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General Safety

The Metropolitan Police Department offers the following personal safety tips to help protect you.

When Out and About...

  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Do not allow yourself to be distracted by your cell phone. If you’re wearing headphones, keep the volume low enough that you can hear someone approaching you.
  • Try to travel with others and walk in populated and well-lit areas.
  • Wear clothing and shoes that give you freedom of movement.
  • Let a family member or friend know your destination and your estimated time of arrival. Consider sharing your phone location with a trusted friend or family member.
  • Protect your electronics, jewelry, and cash by not displaying them, either on your person or in your parked vehicle. If you must leave them in your car, lock them in your trunk or glove compartment. In a pinch, hiding items under seats is better than leaving them in plain view.
  • Check on the availability of a tracking system for your electronic devices.
  • Use ATMs in daylight hours in well-populated areas. If you notice anyone or anything suspicious, cancel your transaction and go to another ATM.
  • If you carry a wallet, place the wallet in your front hip pocket or inside jacket pocket—do not carry it in your back pants pocket. Some people even place a rubber band around their wallet, because the rubber band creates friction and rubs against the fabric of your pocket if someone attempts to remove it without your knowledge.
  • Use a purse that is difficult to open. A purse with a zipper or snap is best. If you are carrying a shoulder bag, place the strap diagonally across your body, as opposed to carrying it on one shoulder.
  • Never leave your purse unattended on a store counter or in a grocery shopping cart.
  • Never pat your pocket to see if your wallet is there; this lets a criminal know the exact location of your valuables.
  • Report any suspicious activity to police officers or security guards. Inside a store: Do you notice people who are paying more attention to the purchases being made, rather than checking out new products? Outside a store: Do you see people standing at or near the exit for no real purpose?
  • When walking in the street or on the sidewalk, walk facing traffic. You will be able to see all vehicles approaching you, reducing the chance of someone sneaking up on you and forcing you into a car.
  • Walk confidently, directly, and at a steady pace. Don't stop to talk to strangers.
  • Trust your instincts. If someone or something makes you uneasy, leave. If you feel like a crime is imminent, call 911, scream, or raise an alarm—remember, more people will respond to someone yelling “Fire!” than they will to “Help!”
  • If you plan to meet up with someone you met online—for example, someone from a dating app, or someone you plan to buy something from or sell something to—screenshot their profile and send it to a trusted friend or family member before you go. If you are buying or selling something, arrange to do the trade at a police station. If they refuse to meet you at a police station, call 911 and request that officers accompany you to the address of the meet.



Safety in Your Vehicle

  • Lock your doors immediately upon entering, even before you put the keys in the ignition. Keep the doors locked for the entire ride.
  • Secure your vehicle, even if parking for “just a minute.” Remove your keys, lock all your doors, and close your windows. NEVER leave your engine running and vehicle unlocked while you run into your home, a convenience store, or anywhere else.
  • Invest in a visible or audible device to alert thieves that your vehicle is protected, such as a steering wheel lock, steering column collar, tire lock, audible alarm, or theft deterrent decal. Additionally, having the VIN etched onto the windows makes it difficult for thieves to resell the vehicle.
  • Invest in a tracking system, to allow police to track the vehicle in the event it is stolen, or vehicle immobilizer, which prevents thieves from bypassing your ignition and hotwiring the vehicle. Popular devices include a smart key (specially-coded computer chip without which the engine cannot be started), fuse cut-off, kill switch (inhibits the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine), and starter, ignition, and fuel disablers.
  • When pumping gas, pick stations that are well-lit and have video-surveillance cameras at the pump. Pick the pump closest to the attendant or building. Always remove your keys and lock the car doors.
  • If you come across a disabled vehicle on a road, or see someone trying to flag you down, DON’T stop to assist them. Sometimes would-be robbers pose as someone in need of help in order to lure potential victims out of their vehicles. You can help instead by calling 911.
  • Never accept rides from strangers.
  • Avoid stairwells in parking garages. Try walking down the auto ramp instead. As long as you watch for cars, the ramp can be much safer.
  • When buying a car, look closely at the VIN plate, located on the driver’s side of the dashboard, to see if it appears to have been tampered with. Thieves sometimes switch out the VIN on a stolen vehicle with a VIN that is not reported as stolen, and then try to resell the stolen vehicle to an unsuspecting customer.
  • Never buy a used car without getting the vehicles title or pink slip in person. Double-check the VIN with the number listed on the title, the registration papers, and federal certification label on the driver’s side door.
  • Ask to see identification of the person who is selling you the car. Record his or her name, address, phone number, and driver’s license number. Call the phone number given to you by the vehicle’s owner.
  • Park in well-lit areas, near sidewalks or walkways. Avoid parking near dumpsters, large vans or trucks, or anything else that limits your visibility.


