Tips for staying safe during the holidays

Whether your holiday plans include traveling to destinations near or far, the members of Vanderbilt University’s Police Department have some tips to help you have a safe and enjoyable holiday season.

“While the holidays are a time to enjoy friends and family, we know that incidents of robbery, theft and other crimes increase at holiday time. However, there are steps people can take both now and throughout the year to help reduce the risk of becoming a victim of crime,” Andrew Atwood, Vanderbilt University’s director of crime prevention, said.

Atwood says many of the tips used year-round should still apply such as securing your home, dorm, office and/or department against theft, and staying in well-lit areas and being aware of your surroundings. He suggests calling 1-8888 for a walking escort if you cannot find a group walking to or from your destination after dark.

He also suggests avoiding studying alone in isolated areas, such as academic buildings or labs during odd hours. If you must be alone, stay near a phone in case you need to call for help (1-911), know where the quickest exits are located, work or study in a secured area, ask VUPD to check on you occasionally and be sure to notify VUPD when you leave, and have a plan of action in case of a confrontation.

Limiting alcohol consumption and keeping a close eye on your beverage of choice are also good ideas he said.

“Whether a drink is alcoholic or not, you should prepare it yourself or observe its preparation to prevent substances, such as date rape drugs, being added to you drink without your knowledge,” Atwood said. “If you lose sight of your drink, pour it out and replace it.”

When shopping or traveling, there are a number safety precautions that can be taken such as not carrying excessive cash or “flashing” cash in public, not wearing expensive or attention-getting jewelry and avoiding the use of ATMs at night or in isolated areas. Other travel tips include:

• Dress in warm, comfortable clothing and carry a small amount of water and food in case you are stranded at an airport or bus terminal.
• Keep your luggage with you at all times.
• Leave your itinerary with friends or relatives and let them know if you will arrive late at your destination.
• Consider leaving expensive gifts and jewelry at home or in a safety deposit box.

Atwood asks that if anyone notices suspicious activities at Vanderbilt, to report
them immediately by using a campus emergency phone or calling 1-911.

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