Be Safe, Not Sorry at Christmas

Christmas is a very busy time – there are presents to be bought, family to visit and parties to go to, but it’s important to also think about personal safety during the festive period. A few simple precautions could prevent you from becoming another crime statistic this year.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, the country’s leading authority on personal safety, offers the following advice.

Christmas Shopping

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.

Christmas Parties

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.

Bogus Callers

There is a certain type of criminal that sees the elderly and vulnerable person as being an easy victim of crime being committed by them. Their aim is to trick their way into the home of such a person with the intent to steal cash or small items such as jewellery.

These criminals can be both Male and Female and as young as 10 years old. They may work alone or in pairs and the stories they give to gain entry are varied. They could be asking for help, looking for a ball in the garden, or frightening, “The water may be contaminated.”

In all instances at some point the criminal will be left alone to search for the items they want. They then leave the house and it can be some time before the resident realises that they have been conned. This leaves them feeling angry with themselves for falling for such a trick blaming himself or herself for some other person’s greed.

To prevent this type of crime people have to be made aware and that they have to be careful when callers come to the front door. If you are elderly or if you have elderly or vulnerable relations help them and yourselves by taking up the following when receiving callers at your door: -

  • Never open the door to strangers.

  • Speak to a caller through the closed door.

  • Never open the door without putting the door chain or bolt on.

  • Take identification from the caller. This can be done through the letterbox if you do not open the door.

  • Never let an unknown visitor into your home. Insist that they come back when you can get someone to be with you.

  • Never keep large amounts of cash in the house. If you are saving for something special put it into a bank or building society for safety and to earn interest.

  • If you think that a person has tried to con their way into your home report it to the police, you could help prevent somebody else from being a victim.
Remember all water can be checked outside your home at the “Stop Cock”. No person needs to get into your home to check the water supply.

It is your home you do not have to let any person in.

For information or advice contact the Crime Prevention Office on 0208 345 3406.

Cash Point Security

Many people now get cash from Automatic Telling Machines (ATMs) that can be found in most public places. The following is a list of ideas that you should put to use when using an ATM.
  • Use ATMs where you feel the most comfortable

  • Avoid using the ATM if there are any suspicious-looking individuals around

  • Have your card ready in your hand before you approach the ATM

  • Do not use the ATM if you notice anything unusual indicating it may have been altered.

  • Be especially cautious when strangers offer to help you at an ATM, even if you are experiencing difficulty with the transaction, never allowing anyone to distract you while you are at the ATM.

  • Do not let anyone see you enter your PIN; you should shield the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN

  • Never disclose your PIN to anyone, not even to the bank or police.

  • If you feel the ATM is not working normally, press the Cancel key and withdraw your card and then proceed to another ATM.If your card gets jammed, retained or lost, or if you are interfered with at an ATM, report this immediately to the bank and/ or police using the help line provided or nearest phone.

  • Do not be in a hurry during the transaction, and carefully secure your card and cash in your wallet, handbag or pocket before leaving the ATM

Internet Crime

The threat of Internet Crime is relatively new to both police & to the public.

Many individuals now own computers and are encouraged to use them for day-to-day activities being correspondence and banking. This is so even though many individual have had no computer training or are aware of the types of crime being committed on the Internet.

More and more of us are using the Internet for banking activities. The following are a few helpful tips to prevent you from becoming a victim of Internet Crime.

  • Keep all passwords and PIN numbers confidential.

  • If requested by an email from your bank or anyone else to verify your personal details & password do not react to this email, Banks will never ask for these details. Inform your bank that you have received such an email; they may ask you to send it on to them for it to be investigated.

  • When away from home do not indulge in Internet banking on a computer that you do not have personal knowledge of. There are appliances that can read the keystrokes of a computer that will give details of your personal details to be used against you.

  • Never click on a Hyperlink to be taken into any financial email received.

  • Fraudsters use Hyperlinks to take you to a professional looking replica of the real financial organisation that will use any personal data given by you to steal from your accounts or to steal your identity.

  • Ensure that you have a good standard Firewall & Anti Virus Software installed to your computer. Ensure that this is kept up to date.

  • Many spoof emails are sent out requesting assistance in getting money out of countries for a sizeable reward. These are not legitimate and are designed to fleece you of your money. Ignore these emails & delete them, do not reply even to be funny or let them know that you are aware of the scam.

These are just some basic prevention points to remember and implement against Internet crime. The following web sites gives more thorough advice and examples and should be read in conjunction with this information.

Steer Clear of Car Crime

Car crime makes up nearly 20% of all recorded crimes in England and Wales. Car Crime can be distressing and annoying as it can cause a lot of inconvenience - you could be without a car for weeks, waiting for the garage to make repairs or for your insurer to pay. That's why the security features of your car should be as important as any other feature.