Burglary Prevention

  • Make sure every external door in your home has a strong, well-installed dead bolt lock. Key-in-the-knob locks alone are not enough. Install a peephole or video-doorbell so you can see who is outside without opening the door.
  • If your doors don’t fit tightly around their frames, install weather stripping around them.
  • Secure sliding glass doors by putting a broomstick handle or dowel in the inside track to jam the door. To prevent the door being lifted off of the track, drill a hole through the sliding door frame and the fixed frame. Then insert a pin in the hole.
  • Lock double-hung windows with key locks or “pin” your windows by drilling a small hole at a 45 degree angle between the inner and outer frames, then insert a nail that can be removed. You should secure basement windows with grilles or grates (but make sure they can be opened from the inside in case of fire).
  • Never hide keys around the outside of your home; instead, give an extra key to a neighbor you trust.
  • When you move into a new apartment or house, re-key the locks.
  • Install motion-detector lights outside.
  • Cut back tree limbs that a person could use to climb to an upper-level window.
  • When getting work done on a vehicle, leave only the vehicle key for the service personnel. The same goes for car park attendants and valets.
  • If you live in an apartment, never let anyone you don’t know into your building or past security doors. Additionally, report any burned-out light bulbs, broken locks, or damaged security cameras to your building manager. Keep pressure on management to make sure it provides adequate security.
  • Use invisible ink to mark your items with your last name. For electronic devices, mark the items in an inconspicuous location on the back side of the device. Periodically check using UV light to make sure the marks are still legible.
  • Keep an inventory of your valuables, including the make, model, color, and serial number.
  • If your smart phone is lost or stolen, contact your carrier and ask to have the device remotely disabled. These “bricked” phones can’t be reactivated after being sold on the black market, reducing their usefulness and helping eliminate the black market for stolen smart phones. (Note: If you are working with a detective, he or she might request that you keep the phone active for a few days so that police can track it.)
  • When you aren’t home, create the illusion that you are home by getting timers that will turn lights on and off throughout the day. Leave shades, blinds, and curtains in normal positions.
  • Never leave a message on your answering machine that indicates you may not be home, or that you live alone. Instead say, “We’re not available right now.”
  • Don’t let mail/newspapers pile up. If you are out of town, call the post office and newspaper to stop delivery, or have a neighbor pick them up.
  • Take pictures of your valuable items, such as electronics and jewelry. These pictures, along with an inventory of your valuables, will help police if your home is burglarized.
  • Ask your District police station for a free home security survey.
  • When traveling, pack a photocopy of your airline tickets, passport, credit cards, and any other documents it would be impossible or inconvenient to replace if stolen.
  • While traveling in an unfamiliar area, don’t wander into risky areas alone or at night, and try to avoid buses that are “standing room only.”
  • If something looks questionable when you get home (a slit screen, a broken window, or an open door), don’t go in. Call police from outside.


If Someone Tries to Rob or Carjack You...

  • Don’t resist and don’t argue, especially if there is a weapon involved. Give up your property—don’t give up your life.
  • Try to remember what the robber or carjacker looks like – sex, race, age, hair and eye color, special features, clothes.
  • Sometimes carjackers have a “follow vehicle,” driven by an accomplice. As the carjacker drives off with your vehicle, try to notice if there is another vehicle following closely behind. If so, try to remember as much as you can about that vehicle.
  • Get away from the area as quickly as possible.
  • Report the crime to the police. Your actions can prevent others from becoming victims.