The chance that you or a member of your family will be a
victim of violent crime is low. Violent crimes are still
comparatively rare and account for a very small part of recorded
crime. But some people are still frightened that they, or someone
close to them, will be the victim of a violent attack
The best way to cut the risk of attack is by taking sensible
precautions. Most people already do this as part of their everyday
lives, often without realising it.
How can you stay safe?
Staying safe at home
Make sure your house or flat is secure. Always secure outside
doors. Fit barrel locks top and bottom. If you have to use a
key, keep it in a safe place away from the door where you can
find it quickly in an emergency � you may need to use the door
in the event of fire.
If other people such as previous tenants could still have
keys that fit, change the locks. Don�t give keys to workmen or
tradesmen, as they can easily make copies.
If you wake to hear the sound of an intruder, only you can
decide how best to handle the situation. You may want to lie
quietly to avoid attracting attention to yourself, in the hope
that they will leave. Or you may feel more confident if you
switch on the lights and make a lot of noise by moving about.
Even if you�re on your own, call out loudly to an imaginary
companion � most burglars will flee empty-handed rather than
risking a confrontation. Ring the police as soon as it�s safe
for you to do so. A telephone extension in your bedroom will
make you feel more secure as it allows you to call the police
immediately, without alerting the intruder.
Draw your curtains after dark and if you think there is a
prowler outside � dial 999
Use only your surname and initials in the telephone directory
and on the doorplate. That way a stranger won�t know if a man
or a woman lives there.
If you see signs of a break-in at your home, like a smashed
window or open door, don�t go in. Go to a neighbour and call
If you are selling your home, don�t show people around on
your own. Ask your estate agent to send a representative with
anyone who wants to view your house.
When you answer the phone, simply say �hello�; don�t
give your number. If the caller claims to have a wrong number,
ask him or her to repeat the number required. Never reveal any
information about yourself to a stranger and never say you are
alone in the house.
If you receive an abusive or threatening phone call, put the
receiver down beside the phone, and walk away. Come back a few
minutes later and replace the receiver; don�t listen to see if
the caller is still there. Don�t say anything � an emotional
reaction is just what the caller wants. This allows the caller
to say what he or she wants to say, without causing distress to
you. If the calls continue, tell the police and the operator and
keep a record of the date, time and content of each phone call.
This may help the authorities trace the caller.
Staying safe when you�re out and about
If you often walk home in the dark, get a personal attack
alarm from a DIY store or ask your local crime prevention
officer where you can buy one. Carry it in your hand so you can
use it immediately to scare off an attacker. Make sure it is
designed to continue sounding if it�s dropped or falls to the
Carry your bag close to you with the clasp facing inwards.
Carry your house keys in your pocket. If someone grabs your bag,
let it go. If you hang on, you could get hurt. Remember your
safety is more important than your property.
If you think someone is following you, check by crossing the
street � more than once if necessary � to see if he follows.
If you are still worried, get to the nearest place where there
are other people � a pub or anywhere with a lot of lights on
� and call the police. Avoid using an enclosed phonebox in the
street, as the attacker could trap you inside.
If you regularly go jogging or cycling, try to vary your
route and time. Stick to well-lit roads with pavements. On
commons and parklands, keep to main paths and open spaces where
you can see and be seen by other people � avoid wooded areas.
If you wear a personal stereo, remember you can�t hear
traffic, or somebody approaching behind you.
Don�t take short-cuts through dark alleys, parks or across
waste ground. Walk facing the traffic so a car cannot pull up
behind you unnoticed.
If a car stops and you are threatened, scream and shout, and
set off your personal attack alarm if you have one. Get away as
quickly as you can. This will gain you vital seconds and make it
more difficult for the car driver to follow. If you can, make a
mental note of the number and description of the car. Write down
details as soon as possible afterwards.
Don�t hitch-hike or take lifts from strangers.
Cover up expensive looking jewellery.
Self-defence and safety awareness classes may help you feel
more secure. Ask your local police or your work if they have
Staying safe in taxis and private hire vehicles
If you are going to be out late or don’t want to travel on
public transport on your own, try to arrange a lift home with
someone you know or make your journey by taxi or private hire
vehicle (PHV, sometimes called a minicab).
Taxis and PHVs give you a degree of protection because
vehicles and drivers must meet suitability criteria, including
local minimum standards for vehicles and a criminal record and
health checks for drivers, before they are licensed by your
local council (district/borough council, unitary authority or
Transport for London).
You can hail a taxi on the street or at a rank as well as
pre-booking it but you can only pre-book a PHV through a
licensed PHV operator (not a PHV driver).
You should always ensure that you travel in a licensed taxi
and PHV by checking the vehicle’s signage or plate and the
driver’s badge. You should never agree to travel in an
unlicensed vehicle with an unlicensed driver.
Check that the taxi or PHV that arrives is the one you
ordered. Ask for a description of the car – colour, make, etc –
and check this when it arrives. You could also ask for the name
of the driver beforehand.
If you pre-book your taxi or PHV, make a note of the company
you are using, and the telephone number, and if possible leave
it with a friend.
When you get to your destination, ask the driver to wait
until you are inside.
