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How to Avoid Being a Victim

Tips on how not to be a target of crime.

"Subtle, nonverbal cues can sometimes make the difference in whether you're targeted or not," says Georgia State University psychologist Volkan Topalli.

Here are some simple tips from the experts on how to make yourself less appealing to street predators.

  • When visiting entertainment districts, particularly those near high-crime areas, dress down if possible. Also, be sure to park in an attended garage. Fine clothes, flashy jewelry, and expensive cars attract attention.
  • Be alert. Look at your surroundings, notice the people around you. Armed robbers like to sneak up on their victims. Make brief eye contact with those around you but don't stare. Don't look scared. Stay off your cell phone.
  • Walk with purpose. Look like you know where you're going and how to get there. If you have to ask for directions, ask a store clerk or a restaurant employee. Don't stop people on the street.
  • Don't let people stop you. If someone tries to ask you something, keep moving. Don't follow strangers.
  • If you can't avoid walking alone after dark, at least stay in well-lit areas.
  • When approaching your car, carry your keys in your hand. Digging for keys at your car door is a distraction. Be sure to check the passenger seats before you get in.
  • Don't flash money even when inside a business establishment. Some robbers hang out in stores in order to spot victims carrying a lot of cash.
  • When leaving your home, tell someone your exact route and your estimated time of arrival. That way, if something happens to you, police know exactly where to look for you.

Watch Your Body Language

  • A walk that lacks organized movement and flowing motion signals fear or physical vulnerability.
  • Drunken people appear more vulnerable, place themselves in dangerous situations, and give off signals predators may misinterpret as sexual interest.
  • Many think talking on a cell phone deters criminals because you can summon help, but it actually signals you're distracted.
  • Predators can identify submissive people through their body language, such as downward gaze and slumped posture.
  • Women with passive, submissive personalities are most likely to be raped—and they tend to wear body-concealing clothing, such as high necklines, long pants and sleeves, and multiple layers.
  • Robbers target people who flaunt material possessions or display a cocky, condescending attitude.