To avoid being an easy target for criminal activity, it is important to always be aware of your surroundings. Although anyone can become a victim of crime, you can greatly reduce your chances by considering the following information and safety tips.
- Types of Crime
- The Need for Awareness
- Crime Statistics
- Personal Safety Skills
- Exercises to Increase Awareness Skills
The three types of crime which occur most frequently are: property crime, personal theft and violent crime.
Property crime refers to when an individual’s property is taken or damaged. Personal theft most commonly refers to purse snatchings and pocket pickings. Both property crime and personal theft typically do not involve physical harm to the victim.
A violent crime, however, involves physical harm to the victim. Violent crime includes the following: rape, sexual assault, assault and personal robbery.
The U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) indicates that criminal activity can occur anywhere. Considering this, it is important to always be attentive to your surroundings. According to the most recent data collected by the BJS, the following occurred between 2004 and 2008:
- 1 in 3 violent crimes were committed inside or near the victim’s home.
- Nearly 1 in 5 violent crimes were committed in open areas (on the street, yards, fields, playgrounds, etc.).
- Nearly two thirds of property crimes were committed within or close to the home of the household members.
- More than 1 in 10 property crimes were committed in garages or parking lots.
- 39 percent of personal thefts were committed in commercial locations.
- 28 percent of personal thefts were committed in open areas or on public transportation.
- 10 percent of personal thefts were committed within or near the victim’s home or an acquaintance’s home.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Crime Statistics from 2015, incidents in the United States occur at the following rates:
- One robbery every 1.6 minutes.
- One aggravated assault every 42.5 seconds.
- One rape every 4.5 minutes.
- One murder every 36.9 minutes.
- One burglary every 18.2 seconds.
- One larceny-theft every 5.4 seconds.
- One motor vehicle theft every 45.7 seconds.
Attackers will initially profile you as a victim either by observing you or actually approaching you. Sometimes, they will intentionally bump into you or ask you a simple question to better gauge whether you would be an easy target. Generally, attackers are looking for individuals who are not paying attention and can be easily surprised or overpowered. They prefer someone who would not put up a fight or attempt to make a scene in order to attract help from others.
Many people assume that crimes only happen during the evening and night hours. The extra awareness that we tend to have with us at night needs to also be carried over into the daylight hours. Crime can occur at any time and increasing awareness will reduce your chances of being targeted in a crime.
Make use of all five senses to detect and assess your surroundings. Pay close attention to situations which could potentially pose a threat to your safety. Trust your instinct: if it does not feel right, try to distance yourself from that person, object or situation immediately.
The following activities can help you sharpen your ability to pay close attention to what is happening in your environment:
- Do not let yourself be taken by surprise. If someone does catch you off guard, note down a description of their appearance, what happened, where it occurred and at what time. Consider whether you could have been doing anything differently to avoid that surprise, or if it was out of your control.
- Select an item of clothing or accessory to note or observe on people. For example, see how many people with blue neckties or pink nail polish you can observe in one day. By looking for one particular characteristic, you will eventually get in the habit of being more aware of who is around you and scanning your environment.
- Select places that you frequent, such as the parking garage at work or the parking lot of the grocery store, and consider which areas would be easy for a criminal to ambush you. Sometimes, these are areas that are less obvious, as attackers want to avoid being predictable. How can you avoid these areas? If you were ambushed, what would be the easiest escape route?
- Be attentive to the small details of your surroundings. Listen for footsteps behind you. Smell for cigarette smoke indicating that someone else may be lurking nearby even if you cannot see anyone. Trust your instinct. Even if you cannot place a finger on why something feels strange or unsafe, distance yourself from it.
When in public, try to avoid getting so involved in your own thoughts that you stop paying attention to your surroundings. Learn to be in the moment, aware of who and what is around you. You will greatly decrease your chances of being victimized if you appear alert.
If you do become a target, your active awareness can help you assess the situation more quickly and head in the right direction to get help. Consider taking a self-defense course that can arm you with simple and effective techniques to escape from a variety of dangerous situations. Utilizing all of your senses and intuitions can help you react quickly to a crime and keep you from being a victim.