DC Urban Safety Tips

The population of the Washington Metropolitan Area is 5.5 million people. Although it may not always have the big city feel of New York, Chicago, London, or Paris, you should be prepared to take bi-city precautions to remain safe during your stay.

During your Summer in Washington, there are few things you can do to remain safe and to keep your belongings secure:

Be aware of your surroundings

  • Crime is possible, even in the nicest of neighborhoods. As you move through the city, make sure you stay alert to where you are and what is going on around you. It is very easy to “space-out” while listening to your iPod or reading messages on your phone. Walk with purpose, keep your eyes up, and scan your surroundings.
  • Make sure you know where you are going.  If you know ahead of time how to get to your destination, this will decrease the chances of getting lost. (Knowing the right quadrant of the city is particularly important in this situation. There is a big difference between 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, SE!)

Avoid walking or running alone at night
  • While the city is quite crowded during the day, parts of the city, such as downtown or around government buildings, can be deserted in the evening. Even in well-populated areas or areas on and around campuses, it is best to walk or jog with someone else.
  • Avoid alleys, parks, vacant lots, and dark parking areas after hours. Even if a short-cut presents itself, it may be better to go the long away or take a taxi.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a friend to accompany you home from the bar or to run an errand with you.

Keep an eye on your belongings

  • Make sure your bag or purse is closed. If your bag is open and you sling it over your shoulder, it will be very easy for a thief to grab items such as your iPod or cell phone when you aren’t looking. This is especially true on the Metro or bus where there is crowding and jostling.
  • Maintain a grip on your bag or purse whenever possible. If you hold onto your bag, it will be harder for someone to grab it from you.  Make your bag harder to grab by putting it between your legs or securely under your seat at a restaurant. Keep it away from the doors on the Metro where someone could easily grab it and run off the train.
  • Consider carrying your wallet in your front pocket. It is harder to pick a front pocket than a back pocket.

Even if you do everything right, you may still encounter a dangerous situation. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, follow these tips:

  • If you think someone is following you, cross the street or walk faster. Try to go toward a lighted area, a store, or a group of people.
  • Avoid altercations. If someone on the street says something to you, it is best to just keep walking. Making eye contact or responding to their slurs or catcalls could escalate a situation very quickly.
  • If your purse or bag is snatched, don’t fight. Give it up rather than risk injury. The thief is far more interested in your valuables than harming you. Your iPhone is not worth jeopardizing your safety.

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