Crime in England

Travelling in England is fairly safe. Despite much media hype, England is not a dangerous country for travellers. The crime rate in England is considered relatively low. Typical incidents include pick-pocketing, mugging and theft. Credit card fraud is also becoming more frequent.

On this page, I'm trying to give you some ideas on how to stay safe while travelling in England.

A commonsense approach will help you avoid being a victim of crime. In addition, many scams can be spotted quite easily and a little forethougth and preparation will keep you safe and your holiday uninterrupted.



Pickpocketing

Pick-pockets tend to operate in crowded places. This makes many of England's main tourist attractions their prime hunting grounds, as well as busy trains, buses or the Tube, i.e. the London Underground.

When travelling in busy areas, make sure your valuables are safely stowed. Consider using a money belt or similar bag that you can wear under your clothes.

When visiting a major tourist site make sure you're aware of your belongings. Pay special attention if a stranger tries to distract you as s/he may have an accomplice who's ransacking your bag while your head is turned.

In the UK, you are not required to produce an ID card or other identification, so if you are staying in a hotel, consider leaving your passport in the hotel safe. Keep a note of your passport number, flight booking references and credit card numbers, as well as any emergency phone numbers in a safe place, so should you lose your belongings, you can take steps to have them replaced right away.



Theft

Like pickpockets, thieves target high-value items like mobile phones, cameras, watches, jewellery and money.

Never leave money or valuables unattended, be in at the airport - where your bag may be removed and destroyed - at a restaurant or in a hire car.

Thieves often target unattended cars at busy tourist sites and roadside restaurants, looking for laptop computers, mobile phones, PDA and GPS equipment. If you carry such items, either take them with you when you leave the car or lock them away out of sight in the boot.

When you leave your hotel, make sure that all your valuables are stored in the safe and that you have locked the door to your room.

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Muggings

Muggings tend to be opportunity crimes, taking place in isolated areas or targeting victims who are incapacitated (read: drunk) or have shown to carry valuable items, either lots of cash or an expensive mobile phone.

Using common sense can go a long way to avoid being mugged or having your possessions stolen:

  • When out and about, especially after dark, avoid isolated areas, parks and pedestrian tunnels. Find a surface crossing, go home in a crowd or call a taxi.
  • Don't drink so much that you become a helpless victim.
  • Don't leave drinks unattended in bars and nightclubs. There have been some instances of drinks being spiked with illegal substances, leading to incidents of robbery and rape.

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Taxis

When going out for the evening, ask your hotel to book a taxi for you or call a reputable taxi firm that they or your tour operator have recommended.

All licensed taxis should display a licences plate and number.

If you know when you'll be returning home book a taxi in advance. Most good restaurants will also book taxis for you when you're ready to leave.

Unlicensed taxis or private cars posing as taxis may offer low fares, but are often uninsured and may have unlicensed drivers. They can also pose a risk of theft, assault or sexual assault.

In London, the Safer Travel at Night partnership of the Metropolitan Police, Transport for London, and the Mayor of London advise that travellers should use only licensed black cabs or recommended taxi firms. If you've booked a minicab to pick you up, make sure the driver knows your name and destination before you get in. Sit in the back with your phone to hand. If you don't have the number for a reputable taxi service, you can use the Cabwise text service to get two numbers for local licensed minicab firms and a black cab company. You just need to text HOME to 60835.

For other London travel option like London bus services, the Tube or taxis either call TRAVELINE on 020 7222 1234 or visit the Transport for London website www.tfl.gov.uk

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Card Crime / ATM Fraud

Credit cards and cash cards are a convenient way to pay when out and about in England. Using a card stops you from having to carry large amounts of cash or travellers cheques. Unfortunately, card crime in England is rising. ATM fraud in particular is becoming more sophisticated, so please use common sense when withdrawing cash from an ATM.

Don't use a cash machine if it appears to have been tampered with and avoid ATMs located in isolated areas.

Do not allow anyone to distract you while withdrawing cash and shield the keypad from view while entering your PIN number.

If you want to withdraw cash safely during the daytime, go into a bank. Most High Street banks in England have cash machines inside the lobby as well as outside. Another good option is to ask for "cashback" at the supermarket checkout. The amount of cash you request will be added to your checkout bill and the cashier will hand you the money.

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If Your Passport is Lost or Stolen

Should you lose your passport, or have it stolen during your stay in England, you should contact your embassy or consulate as soon as possible to have a replacement issued.

It's also a good idea to report the theft to the local police. Your embassy or consulate can advise you.


Should You Become the Victim of a Crime

Should you be a victim of a crime, you must report this to the local police and your embassy or consulate. While the investigation of any crime falls to the local authorities, officials from your embassy or consulate will be able to help you find medical care, contact family members or arrange legal representation.



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