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How to be safe in London8 min read

When people think about London, they mainly think about a big city where they can have fun. They don’t think about security. We hate to be the party spoilers but everybody needs to think about security. This is an important topic that we need to keep in mind if we want to party on and enjoy ourselves.

Don’t freak out but let’s look at what we need to do to stay safe in the capital.

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Crime stats

First of all, let’s see how bad the crime situation is or isn’t in London.
Some would argue that statistics don’t tell the full or true story (plus we know they can be ‘massaged’ to make the picture look better than it truly is).
But it can still be a guide. Besides, we don’t have much data we can rely on.
Let’s start with…burglaries and robberies. How many are there and where do they take place?
There were about 44,000 (forty four thousand) residential burglaries and about 20,000 (twenty thousand) people who were robbed in London for the past 12 months.

Now, let’s have a look at something a bit more gruesome….murders.
There were 106 homicides in the past 12 months. Obviously, it would be best if those numbers were 0 (zero) but it’s not catastrophic when you consider there are 7,5 million people living in London. If you would like to know the crime statistics for London in a particular area, click here.

As you can see, you have a very low chance of being robbed or murdered.
But this does not mean you have to become complacent and be careless. Here are some situations when you need to be careful and what you can do to stay safe.

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Staying safe when you’re around and about

There are pickpockets in London. When you walk on the street make sure that your handbag or rucksack is closed and that nothing ‘tempting’ like your mobile phone or your wallet is visible. Do turn around from time to time. Don’t walk as if you were completely oblivious to what can happen to you.

If you want to have some extra peace of mind, you could get a rucksack from High Spirit Bags which is theft proof. They made their rucksack theft proof using a simple idea….they repositioned the zip to the back of the bag (instead of the front). This makes it harder for pickpockets to open your bag and then have access to its content.

When you’re out and about you could also use an app to stay safe.

The Companion app is an amazing mobile phone app that enables your friends, family or the police to follow your walk. Let’s say you go out one night and would like a friend to follow your walk to make sure you go back home safely. You can use the app. And if you start running this will send a message to your phone and it will ask you if you are ‘OK’. If you don’t tap that you’re ‘OK’, the app will then send an alert to your friend or family or the police.

See how it works:

At the ATM (Automated Teller Machine)

If you decide to use an ATM to withdraw some money, make sure that nobody can see your PIN number and that you are not distracted by anyone. Some thieves have used distraction as a method to rob people. For example: one thief talks to you while the other thief steals your card that you’ve just placed in the ATM.
Also, try to use ATM machines that are placed inside banks.

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Mind the traffic!

Danger does not only come from pickpockets.

Remember that in London, when it comes to driving things are a bit different compared to most parts of the world, i.e: people drive on the left side of the road, their wheel is on the right side in the car and traffic comes from your right when you wait at a zebra crossing. This means that this is a potential danger for many of us. So, before crossing, we recommend you take your time and you check both sides to make sure you don’t miss an oncoming car or a bus (!). This is the best way to make sure that you don’t check cars coming from the left side when you should be checking the right side….

Safety in public transport

Don’t leave your belongings unattended because they could be stolen or the security staff at a station might take them for safety reasons and to protect other passengers (thinking that there might be a bomb in them).

Buses and trains

These tips may be useful if you are travelling at night. Take particular care if you are travelling after drinking.

  • Plan your journey in advance as much as possible and make sure you know your route and stop
  • Check the times of the last buses, Tubes and trains
  • Have your ticket, pass or change ready so your purse or wallet is out of sight and keep bags zipped and valuables secure
  • Look out for Help Points and passenger alarms – use them if you feel threatened. These will connect you to a member of staff

Cycling

  • Try to lock your bike in a designated parking facility
  • Don’t leave your bike in the same place every day
  • Secure your bike safely by locking both wheels and the frame to the cycle stand or another immovable object
  • Take removable items, like lights and pump, with you
  • Register your cycle

Taxis and minicabs

  • Always use a licensed taxi (black cab) or licensed, booked minicab. You can use our licence checker to check validity
  • Book your minicab by phone, email or in a minicab office. Never approach or accept a journey from a minicab driver off the street. Only taxis (black cabs) can be stopped by customers and can pick up off the street
  • When your booked minicab arrives, make sure the minicab driver can confirm your name and destination. Check this before you get in the vehicle
  • Check the minicab driver’s photo ID
  • Never risk taking an unbooked minicab. You can also use Cabwise to have your two nearest minicab numbers and one taxi (black cab) number texted to your phone

Tube

  • Be especially careful if you are travelling after drinking. Many injuries are alcohol related
  • If you drop anything onto a train track don’t try to pick it up, just ask a member of staff or use the Help Point
  • Don’t board a train if you feel unwell. If you’re already on the Tube and start to feel unwell, ask someone to open the end car windows or operate the slide mechanism above the seats to increase ventilation
  • Don’t use the passenger alarm between stops unless it’s a real emergency (eg if someone collapses). Staff can assist you more quickly at the station
  • If the passenger alarm has been activated, move away from any immediate danger. Remain calm, open windows for ventilation and wait for instructions from a member of staff or the emergency services
  • If any part of the train is at the platform, the train will stop. If the train is between stations, the driver will continue to the next station where assistance will be available
  • It is safer to remain on the train unless instructed to leave by staff or emergency services. Emergency lighting is provided on all trains but it may be useful to use your mobile as an additional source of light
  • If you are carrying luggage, use the lift instead of the escalators where possible
  • If you have to use the escalators to carry luggage, place it securely on the step and hold on to your luggage and the handrail

Source: TFL

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Safety in bars and restaurants

When you are in a bar or a restaurant, you need to be careful with your personal belongings. You have to make sure you keep them out of sight to avoid tempting thieves and pickpockets. Many venues have clips under their tables so use those clips to secure your handbag for example.

Also, don’t accept drinks from strangers if you don’t know where that drink comes from. It has happened that some drinks were spiked and the victim drinking those drinks was therefore drugged and then abused. So… no drinks from strangers no matter how charming they are!

Staying safe in your accommodation

We have just spoken about situations when you are not at home or at your hotel. But you also need to be careful when you are in your accommodation.
For example, if you are in a hotel try to use their safe. Don’t leave things in plain sight for anyone who has access to your home to see and possibly help themselves….
If you share a house or live in your own flat, you should also take some steps to make sure that your valuable belongings are not easily visible when you’re not at your place. You don’t want to make it easy for thieves/burglars…

Get informed

The BTP (British Transport Police) has put in place a campaign to inform everybody of the pickpockets’ tactics. It is called the Be Aware campaign.
Familiarise yourself with their website so you can know the thieves’ modus operandi. By knowing the way they operate, you will be better prepared and will be safer.

Useful contacts and information

If you want to report a non-urgent crime, use the following FREE number: 101

If you want to contact the emergency services (police but also ambulance or fire department), use the following FREE number: 999.

Crime does exist in London but the average tourist or even the average Londoner has little chance of becoming victim of it. However, this does not mean that you should be careless. Apply some common sense and you should be fine and trouble-free.

So… relax, enjoy London and have fun, but just Be Aware.

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