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Women walking down dark alley.Teens are the age group most vulnerable to crime. But putting into practice some basic crime prevention tips can help you and your friends avoid becoming the victims of crime.

How Streetwise Are You?

Do you

  • stuff your backpack or purse with cash, keys, pager, cell phones, credit cards, checkbooks — and then leave it wide open at school or work, near your desk, or on the floor?
  • pay attention to your surroundings or do you think about school or your friends when walking, driving, or riding the subway or bus?
  • think it's a waste of time to use your locker for valuables or to lock your car when you'll be back in a few minutes?
  • walk or jog by yourself early in the morning or late at night when the streets are quiet and deserted?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you need to change a few habits. Even if you answered "no" and made a perfect score, read on. Spend a few minutes now to prevent trouble later.

Keeping Street Sense in Mind

  • Stay alert and tuned into your surroundings wherever you are — at school or the mall, on the street, waiting for a bus or subway, or driving.
  • Send the message that you're calm, confident, and know where you're going.
  • Don't accept rides or gifts from someone you don't know well and trust — that includes people you've met on the Internet.
  • Trust your instincts. If something or someone makes you uneasy, avoid the person or situation and leave as soon as possible.
  • Know the neighborhoods where you live, go to school, and work. Keep in mind locations of fire and police stations and public telephones. Remember which stores and restaurants stay open late.

Strolling — Day and Night

  • Try to walk places with your friends rather than alone.
  • Stick to well-lighted, well-traveled streets. Avoid shortcuts through wooded areas, parking lots, or alleys.
  • Take the safest route to and from schools, stores, or your friends' houses. Know where to go for help if you need it.
  • Don't display your cash or any other inviting targets like pagers, cell phones, hand-held electronic games, or expensive jewelry and clothing.
  • Carry your backpack or purse close to your body and keep it closed. Just carrying a wallet? Put it inside your coat or front pants pocket, not in your back pocket or in your backpack.
  • Have your car or house key in your hand before you reach the door.
  • If you think someone is following you, switch directions or cross the street. If they're still there, move quickly toward an open store or restaurant or a lighted house. Don't be afraid to yell for help.
  • Have to work late? Make sure there are others in the building and that someone — a supervisor or security guard — will wait with you for your ride or walk you to your car or bus or train stop.
  • Be alert in the neighborhood. Call police or tell an adult about anything you see that seems suspicious.

Cruising

  • Keep your car in good running condition. Make sure there's enough gas to get where you're going and back.
  • Turn the ignition off and take your car keys with you, even if you just have to run inside for one minute.
  • Roll up the windows and lock car doors, even if you're coming right back. Check inside and out before getting in.
  • Avoid parking in isolated areas. If you are uncomfortable, ask a security guard or store staff to watch you or escort you to your car.
  • Drive to the nearest gas station, open business, or other well-lighted, crowded area to get help if you think you are being followed. Don't head home.
  • Use your cellular phone, if you have one, to call the police if you are being followed or you've seen an accident. Otherwise, stay off your cellular phone while you are driving.
  • Don't pick up hitchhikers. Don't hitchhike.

Taking Buses and Subways

  • Use well-lighted, busy stops. If you must get off at a little-used stop, try to arrange for a friend or an adult to meet you.
  • Stay alert! Don't doze or daydream.
  • Say, "leave me alone" loudly if someone hassles you. Don't be embarrassed.
  • Watch who gets off your stop with you. If you feel uneasy, walk directly to a place where there are other people.

If Someone Tries To Rob You

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