Stay Safe When Walking Alone: Taking a walk alone can raise the risk of being attacked or robbed.