When you're at home, out socialising or on holiday, it's important to protect yourself. Don't put yourself in situations where you could be at risk. Be alert, keep your home and belongings secure and always plan your journeys.
General advice on staying safe
To stay safe when you're out:
- be aware of what’s going on around you
- don’t flash your valuables, mobile or money about
- always plan your journey
If you’re withdrawing money from a cash machine, always notice what’s going on around you. Check the machine before you use it and always cover your hand when you’re entering your personal identification number (PIN).
If you see a crime is about to take place or you think that someone is going to commit a crime against you or your home, you should always try to contact the police or call for help before confronting any attacker or person committing a crime.
Using reasonable force
The law says you can use reasonable force to:
- protect yourself
- protect another person
- prevent a crime
But there's no clear definition of what reasonable force is. A court judges the individual circumstances. But if you use force, it's likely the police will investigate your actions.
You could be arrested and prosecuted for causing an injury or death. If you are prosecuted, a court will look at the amount of force you used and decide if it was reasonable in the circumstances as you believed them to be at the time.
When you’re at home, lock doors, close windows and keep keys somewhere they can’t be reached from outside. Always check the ID of any callers you don’t know before answering the door.
While you want to do everything you can to protect your belongings, remember they can be replaced, you can’t. There are things you can do to increase the possibility of getting your things back if these are stolen.
Out and about at night
If you’re out at night, don’t put yourself at risk by drinking too much, going off alone, or leaving with someone you don’t know.
You should, always:
- plan your night
- know how you’re getting home – book a taxi or ask a friend or family member to pick you up
- charge your mobile and make sure you have enough credit to make calls
- keep emergency numbers in your mobile
- stay with your friends – agree a meeting place in case you get split up
- stay away from dark streets and alleys – stick to busy areas with plenty of street lights
- check on your friends - call or text them to make sure they're home safe
Carrying a personal alarm can also make you feel safer. When you turn it on, the alarm gives a high-pitched sound that can shock anyone that's attacking you. You can buy a personal alarm in DIY shops.
If you are travelling by yourself, getting a taxi or using public transport is much safer than walking. You should use your common sense to stay safe.
Whenever it’s possible, try and walk with someone else or a group of friends. You're less likely to be attacked or mugged if you're with other people.
If you are walking alone, always be aware of what's going on around you. Stay in busy areas with plenty of street lights and always avoid alleys or shortcuts.
Stay alert if listening to headphones, especially at night. As well as being distracting, headphones could be valuable and worth stealing. Make sure you keep any valuables in your coat or bag.
Getting a taxi
If you’re getting a taxi, make sure it’s licensed. Keep the number of a taxi company you trust on your mobile. Ask the taxi to pick you up directly outside where you are and stay inside until it arrives. If you have to wait outside, stay in a crowded area with plenty of street lights.
If you don’t know any taxi companies in the area, call directory enquiries or go into a shop or restaurant nearby and ask them to call one for you. Always check for the taxi’s licence plate and roof sign. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t get in.
Travelling on public transport
Make sure that you get a bus at a stop where other people are waiting. If you are getting a train, wait in an area of the platform with plenty of light where you can see if anyone is approaching you.
Once you’re on board, sit where there are plenty of people or next to the driver. If you feel uncomfortable or afraid, speak to the driver. Most trains have emergency alarms. If you get into trouble, don’t be afraid to use them.
Protecting yourself on holiday
When on holiday it is easy to forget about the things that are home to keep ourselves safe. Before you go and while you’re there, remember to:
- read the travel advice for the area – look for any areas you should avoid and any particular risks you should be aware of
- find out about transport in the local area – plan how you’re going to get about
- never leave your bag, luggage or personal belongings unattended
- if you’re taking a taxi ask a local for a recommendation or get your hotel to book it for you
- check public transport times – don’t get caught out on a night out by missing the last train or bus
- keep your valuables, cash and passport somewhere safe – if you’re in a hotel use your room safe
- don’t carry around lots of cash – only take what you need for each day or night
Don’t accept anything for anyone you don’t know. Be wary of strangers approaching you. If you feel uncomfortable, speak to your holiday rep, hotel, nearest embassy or the local police.