Due to the increase in crime and criminality in TT and the continuing onslaught on women, citizens are being encouraged to be extra vigilant, more observant and pay specific attention to their personal spaces like their homes, properties and communities.
With this in mind, Newsday sought out security personnel to get their input on how citizens can and should protect themselves and their properties. Over the next few days we will look at crime fighting measures, security options and community action strategies to address criminal activity.
What more can you do? Among the suggestions are the strengthening of security at home, neighbourhood watch groups, maximising use of smart phone technology and minimising social media posts regarding your location, boosting self-defence techniques and changing your predictable behaviour.
Another recommendation was for companies and groups to consider conducting personal safety workshops and training sessions, where people can be placed into scenarios and situations and go through a simulated attack, to understand how to react, how to operate and most importantly, how to stay alive.
Adjunct criminal justice lecturer at Costaatt and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), Curtis S Belford gave advice on how to prevent and survive a robbery, tips on ATM and vehicle safety and also how to avoid a kidnapping.
Former head of the National Operations Centre (NOC) and senior research lecturer with Anglia Ruskin University, Garvin Heera also presented a series of tips which if followed would work in good stead for citizens’ personal safety while outdoors.
According to Belford the “crime triangle” which must be present for a crime to occur can be broken. He says “the crime triangle identifies three factors: a victim or target, a motivated offender or criminal desire and the opportunity.
“We can break the triangle by not giving the criminal the opportunity. There is little we can do about criminal desire, however, we can reduce our attractiveness as victims/targets and employ various strategies to address criminal opportunity,” Belford said.
Here are the strategies recommended by Belford, Heerah and other experts –some of the tips you may already know but need to start putting into practise to safeguard yourself from becoming a victim of crime.
Target hardening: This involves taking steps to make your home more difficult to penetrate. This can be done by burglar proofing, installing alarms and additional lighting, acquiring guard dogs, erecting walls and fences, adding and changing locks/deadbolts.
You can also engage in self-protective measures such as learning self-defence, karate, judo and other similar training courses.
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There is strength in numbers and collective action such as the formation of neighbourhood watch groups, tenant patrols, block watch and citizens on patrol can help boost the security of your neighbourhood.
Engage the TTPS in your communities and build relations. Share contact numbers and seek information from the TTPS that can assist your community in working closer with them, to ensure a safer and secured society. Be extra observant and report all suspicious activity.
People should also form social groups within their families and design coded alerts and communication mechanisms to pass information and to ensure that loved ones are always accounted for.
Minimise the personal information that you post in social media, especially posts that exhibit your possessions, your location and pictures of yourself that may be extra revealing.
Explore the technology available to you on your smart phones as per location indicators, alerts and situational awareness.
Another avoidance techniques is that of behaviour alteration. You can alter your behaviour to prevent and limit victimisation by socialising indoors, utilising electronic home entertainment systems and refraining from staying out late at nights. Travelling in groups can minimise risk of incidents.
Getting involved: This means rendering assistance to victims during the commission of a crime when safe to do so. Calling the police, putting on your lights, shouting Stop or Help are all ways of getting involved.
The Criminal Law Act Chapter 10:04 affords all citizens the right to make an arrest; the right to use reasonable force in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders.
Record the serial and model numbers of your valuables and/or mark/engrave them with your initials or personal identifier. Proper identification makes it easier for police to return property and assists them in court prosecutions.
Surviving a robbery
When prevention fails and you are confronted by a robber, it is strongly recommended that you remain calm and follow instructions. Adopt the following actions:
Remain calm: any sudden movement could end with you being shot or stabbed. When you remain calm, you will be able to focus on protecting yourself.
Be Alert. If you can activate an alarm safely, do it quietly and quickly.
Follow instructions –hand over everything that is requested. Good responses include: Ok, I’m giving you all the money I have. I am doing everything you ask.
Observe and memorise the robber carefully during the robbery, if possible. Don’t stare or make eye contact with the robber. Take quick glances only. Note the description of the robber and vehicle.
Listen and commit to memory: listen carefully to what is said by the robber during the robbery if possible. Note exact words spoken, accent, names used, slang and so on.
Report and make notes: write down everything to remember to assist the police.
Render assistance to injured persons and others in shock.
Always lock the doors and take the keys when you leave your car. Do not leave people in the vehicle with the vehicle running.
Park in well-lighted areas, near sidewalks or walkways.
Never leave valuables in plain view even if the car is locked.
Always look around before you get out and stay alert to the surroundings.
Keep your doors locked and windows rolled up.
When you come to a stop, leave enough room to manoeuvre around the other cars.
Don’t stop to assist a stranger whose car has broken down. Instead, call for help.
If you think someone is following you, head for the nearest brightly-lighted area or the police station.
If you are suspicious of an unmarked car with flashing police lights ordering you to stop, drive to a well-lighted area with plenty of people before stopping.
Regardless of your vehicle type or age, all vehicle owners should outfit their vehicle with a tracking and response capability.
Avoid routines which make your actions predictable
Keep a low profile
Know the background of your employees
Secure personal information
Go out in groups
Report suspicious activity and note registration numbers etc.
Talk to children openly about safety
Develop emergency scenarios
Be alert and note abnormal situations.
Keep a cell phone and ensure it is fully charged
Try to avoid using ATMs when alone and after dark.
Assess the area before going in to the ATM
When possible, use an ATM inside a bank or store.
Have your bankcard ready.
Protect your personal identification number (PIN); position yourself carefully.
When your transaction is complete, leave immediately.
Tomorrow we will look at how one community has employed the service of a neighbourhood watch patrol to ensure their safety.