A lot of vehicle crime results from criminals seeing opportunities and taking them. But you can easily outsmart and car thief by following this advice.

Remember, most car crime can be prevented.

Don't give criminals an easy ride.

What you can do to make your car secure
  • Do not leave anything on display in your car. Even an old coat on the back seat is a temptation for someone to 'smash & grab' - they steal first and think about value later.
  • Take all your belongings with you when you leave the car. If you can't, lock them in the boot, preferably before you start your journey.
  • Never leave any of the following on display in your car, as they are all particularly attractive to car thieves.
    · Mobile Phones
    · Lap Top Computers
    · Satellite Navigation Systems
    · Cash, however a small amount!
    · Personal Documents

You can get more information about alarms, immobilisers and other security devices by phoning the Vehicle Security National Helpline on 0870 550 2006 or the Sold Secure Helpline on 01327 264687.

Security Devices Locks or other security devices are always great ways to secure your car and put off would-be-thieves.

Electronic immobilisers (which prevent the car from starting) are a sure way to put off car thieves, but they must be fitted by main dealers or installers accredited by the Vehicle Security Installation Board.

Fit Locking wheel nuts, as wheel are often a target for car thieves. Wheel nuts are not expensive and are easy to fit.

An Alarm can help to keep your car secure but it must be installed professionally to be effective.

Keep Your Car Keys Safe

When you leave your car, always remove the ignition key and lock all doors - it only takes a few seconds for a thief to jump into your car and drive away. Follow this routine all the time, even when filling up with petrol or just popping into the shop.

At home, always keep your car keys in a safe place, which is out of sight and away from windows and doors.

Doors and Windows Lock all doors, windows and close the sunroof every time you leave your car unattended - however, briefly. Many cars get broken into in the few seconds that a car is out of the driver's sight.
Stereo Always remove the car stereo or facia if possible - it's one of the most sought- after items in your car.

Car Parks

With the number of motor vehicles on the road every motorist will have to park within a car park at some time. The following are points to consider when using a car park. This advice is even more beneficial to new motorists having just passed their driving test.

  • Avoid poorly lit car parks.
  • Whenever possible, choose a manned car park.
  • Reverse into the parking space. Put away all valuables and obvious possessions in the boot.
  • Make sure the interior light is working. Shut all windows. Lock all doors. Note exactly where you have parked your car especially what floor you are on.
  • When returning to your car, have keys ready to get in quickly. Before entering scan the back seat to check no one has climbed in.
  • Lock doors immediately when you are in the car and before you drive off.
    Doors - Lock them every time you leave your car.
  • Documents - Never leave vehicle documents in your car. Your registration document, MOT and insurance certificate will help the thief sell your vehicle.
  • Look for a public car park which is part of the police - approved 'Park Mark' formerly 'Secure Car Parks' scheme such as Ilford Exchange and Clements Road multi storey car Parks. This scheme makes car parks safer and more attractive places by setting high standards for design and management in order to prevent crime. Such parks will display a sign that says 'Park Mark' or 'Secured Car Parks'.

If you have any information about criminal activity, particularly concerning cars stolen for spare parts or items stolen from cars and then sold to the public, you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.You do not have to give out your name.

Street Wise

  • Try to keep to busy well lit streets walk towards oncoming traffic and avoid using short cuts across isolated areas.
  • If visiting a friend or relative let them know the time that you have left & your time of arrival.
  • If you believe that you are being followed and are in a busy area cross the road to see if the person does the same, if you are certain that you are being followed then go into a shop or similar premises, you will then be able to call for assistance being able to give an exact location. If there are no shops available go to a house that looks occupied ring or knock on the door & ask for assistance.
  • If approaching a group or person in the street that you are not happy with, trust your instincts, cross the road, if they also cross then call into a shop or house as above.
  • Have you mobile phone fully charged and in a place where you can get to it easily.
  • Try to keep door keys separate from other property.
  • If confronted in the street try not to panic, if demands are made for property give it away your personal safety is more important.
  • If using an I Pod or similar tool with earpieces only use one earpiece so that you can hear what is about you on the street.
  • Do not accept lifts from strangers or good samaritans.
  • Only use mini cabs if you have ordered them from a company that you know, ask for details of the driver when ordering. When getting into the taxi ask for who they are collecting, do not give your name first. Sit in the rear of the vehicle. Avoid idle gossip with the driver & do not give any personal details to them.
  • Personal attack alarms are available but better that the person uses their awareness to stop themselves being in a dangerous situation.