The mean streets keep getting meaner. If you turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper you can easily feel bombarded with stories about the...

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The mean streets keep getting meaner.

If you turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper you can easily feel bombarded with stories about the surge in crime, of people out for a night of fun who wind up having anything but.

Although the media attention has a way of shining the spotlight on the problem, it’s worth remembering that being safe when you go out isn’t a sure thing — even when it’s part of your job description.

Milwaukee Police Sgt. Linda Reaves, who gives advice on crime prevention, was herself a victim of a purse-snatching. “It only took an instant,” she said.

In short, it’s harder to stay safe while stepping out. Experts differ on why.

“I think there are so many more weapons on the streets; it’s more dangerous out there,” says Jerry Hajewski, a self-defense instructor at the southwest branch of the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee.

“What’s happening is that things are getting more unsafe because of the fact the population’s [growing],” says Richard Soloway, an author and security expert from NAPCO Security Systems of Amityville, N.Y.

You’re most vulnerable at the times when you’re most likely to be out at night — typically, prime time for fun time.

“During dusk hours and dark and when there are a lot of crowds around,” Soloway says.

“Criminals like it when it’s a bit dark but also when there is a lot of activity. Pickpockets work crowds.”

But there’s no need to cocoon at home in fear.

Experts have plenty of street-smart tips to keep you safe when you’re out on the town.

“Crime takes a triangle: desire, ability and opportunity. We can’t take away the desire or the ability, but we can remove the opportunity and then a crime can’t be completed,” Reaves says.


Stay alert: “You always have to be cognizant of the situation and your surroundings anywhere you go. You have to stay alert. If something is going to happen to you, it’s going to happen to you when you’re not alert,” Reaves says.

Walk the walk: Be confident and look like you know where you’re going and what you’re doing. “Don’t carry yourself like a victim. Walk with purpose,” Reaves says.

Better yet, don’t walk alone: “Be with somebody else, even a child. Criminals look to attack you when you’re alone and you appear to be weak, like predators in the jungle searching for the weakest,” Hajewski says.

Don’t accessorize: Leave your purse and your headphones at home when you walk … but carry a cellphone. Have it out and on.


Have a good working car and know where you’re going. “Plan your route. Drive with a purpose,” Reaves says.

Keep your car doors locked. If possible, get a car with remote access so you can get in without fumbling with keys in locks.

Check the back seat of your car to make sure no one is hiding there.

Don’t stop to remove a flier from your windshield. “Criminals will sometimes put a note there, hoping you’ll get out of your car to read it,” Hajewski says.

Put your purse and other valuables on the floor or in the trunk, out of sight even while driving. Keep out of sight to avoid tempting snatch-and-grab crooks when you stop at stoplights.

In parking structures, go toward the light. “Park where there is traffic, not in the back where it’s quiet and dark. Criminals like it quiet and dark,” Soloway says.

Use your inner sense of self-preservation. “Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable, if something doesn’t feel right, don’t get out of your car,” Reaves says.

If you think you’re being followed, drive to a police station or a well-lighted gas station. “Never try to evade another car by driving down isolated streets,” Hajewski says.


Never leave your drink unattended. Use of such “mickeys” as date-rape drugs is on the rise. “And if someone sends over a drink, don’t drink it. I prefer to see who poured it,” Reaves says.

Watch how much you drink. “In a bar, be cognizant of how much alcohol you’ve had. Too much and you can become a target,” says Mike DeMarco, Milwaukee Summerfest music festival security director.

Don’t flash wads of cash. “Keep a small amount in a pocket to pay a bar bill and keep any other money unobserved,” DeMarco says.

Never leave alone. Ask bar or restaurant security to walk you to your car.


Always know where the exits are. Make sure they’re unchained so that you can get out quickly in an emergency, Soloway says.

At outdoor venues, decide on a specific meeting place for your group.


If they want your money, give it to them. “It’s much better to do that than argue or get into a tussle,” DeMarco says.

If someone grabs you, never allow the person to force you into a vehicle.

Cause a scene. “Wave your arms. Yell ‘Fire!’ It attracts people,” Hajewski says.

Fight back and escape. Says Hajewski: “Run!”