Did you know that you can directly impact your own safety and the security of your property?
It’s true! According to the crime model published by the Department of Justice’s Center for Problem Oriented Policing, the three factors needed for a crime to take place are: an offender, a location or place, and a victim or target. If you take one of the elements out of the equation, the crime should not occur. Since it is most difficult to remove the offender, your main focus should be on “hardening” the potential location or place and protecting yourself and your family.
Most violent crimes occur through opportunity, rather than careful planning. There are many ways to make yourself a less desirable target, such as:
- Choose populated places rather than deserted ones.
- Try to avoid being out alone after dark.
- Have a friend accompany you.
- Walk with a dog.
- Be alert to your surroundings.
o Walk with your head on a “swivel”, eyes constantly scanning all around you as you go.
o Don’t wear headphones, as they reduce your sense of hearing and lessen your awareness
- When approaching your car, have car keys in your hand (can be used as weapons)
- Upon entering your vehicle, lock it.
o Do not arrange your purse, laptop, bags while sitting in the car with the door open or
unlocked – your attention will be distracted from what is taking place outside your vehicle.
- Carry your purse over the shoulder and hold it close to your body.
- When placing youngsters into car seats, place your purse in the vehicle on the floor in front of
them rather than leaving it on the front seat, in a shopping cart, or hanging from your
- When going for a walk, carry a walking stick.
o Concealed weapons (knife, gun, pepper spray, etc.) may be useful, but you should check
local laws and abide by them.
Also consider that concealed weapons will not deter crime.
If you carry concealed weapons, be practiced in accessing and using them during
- Choose to walk in open areas if possible.
- Walk with a sense of purpose and try to exude confidence.
- Always carry a cell phone, just in case.
If you are accosted, here are several tips which may save your life:
- Run away while screaming at the top of your lungs “Get away from me! Leave me alone! I
don’t know you!”
- Run towards populated places such as stores or businesses, rather than into deserted areas.
- Don’t concern yourself with “making a scene”.
- Fight hard and long, as if your life depends on it.
o Don’t be afraid to use teeth, fingernails, elbows, knees and any object as weapons
o Fighting “dirty” is only disallowed in sports – if it can save your life, fight dirty!
- NEVER allow yourself to be removed to a different location.
o If you are forced into a vehicle, try to jump from it when stopped for red lights or in traffic
o If all else fails, try to force the vehicle into an accident.
o If locked in a car trunk, try to open the lock from the inside or disable the tail lights hoping
to bring about a traffic stop.
If stopped by police, make a lot of noise so they know you are there
- Don’t allow yourself to be corralled into a back room, bound, gagged or otherwise
incapacitated – FIGHT and/or RUN.
- If someone pulls a gun on you, run away as fast as you can, moving side to side as you run
o It is very difficult to hit a moving target and more difficult if the potential shooter is also
- Don’t try to call the police until the threat is over; spend your energy screaming, fighting and
trying to get away, then call the police.
Many thefts are also crimes of opportunity – meaning items were taken from open garages, unlocked cars, or unsecured homes, most likely by a passerby who saw the opportunity and seized it. The Community Development and Crime Prevention Institute theorized that it is possible to reduce crime and “create a climate of safety” by implementing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). Their website includes four strategies to reduce the likelihood of crime; paraphrased here:
- Natural Surveillance – designed to make potential criminals/intruders observable. This includes
installing/upgrading exterior lighting.
- Territorial Reinforcement – involves devising a sense of territorial control to discourage
potential offenders. This can be done using landscaping, pavement designs, gates and
- Natural Access Control – involves denial of access to potential targets and creating a
perception of increased risk to potential offenders. This is done by designing entrances and
gateways to clearly indicate public areas/routes and discourage access to private areas.
- Target Hardening – features that prohibit access or entry, such as locks, etc.
Reducing opportunistic property crime is relatively easy through target hardening. Some examples of this are:
- Install “bump proof” 2 inch deadbolt locks on all exterior doors.
o Double-key locks on any door with glass in arm’s reach of the lock mechanism
o Make a habit of ensuring that all exterior doors are closed and locked each night prior to
going to bed.
- Do not hide keys outside of your home, garage or vehicle.
o If you’re concerned about locking yourself out, install a keypad or leave a spare key with a
trusted family member or neighbor.
- Install adequate exterior lighting.
o At least near the entry doors.
o Even better, motion-activated lights near all potential points of entry such as doors,
basement windows, etc.
- Ensure that all windows remain locked.
o Special locks are available that allow windows to remain open without being raised more
than a few inches.
Keep in mind that opening a window merely a few inches allows potential criminals to
more easily pry it.
- Keep garage doors completely closed and locked when the garage is not in use
o This applies to attached and detached garages.
- Think twice before installing pet entry doors – some burglars are very skilled at squeezing
through small openings.
- Remove keys and personal property such as wallets, purses, electronic devices, etc. from
parked vehicles – even ones parked in a garage.
o If property must be stored in the vehicle, stow it in the trunk, locked glove box, or at
least out of sight and LOCK THE VEHICLE.
o Never leave valuables in plain view, even if the vehicle is locked.
- Install burglar/fire/panic alarms in the home if financially feasible.
o Monitored alarms are best, but any audible alarm will do.
- Dogs are generally good deterrents.
- Trim landscaping plants around windows and doors so that these points of entry are visible
rather than concealed.
- Do not store valuable property such as lawn mowers, bicycles, etc. in unlocked enclosed or
open porches, carports, sheds or garages.
- Do not leave your home unsecured while working in the yard.
o Even a brief trip from the front to the back yard - or vice versa - provides opportunity for
anyone to enter through an open entry or garage door.
- Be cautious and contemplate the potential consequences when considering features, such as
privacy fences, which obstruct the view of your home or property from the “extra eyes” of
neighbors and police.
- Purchase a visible anti-theft device, such as a “Club”, to use in your vehicle(s).
- Keep an eye on your neighborhood and report suspicious activity, vehicles or persons to the
police right away, especially if you know of a current crime trend, such as an increase in
burglaries or thefts from auto.