Crime Mitigation Strategies

  • Many crimes are a factor of three elements: Desire, Ability and Opportunity. By minimizing Opportunity through the employ of good crime mitigation strategies in conjunction with situational awareness, travelers can help promote their own personal safety and welfare while abroad.
  • In many destinations, foreigners are assumed to be wealthy (Desire) and may pose a prime target for petty theft.  In addition to maintaining situational awareness, a good way to minimize your risk of theft is by avoiding public displays of wealth. Leave valuables at home, especially if you do not need them.  A simple wristwatch can easily function in lieu of a smartwatch for the purposes of telling time. Similarly, designer luggage may be a cue for opportunistic baggage handlers, taxi drivers or others targeting foreign arrivals at airports. Employ Situational Awareness and be cognizant of your belongings at all times.
  • Also employ security measures when using ATMs. Criminals often target individuals using ATMs to withdraw funds, tamper with ATMs to receive information from ATM users or, in some countries, target the physical ATM machines themselves.  It is best to use ATMs in secure locations and always take precautions to prevent others from viewing PIN numbers or other important information.
  • Separate your documents and keep duplicates of important paperwork, such as a photocopy of your passport and visa (if applicable). Leave a copy of your credit or debit card information with someone you trust at home in the event that you lose your cards and need to cancel them.  Similarly, keep cash, credit cards or transit cards in separate locations. If your hotel has a safe, use it to store valuables during the day while you are out and only take what you anticipate needing.
  • Phone case wallets, while popular and convenient, are not well suited for use while traveling abroad.  Smartphones are very popular targets for thieves, and it is common in metro areas in some countries for individuals on mopeds to target exits or entrances to subways or other metro stations for individuals using these devices whilst emerging for drive-by grab-and-go opportunities.
  • It is recommended to have a small wallet for day-to-day use for storing small amounts of cash and which can act as a “mugger’s wallet” in the event that you are approached by an assailant.  If approached by an assailant, do not assume that the individual is unarmed or rational; instead, comply with demands to hand over a bag or wallet. Do not resist or attempt to fight back. Items can be replaced and credit cards canceled; they are not worth the risk to your safety.  

Situational Awareness

Situational awareness consists of being aware of one’s own surroundings and environment, identifying and assessing potential threats or dangerous situations. It is a mindset that can be adopted by anyone who wishes to proactively mitigate their risks and take control of their safety and wellbeing. 

When traveling to a new environment, you may not have the some understanding of the resources or lay of the land as locals do. It takes a while to build up familiarity to be able to gauge what may be normal or unusual, or whom to trust.  During these times, it is best to keep your situational awareness higher than you might on a day-to-day basis at home.

Upon arrival, get to know the lay of the land and build an emergency action plan; that is, establish a plan for communicating with others and know local emergency resources.

  • Do I know the local version of 911?
  • Do I know how to contact my program leader/students/travel companions (if applicable)?
  • Do I know how to contact CISI?
  • Do I know where my nearest embassy or consulate is?
  • Do I know where the local medical facilities are?  The pharmacy?
  • Do I know where the local police station is?
  • Do I have copies of my important documents (i.e. passport, visas, insurance card)?

A few key elements to employ while practicing situational awareness are as follows:

  • Recognize that threats to your personal health, safety and security do exist. This is true even while traveling in locations considered “safer” than others.
  • Understand that you are ultimately responsible for your own security. Resources of governments and first responders are finite, particularly during major events. Look out for yourself as well as engage in bystander intervention by looking out for the wellbeing of any travel companions.

Trust your gut. Your subconscious can often notice subtle signs of danger that you may not be able to fully articulate or comprehend consciously in a given moment. It may be inconvenient to trust your intuition, but if you suspect you may be in danger following your instincts can help you avoid a more serious complication or situation.