How to Protect Yourself Against Crime
Experts give advice on ways to fend off criminals -- and avoid danger in the first place.
Preventing crime from happening requires an active mind and body. It means
paying attention to your instincts, to other people, and to your surroundings.
It means constantly training your brain and limbs to act defensively. It is
more than just a few martial arts moves. It is a way of life.
"Security has to be habitual," says Jordan. "If you allow
yourself to get into a lax way of thinking when it pertains to your security,
it is very difficult to change that pattern when you find yourself [in
To clarify his point, Jordan points to security alarms that people have in
their homes but do not turn on. The hardware does nothing to thwart burglars if
it is not used.
People have an internal alarm as well. It usually tells them they are
walking into a bad situation. Yet many ignore it because they have a false
sense of security or are in denial that crime can happen to them.
5 Ways to Avoid Danger
To fine-tune your personal alarm, crime experts make the following
Trust yourself. Many times, your eyes, ears, nose, skin,
and tongue will give clues indicating that something threatening is ahead.
Another powerful indicator, widely known as a sixth sense, can also hint at
danger. "Trust when something doesn't seem right," advises
Be aware of your surroundings. No matter how safe you
think a neighborhood might be, it's still not a good idea to leave the front
door open, your valuables in the car, your purse on top of your office desk, or
to flaunt all of your expensive jewelry and other belongings. These actions
simply provide temptation and opportunity for offenders, says David Silber,
PhD, a consultant psychologist in Washington, D.C. who has worked with police.
He also advises against walking through dark, isolated alleys, fields, or
parking lots. Bad things happen in "safe" areas all the time. In fact,
would-be attackers lurk around places where they can have the opportunity to
catch people off guard, and remain anonymous. Again, they usually don't want to
Pay attention to the people around you. This advice is
part of both listening to your instincts and being aware of your surroundings.
You can often sense peoples' intentions just by the way they look at you. Heed
warning signs even when you are with people you know and trust. In 2004, U.S.
Department of Justice statistics show seven in 10 female rape or sexual assault
victims stated the offender was an intimate, a relative, a friend, or an
acquaintance. Officer Jason Lee, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police
Department, says questionable looks from people you know can gradually advance
to touching or words that may make you feel uncomfortable. "Tell someone
else about the warning signs, someone who can help you, so we can prevent
this," urges Lee.
Act confident and focused. Just as you can sense people's
feelings, others can sense yours as well. Predators look for people who are
meek, mild, weak, unfocused, and distracted. "Criminals are looking for
easy pickings. They're looking for someone who they can take by surprise and
will likely not resist," says Jean O'Neil, director of research and
evaluation for the National Crime Prevention Council. She suggests presenting
yourself in an assertive manner. When walking down the street, make eye contact
with people who look at you. O'Neil says that signals the would-be offender
that you are in charge and aware that they are there.
Understand that alcohol or drugs can cloud judgment.
Certain substances can certainly dull your senses and slow down your reaction
time to danger. They can also lower other people's inhibitions and make them
more aggressive or belligerent. It is for this reason that Silber says certain
places like bars and pubs may present some danger, particularly if they're
crowded. He also says mutual drinking can increase chances of rape or sexual
assault among people who know each other.