If you are approached by someone in the street offering (ie
touting for) a taxi or PHV journey, ignore them. Touting is an
offence. Indeed, it has recently been made recordable so that
fingerprinting and DNA tests can be made on offenders.
If travelling alone, always sit behind the driver in the back
If you feel uneasy, ask to be let out in a well-lit area
where there are plenty of people.
If in any doubt, make an excuse and don’t get in the vehicle.
The security of drivers is important too. Safety and security
aids will range from a simple Perspex screen between the driver
and passenger of a saloon car to sophisticated CCTV equipment.
Staying safe on public transport
Try to stay away from isolated bus stops, especially after
On an empty bus, sit near the driver or conductor.
On a train, sit in a compartment where there are several
other people � ideally one which will be near the exit of your
destination. Check to see where the emergency chain is.
Before a long trip, make sure your vehicle is in good
Plan how to get to your destination before leaving, and stay
on main roads if you can.
Make sure you have enough money and petrol. Carry a spare
Keep change and a phone card in case you need to make a
telephone call. Carry a torch.
Before you leave, tell anyone you are planning to meet what
time you think you will get there, and the route you are taking.
If someone tries to flag you down, drive on until you come to
a service station, or somewhere busy, and call the police. Do
not pick up hitch-hikers.
Keep doors locked when driving and keep any bag, carphone or
valuables out of sight. If you have the window open, only wind
it down a little. Don�t wind it down far enough to allow
someone to reach in while you are stopped in traffic.
If you think you are being followed, try to alert others by
flashing your lights and sounding your horn. Make as much noise
as possible. If you can, keep driving until you come to a busy
After dark, park in a well-lit, busy place. Look around
before you get out. If you�re parking in daylight, but coming
back for your car at night, think about how things will look in
Have your key ready when you go back to your car. Make sure
there is no-one in the car.
If your car develops problems, find a telephone. On motorways
follow the marker arrows to the closest phone. They are never
placed any more than a mile apart, on opposite sides of the
motorway. Never cross the carriageway to use a phone.
While on the hard shoulder or telephoning, keep a sharp
look-out and don�t accept lifts from strangers � wait for
the police or breakdown service. Don�t wait in the car �
there is a high risk of an accident. Wait on the embankment
nearby with the front passenger door open. If someone approaches
you or you feel threatened, lock yourself in the car and speak
to them through a small gap in the window.
If you frequently have to travel after dark, or if your job
involves visiting people at home, eg a health visitor or a
district nurse, consider getting a mobile phone or ask your
employer to provide one.
What men can do
Men can help by taking the issue of women�s safety seriously in
their everyday lives. Bear these points in mind:
If you are walking in the same direction as a woman on her
own, don�t walk behind her � this may worry her. Cross the
road and walk on the other side. This may reassure her that you
are not following her.
Don�t sit too close to a woman on her own in a railway
carriage or bus.
If you are thinking of chatting to a woman waiting, for
example, at a lonely bus stop, remember that she won�t know
you mean no harm.
Realise how threatening actions such as staring, whistling,
passing comments and jostling can be, particularly when you are
one of a group of men.
Help female friends or family members by giving them a lift
or walking them home when you can. If you do, make sure they are
safely indoors before you leave.
If the worst happens
Think what you would do if someone attacked you. Could you fight
back, or would you avoid resisting and wait to escape? Only you can
decide whether to fight back, but preparing yourself for all
possibilities could provide a split-second advantage.
If someone threatens you, shout and scream for help and set
off your personal attack alarm if you have one. This may unnerve
the attacker and frighten him off.
You have every right to defend yourself, with reasonable
force with items which you have with you like an umbrella,
hairspray or keys can be used against the attacker. The law
however doesn�t allow carrying anything which can be described
as an offensive weapon.
If you have been attacked
Assaults and rapes are serious crimes, whether committed by a
stranger or someone you know.
Call the police straightaway. They need your help to catch
the attacker. You can help the police by:
Taking the name or address of any witness
Trying to remember exactly what the attacker looked like
If a car was involved, try to note the colour, model and
You do not need to go to the police station to report an
assault � you can be interviewed in your own home if you wish.
These crimes are dealt with sympathetically, regardless of sex.
Police stations have specially trained officers who will help
and support you, and many areas have comfortable victim suites,
separate from the police station, where you can be interviewed
Although your immediate reaction will be to wash, try not to
if you can possibly help it. It will destroy vital medical
evidence that will help prove the case against the person who
raped or assaulted you.
Should your case come to trial, by law your anonymity will be
guaranteed if you are female, or under 18 years old. The law
forbids newspapers to publish anything that might identify you.
Also, as a general rule, you should not be asked about your
previous sexual history in court.
If the violence is within your family, legal protection is
possible under either civil or criminal law. In some cases for
example, they can require a husband or partner not to enter your
home, or even your neighbourhood.
This advice has been taken from �Your Practical Guide to
Crime Prevention�. Download the guide in
full by clicking here.
To order a personal copy contact the Crime Prevention Officer at
your local police station or write to:
Crime Prevention Publicity
50 Queen Anne�s Gate
London SW1H 9AT
Last update: 04 January 2005