Don’t believe these myths about crime

Some of the things that people do to avoid crime actually increase their odds of becoming victims. Here, the truth about common misconceptions about crime — plus important safety strategies…

Myth: If you’re mugged, throw your wallet or purse at the assailant and run. The mugger will stop to pick up your valuables rather than pursue you.

Reality: Many street criminals value respect above all else. Throwing your valuables could be taken as a form of disrespect. The mugger might use violence against you for this.

Better: Politely hand over your valuables without making eye contact. Follow the mugger’s directions, and do not say anything beyond, “Take my money… it’s all yours.”

Exception: If you hand over your valuables and the mugger continues issuing instructions, such as “get down on your knees” or “walk into that alley,” it is time to run away. Muggers who do not leave quickly after obtaining a victim’s possessions often intend to commit murder or sexual assault.

Myth: The best way to fight back against a male assailant is with a kick to the groin.

Reality: Attempts to disable assailants with kicks or punches to the groin almost always fail. Men usually experience an adrenaline rush when they commit assaults or muggings. One consequence of this adrenaline rush is that their testicles retreat up close to their bodies, making the testicles a very difficult target to hit. Most men also are quite adept at protecting their groin area when they realize that an attack might be coming. Even if an assailant’s testicles are struck, the onset of pain is not instantaneous. An assailant might have enough time to seriously injure or kill you before feeling the full effects.

Better: If you do attempt a physical attack on an assailant, go for a kidney. The kidneys are located on our sides, just above the waist — roughly where the thumbs rest when we stand with our hands on our hips. Kidneys are extremely sensitive. If an attacker comes at you, hit or slap the kidney or stab a pen in the area.

Myth: If you act confident, you are less likely to be targeted by criminals.

Reality: Criminals could mistake your show of confidence for arrogance and target you to take you down a peg. When a man acts very confidently, a male criminal might target him for assault to prove that the criminal is the top dog. When Americans abroad act confidently, they sometimes are targeted by criminals who consider the US their enemy. Rape-prevention groups often recommend that women walk and act with exaggerated confidence when they feel threatened, but this can increase the risk for sexual assault.

Better: It is fine to feel confident, but don’t act cocky. Arrogance can make you a target. Also, feigned confidence often seems unnatural and makes us stand out from crowds. Acting the way we actually feel helps us blend in, a far better way to avoid unwanted criminal attention.

Myth: The least safe areas are “bad neighborhoods” at night.

Reality: In my experience, the highest-risk areas for physical attacks by strangers are not bad neighborhoods but near nightclubs. The perpetrators typically are nightclub patrons who have had too much to drink.

Better: Stay out of nightclubs, and advise your adult children to do the same. If you do go to nightclubs in any kind of neighborhood, leave before midnight — most attacks happen later, when patrons have been drinking for many hours. If you feel at all threatened when leaving a nightclub, ask a doorman or bouncer to keep an eye on you as you walk to your car. Avoid parking near nightclubs if you will be returning to your car after midnight.

Myth: Burglars won’t come in if they know you’re home.

Reality: Most break-ins happen between 2 pm and 9 pm, partly because this is when people are likely to have their doors unlocked. Burglars target homes that appear easy to break into and move on to other homes if the first one selected proves challenging.

Better: Determine what your neighbors do for home security, then do that and a little more in your own home. Dogs, motion-detecting lights, deadbolts and alarm systems all can be effective deterrents. And be sure to lock doors.

Myth: College campuses are safe.

Reality: Unfortunately, our colleges and universities are very unsafe. Security is extremely lax on most campuses, and burglary, assault and rape are distressingly common. Even prestigious colleges have crime problems.

Better: Impress upon your children that college campuses are not safe havens and that attention must be paid to personal and property security.