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Simple steps you can take to remain safe as crime rises

Whether you drive or take public transportation, there are easy ways to reduce the chances you'll be the victim of a crime.
/ Source: TODAY

FBI data shows violent crimes, which include assaults and car thefts, increased around the country from 2014 to 2020, so it’s important for people to be vigilant when it comes to protecting themselves.

There are steps you can take to minimize risk and reduce the chances you’ll be a victim. Mike Sapraicone, a former New York City police detective who is now the president of security firm Squad Security, showed TODAY senior consumer investigative correspondent Vicky Nguyen some simple tips that can reduce the chances you’ll be attacked or robbed, whether in a car or taking mass transit.

How to stay safe in a shopping center parking lot

  • Park smart

“You want to be in a place close to the location you’re going,” he said about where to park.

It’s always wise to park near a lamppost, which may be helpful when it is dark, or near a security booth. If you’re putting items you’ve just purchased into your car, it’s important to know exactly where you are. 

“Pay attention,” Sapraicone said. “Look at your surroundings. Put the things in your car as quickly as possible. Check around, make sure there’s nobody else watching you or observing you.”

  • Don’t fight

If someone approaches and demands your bag, don’t resist.

“Never fight. Give them your purse. Let them take your purse,” Sapraicone said.

  • Keep your keys on your person

Sapraicone also recommends placing your car keys in your pocket.

“I would put them in my pocket, along with your phone, on your person, rather than put them in the purse because if they snatch your purse, at least you still have a way to get out of here with your car,” he said.

How to be safe with your car

  • Hold your fob

More and more cars run on key fobs, so it’s vital to keep yours, if you have one. Without a fob, it can be difficult for a carjacker to take your vehicle.

  • Lock your doors

Motorists are advised to keep their car doors locked, even while driving, and keep the windows rolled up enough to the point no one can reach inside the car.

Sapraicone also reiterated the need not to fight if someone approaches you to carjack you.

“Always give them the car,” he said. “Unless you have your children in the back seat or something, give them the car. It’s not worth it.”

  • Don't leave your car to let it warm up

Sapraicone also discouraged the notion of getting out of a car to let it warm up or letting it run unattended while you run into a store for a quick errand.

“(There’s) no value to doing that. It’s an opportunity,” he said. “When the thieves see the smoke coming, that’s like a smoke alarm coming to them and saying, ‘Hey, there’s a car, let’s take it.’”

How to be safe on public transportation

  • Be attentive

Sapraicone points to many steps you can take to protect yourself when riding mass transit, noting that the chances of a crime being committed rise immediately when you enter a train or subway station.

Stairs are an ideal place for thieves to swipe your valuables from behind because bags may be left open and people may not always be on alert.

There are multiple ways to protect yourself while taking a train.
There are multiple ways to protect yourself while taking a train.TODAY

“Pay attention,” Sapraicone said. “Move your bag to the front, lock your bag and be aware of someone walking behind you on the steps.”

  • Put away the earbuds

It’s a common sight: people wearing earbuds or headphones while commuting. But Sapraicone said that’s a no-no.

“It just takes away one of your senses. You should never have something that can't let you hear everything that's going on around you,” he said.

Riders should not stand close to the track and should be aware of anyone who enters their personal space, with Sapraicone recommending people remain 6 feet back, even if they want to peek to see when the next train is coming.

  • Where to sit

 Once on the train, make a point to ride in the car with the conductor or in the front car where the train operator is located and do your best to sit toward the middle of the car.

“I would always think the middle is the safest place, not by a door, because if you sit by a door, someone can be lingering or they’re watching you as the doors open and they can snatch your bag,” he said.

If there are no seats available, Sapraicone said all is not lost.

“Hold the pole. Get by a pole in the middle of the train and put your purse between your body and the pole,” he said.