The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, the country’s leading authority on personal safety, offers the following advice.
Whether you love it or hate it it’s got to be done and the closer it gets to the big day, the busier the shopping areas become and the more fraught you are likely to be. To avoid becoming a victim of crime whilst out buying your festive goodies this year, take the following advice:
- People who are loaded down with lots of bags and parcels are an easy target for thieves and pickpockets. Try to keep one hand free at all times.
- Keep a close watch on your valuables and try not to keep them all in one place.
- Keep alert and aware of your surroundings, especially in busy shops and crowded streets where thieves and pickpockets may well be operating.
- If you think you spot a thief or pickpocket alert the police or security staff. Avoid a confrontation whenever possible
- If you are shopping with young children make sure they know what to do if they lose you. Teach them to go to the nearest till point or check out and tell the shop assistant that they are lost. Make sure they know NEVER to leave a shop without you.
- Agree a meeting point with older children in case you get separated.
- Be careful where you park your car, especially if you will be returning to it after dark.
If parking in a multi-storey car park, choose a space as close to the exit as possible and away from pillars. Reverse into position.
- Keep car doors locked whilst driving in built up areas, especially if you’ve got bags of presents in the car.Don’t leave lots of presents on show in a parked car as they could tempt thieves.
Lots of fun to be had and drinks to be consumed – but remember, alcohol affects your common sense and can cause you to make decisions which endanger your personal safety.
- Having a drink is fine, but make sure you plan in advance (ie. when you are thinking sensibly!) how you are going to get home.
- Find out the times of last trains or buses and consider ordering a licensed cab or taxi in advance.
- If you meet someone new at a party DON’T go home with them. DON’T invite them back to your home or accept a lift from them. Arrange a second date in a public place to get to know the person better.
- Pay attention to your instincts. If you feel uneasy about someone, there may be a reason – don’t give them personal details about yourself and don’t arrange a second date.
- Know what you’re drinking! Watch your drinks being poured so that you know how much alcohol they contain. Alcohol is the most common date rape drug.
- Make sure nobody has the chance to add anything to your drink. If you start to feel unwell or strange then alert friends or members of staff.
- When it’s time to go home, carry your keys and other essentials such as your travel card, phone and some money in your pocket, so you can give up your handbag and escape quickly if necessary.
- If possible carry a personal alarm and know how to use it to shock and disorientate an assailant so that you can get away.Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return..
The party’s over and you need to get home. Due to tiredness and possibly the odd celebratory drink or three, you are likely to be at your most vulnerable. This is not a time to take silly chances.
- The ideal plan is to book your cab in advance. If that is not possible then make sure you have the number of a licensed cab company with you. Alternatively ask your host or staff at the club/bar/restaurant to recommend one.
- Before getting into the cab, check that it is the one you ordered by asking the driver for the name and destination he has been given. Do not, for example, ask if he is to pick up Mary for Ealing as anyone could simply confirm this. Don’t get into a cab you haven’t ordered.
- When ordering a cab ensure that no-one overhears your details.
- Do not hail a minicab from the street or accept a lift from a minicab touting for trade. These cabs are illegal and you have no guarantee that the driver is a mini cab driver at all.
If necessary walk to the nearest minicab office - keeping to well-lit streets and walking against the traffic and in sight of other people whenever possible.
- Always sit in the back of a cab and if you get chatting to the driver do not give away personal details. If you feel uneasy with the driver, ask him to stop at a busy familiar place and get out.
- REMEMBER – You are getting into a car on your own with a complete stranger so take every precaution
- If using public transport, have your ticket, pass or change ready in your hand so that your wallet is out of sight.
- Always wait for the bus or train in a well-lit place and near other people if possible.
- Take note of where the emergency alarms are and try and sit near them – there are alarms on every bus, in every train carriage and on every platform.
- If a bus is empty or it is after dark, stay on the lower deck as near as possible to the driver.
- On trains avoid compartments that have no access to corridors or other parts of the train and if you feel threatened on any public transport make as much noise as possible to attract attention of the driver or guard.
- Whenever possible carry a mobile phone and a personal alarm with you. Know how to use it to shock and disorientate an assailant so that you can get away.