One of the many reasons I chose to live in London is because it’s an extremely safe city, especially compared to Orlando or Miami. If I was living in Miami, I would need a full security system, security screens for doors, and perhaps laminated glass in all of my windows rather than ordinary glass just to keep my home safe but I don’t really need any of that here in London. I can give you loads of facts to support this. However, it’s easiest just to remind you that most London Metropolitan Police officers do not carry guns. Guns are illegal in the UK, and other than those in certain professions, such as vets or military personnel, nobody can carry or possess one.
That might be a very intriguing concept to Americans, especially to American police officers.
Despite the very safe environment in London, crime naturally still exists. Burglary is one of the top crimes committed, so if you live and work here, it’s almost essential to install a burglar alarm on your house and business. A Business alarm system is especially useful as you are unlikely to be working at night when most burglaries happen, so whilst you’re at home sleeping, your shop will still be protected. Nobody likes to be a victim of crime, so in an effort to help the Sunny in London readers who live in or visit London, I went straight to the London Metropolitan Police for a conversation about safety tips.
I had the chance to interview a London Metropolitan Police Officer recently to learn more about Crime Prevention. Please note that the heading titles below are creative and have been crafted by yours truly. The tips below are a combination of street sense and the information I received during the interview. You can always review the official Personal Safety site of the Met Police should you want their specific recommendations.
Crime Prevention Tip #1- Zip It
When choosing a bag for a day in London, pick one that zips close. Because petty crime like pickpocketing is common, it’s smart to carry a bag that a thief can’t easily access. If you’re traveling on the Tube during peak times or shopping on busy Oxford Street, you could be in big crowds. Face the zipper handle forward and put your hand over it as much as possible to avoid potential problems.
Aside from keeping my wallet and personal belongings safe, the ‘zipper strategy’ has actually saved me tons of money! By using this criteria when shopping, I can quickly eliminate the temptation to buy the latest, incredibly gorgeous Michael Kors bag if it doesn’t zip together at the top 😉
Crime Prevention Tip #2- Mind the Gap
I think the biggest safety tip for traveling via the London Underground is – stand on the right! You’ll avoid physical harm from people rushing to their destination and not make enemies.
But seriously, did you know there’s a place you can sit at night if you’re by yourself that might make you feel safer too? Ok, that part isn’t official Met Police Crime Prevention advice, but I always feel safer up front, that’s if I can figure out which direction the train will enter the platform prior to its arrival 😉
If I need to take the Underground late in the evening, I feel like close proximity to the driver makes me less of a target for criminals.
Further, stay awake! I mentioned this in my previous 5 Strategies for Riding the London Tube. Sleeping riders are often the easiest targets for theft. No explanation needed. Right? However, the officer I interviewed reiterated this tip and said you would be amazed how much mishap could be prevented with this.
Crime Prevention Tip #3- Make Your Phone Less Mobile
One of the most common types of crime in London is mobile phone theft, and it’s actually something you can prevent.
Foremost, don’t immediately take out your phone when you leave a Tube station. It’s a huge hot spot for thieves. Step in to a coffee shop or store nearby to make a call, send a text, or review directions.
It’s also common for thieves to ride bicycles on the streets in London and quickly grab phones from people while they’re using them. So, using a phone inside, versus out in the open street, is very smart.
Next, don’t leave your phone sitting on a counter or table while you’re eating. Telling you it’s popular for people to walk by and just take them quickly probably isn’t news to you. However, this probably is…
Criminals use clever tricks to distract you. For example, they may approach you with a map and appear to be confused. While they hold the map over the table with one hand, they may use the other hand to swipe your phone. So, put it away to increase your chances of keeping it!
Crime Prevention Tip #4- Count Clues, not your Money
This is the most surprising advice the officer I interviewed gave me. Theft at cash machines is very, very common. Aside from making sure no one is closely observing you entering your pin number, you should swiftly put your money somewhere safe. Don’t stand at the machine and count it. Store it and go.
Oh- and even before you even use the machine, check to make sure it isn’t ‘looped.’ The ‘Lebanese Loop’ is a device made of metal or plastic that’s used to trick people in to thinking their card is kept by the machine. Also, if there’s lots of glue marks on the machine, that’s a clue thieves target it frequently.
Crime Prevention #5- Walk Savvy in the Street
Whether it’s day or night, there’s also some things you can do to minimize your chances of being a crime victim while walking in the street.
Guys, put your wallet in your front pocket. Even better, you should hold it in your hand in your pocket in busy areas. If you can, put your wallet inside a zipped pocket. Ideally, have a coat with inside pockets and keep your wallet there.
Ladies, if you’re carrying a handbag on an empty street, put your bag on the shoulder furthest from cars. Thieves have been known to stop quickly by ladies and lean out of the windows to grab their handbags. Please don’t have images of girls being tackled to the ground for their items. The officer I interviewed says this is hardly the truth. Thieves target ladies in close proximity to the street who are loosely holding their bags because it’s easy to take them fast.
As a side note, I always carry a mini alarm, similar to those from Guardian Self Defense, in my hand when I’m returning home at night by myself. It’s a relatively cheap investment for 5.99 that I hope I never have to use.
And, if you really want to kick up your protective gear, there is the Self defence spray with a belt pouch.
Please know that the while the Met Police has distributed hand held alarm devices in the past at Crime Prevention events, they do not endorse any specific product here. The above are my personal recommendations.
Crime Prevention Tips- Final Thoughts
Let’s face it, there’s nothing that will rain on your sunny parade in London more than being a victim of crime.
I want to thank the Chief Inspector who spent substantial time coordinating my interview with the London Metropolitan Police. Also, I want to extend a sincere thank you to the Volunteer Police Cadet and Youth Engagement Coordinator, who provided information during my interview with him.
If you found these safety strategies useful, please leave your comments below and share this on your social networks, Sunny friends!
If you’d like to see some updated tips, don’t miss this recent YouTube video published in July 2016: