As hunters we all like to think that we are pretty competent when it comes to taking care of ourselves, being aware of our surroundings and being able to take action when needed. None of us likes to think it will happen to you… You’re on your adventure, your dream trip/hunt, the one you have been saving up for, and everything is going great until you find yourself in a crowded airport or walking through a busy bazaar. Its noisy, everyone is going every which way, when suddenly…you realize your wallet is missing.
Crime does not discriminate, it happens everywhere and anyone of us could be a victim. Travelers often make easy targets for criminal activity. Not only are you in unfamiliar territory, you may be distracted by your new surroundings, focused on trying to get to where you need to be – leaving the door wide open for an unscrupulous pickpocket or thief. We as hunters need to be doubly careful as often we are traveling with firearms, which if stolen could result in not only the loss of the firearm, but additional complications with local law enforcement. IT’S UP TO YOU to plan ahead and take the proper steps to minimize your chances of becoming a victim, and having your dream trip/adventure derailed.
Here are some great steps to help you avoid becoming a victim:
- When planning your travel, research your destination, find out ahead of time if the hotel you’re booking is located in a safe area. If going on a hunting trip or photo safari, check with the outfitter and find out where the best places are to stay before and after your trip. Check review sites like TripAdvisor or Hotels.com, if possible check crime reports for the area where you’ll be staying. Once you arrive, ask a cab driver or the hotel concierge what the area is like, what to watch out for or be aware of, especially at night.
- While at the hotel, don’t trust your valuables to be safe in your luggage. I had my money stashed in one of my shoes inside my suitcase one time, and one of the hotel staff still managed to find it and tip themselves on my behalf. So if you have cash or other valuables make sure to utilize your room safe if available or ask the front desk if they have a secure place to store them. This will be things like cash, prescriptions, copies of your passport, jewelry or cameras.
- It’s normal for hotel employees like housekeeping to visit your hotel room. However, this may sound like your mom talking but, never open the door for strangers. If someone says they need to enter your room and states that they are a hotel employee, call the front desk to verify their visit.
- Put the hotel to work for you! If you’re going out, but don’t feel safe with the surrounding area have the hotel call a cab for you or if your destination is within walking distance, request an escort. They will graciously comply.
Key Point: To avoid being a victim at home while you are gone, avoid posting your trip to social media sites until you return from your trip. Posting that you’ll be away from home for an extended period time leaves your house vulnerable to break ins and theft.
For when you’re out and about.
- If you are going to be doing any site seeing, shopping, or other activities take the time to research the area and familiarize yourself with where the local attractions are located. One of the telltale signs criminals watch for is someone constantly looking at maps and guidebooks. By being aware of the local area and knowing your way, you will be less likely to stand out as a traveler and minimize your risk of becoming a victim.
- Avoid walking alone. We all like to think we are a one-man wolf pack, but the truth is, were not. Whenever possible travel with others, there is safety in numbers, especially when traveling in unfamiliar territory.
- Be aware of your surroundings! If you ever suspect that someone is following you, make eye contact if possible, cross the street or change directions. Don’t be a hero, if they continue following you, find a store, restaurant, or other well lit public place and notify an employee, security guard or group of people that someone is following you. If necessary ask them to contact the police. Wait a few minutes before going on your way or better yet, get a cab if possible. Yell for help if you need it.
- Watch for disturbances- distracting events like smoke, street performers and other commotions can sometimes be used to cover criminal activities like pickpocketing, mugging or even kidnapping (American’s are tempting targets in some countries). If you see something strange or a situation feels off, remove yourself from the area as quickly as possible.
- Don’t show off cash or expensive jewelry in public. Actors, celebrities and politicians may be able to get away with flashing cash and jewelry as they are surrounded by security, but for the rest of us it increases your likelihood as a target for theft.
- Only carry the cash you need for the day, leaving the rest in your hotel safe.
- If you rent a car during your travels, always park in a well-lit, high traffic area where you and your car can be easily seen. Busy streets with plenty of witnesses makes it difficult for a criminal to break into your vehicle or even steal it.
- Know where you’re going. One of the easiest ways to end up in a bad situation is asking strangers for directions. You are placing yourself at their mercy and trusting that they have your best interest in mind.
- If needed use the GPS on your phone or in your rental vehicle (if one is installed).
- When entering or exiting the vehicle, lock your doors immediately and keep them locked.
- Keep your windows rolled up in slow moving traffic. Criminals are not afraid to go for a snatch and run, so your job is to make it as difficult as possible for them.
- Never leave your stuff in plain view. Rifles, Bows, laptops, backpacks, briefcases, even birthday presents left in plain view are asking to be stolen. Place them in the trunk or glove compartment for safe keeping.
- Don’t stop for parked motorists or hitchhikers. If you see a stranded motorist and are concerned about their situation, notify someone by phone or ask someone else to do so (gas station/shop attendant). While you may want to help a person in need, your safety comes first.
- If you get a flat tire in an unsafe area, continue driving – as safely as you can – until you reach a safe location where you can change the tire or call for assistance. If you change the tire on your own make sure you are safely out of traffic and that other drivers can see you.
- If you are approached by a criminal with a weapon, DON’T BE A HERO. Give them your car or any other possessions to increase your chances of leaving the situation unhurt. If your life is in imminent danger, fight with everything you have, scream, yell, punch, kick, eye gouge, whatever it takes to extract yourself from the situation. Contact the police immediately and provide an accurate description of the crime and the suspect.
Personal safety tips to keep in mind:
- Take photos or scan your passport and other important documents on to an online cloud service or email them to yourself in case of loss or theft.
- Don’t follow strangers or people you just met! Always trust your gut instinct when people you don’t know try to insert themselves into your life.
- When approaching the door to your car or hotel room, make sure you have your keys out and ready. Criminals may see you digging for your keys and see it as an opportunity to strike. Immediately lock the door behind you as soon as you enter.
- Don’t follow the exact same routine. Patient criminals will scout their next victim by looking at their daily routine. Switch up the times your leave for work or arrive home. You may even want to set up additional home security measures such as automatic timers for your lights if you won’t be home in the evenings.
- Enroll in a personal safety program such as the NRA Refuse To Be A Victim® program. You will learn the personal safety tips and techniques you need to avoid dangerous situations and avoid becoming a victim.
- Protect yourself and your loved ones with an emergency assistance program like the Outdoors International Travel Guard Program.
At the end of the day, we all need to be situationally aware, whether at home or abroad as crime, unfortunately, is everywhere. Stay alert, remain vigilant and use common sense precautions to help prevent crime from happening to you. I love traveling to far off places to hunt, but no matter how much you are looking forward to the trip, or enjoying your surroundings, it pays to be prepared. It’s not paranoia, it’s personal safety.
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