Keeping safe in public places
Everyone should be able to walk anywhere without compromising their personal safety. People walk out and about every day without encountering any dangers, but there can be times, locations or circumstances when there are concerns. Being aware of, and observing, safety precautions will reduce risks to your personal safety.
Below is a series of guidelines prepared by the Police Community Relations Section in consultation with various community groups. While presented with the safety of women in mind, these suggestions can apply to any person.
If you think you are being followed
If you are confronted
Jogging and walking
Using a public telephone
Using public toilets
Using automatic teller machines (ATMs)
Pubs, clubs and parties
Be aware and take notice of what's around you when out walking. Stick to areas that have other people around, and that are well lit at night. Avoid vacant blocks, parks or shortcuts through alleys or waste ground, and do not walk close to arcade entrances or areas where a person might be hiding.
Body language is important. A person who is confident, walking upright and briskly, is less likely to become a victim. There may be times when it's best not to walk through a group of people. Cross the road to avoid contact.Preplan a lift or a taxi rather than walking alone at night. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, take steps to keep yourself safe.
- covering up expensive jewellery when walking
- keeping your house and car keys separate in case your handbag is snatched
- carrying a personal alarm or cellphone
- telling family, friends or colleagues of your plans.
- cross the street more than once if necessary
- vary your pace and change direction
- go as quickly as possible to the nearest place where there will be other people, such as a service station, fast food outlet, or house with lights on
- call 111 and ask for the Police immediately.
Display a confident manner, hold your head up, pull your shoulders back, stand tall. Use words like "No", "Stop", "Leave me alone". Talk loudly and assertively. Be prepared to physically defend yourself. You are allowed to use force and hurt your attacker in self defence.
The most vulnerable parts are eyes, nose and genital area. Scratching an attacker's face can help identification later on. Be prepared to use items you are carrying to defend yourself with, such as your handbag, briefcase or umbrella.
Keep making lots of noise to attract attention to yourself. As soon as you can, go to a safe place and dial 111 and ask for the Police.
If someone in a car stops to ask you a question, stand far enough away to avoid being grabbed. If a driver or passenger appears threatening, depart in the opposite direction the car is facing. If you have been threatened, memorise the description of the driver, car and registration number, and report it to the Police.
Consider the fact that using headphones when out jogging or walking will lower your awareness of your surroundings.
Be prepared to jam the door closed, if there is one, or stand in a defensive position with your back to the wall.
In an emergency dial 111, which is free.
Before entering, first check that there is no one loitering nearby who might follow you inside. If you see someone inside who makes you feel uncomfortable, leave immediately and go to a place where you feel safe.
If you are with a companion, you can ask that person to wait close by.
Consider, where possible, only using public toilets where there are plenty of people around.
Don't approach any machine at a time and location that makes you feel uncomfortable, especially if you see anyone loitering nearby.
It is safer to make your transactions during the day. If it is necessary to use a machine at night, a well lit location with people around is desirable.
When withdrawing money, be aware of people watching you and shield your pin number. Make small cash withdrawals if possible and put your money away quickly.
If you are alone in a lift and someone enters whom you feel uncomfortable about, leave before the door closes if you can, or get off at the next level.
If you feel unsafe in a lift, stand where you can reach an alarm button if required.
Be aware of other people leaving the lift at the same time as you. If you believe someone is following you, think about your options:
- go back to the lift to use the alarm button or to go to another level
- go to a place where there are other people
- go to a reception area
- call a security guard or other assistance.