Being the capital of England, London attracts millions of people from all around the world every year. As well as tourists, many students choose the bustling and vibrant city as their future university destination. There are 39 universities in the city of London, with approximately 450,000 students recorded as studying there in 2018.
Read our top ten tips on how to stay safe if you’re either currently a student in London, or thinking about going there:
Pick pocketing is inevitable in huge cities such as London – and the Metropolitan Police recorded over £16,700,790 worth of valuables stolen between January and October 2018 within the city.
Thieves will target tourists and new students as they are more likely to be taking in the sights and not thinking about the possibility of their belongings being snatched. Prevent your bag from being opened or reached into easily by ensuring you’ve zipped compartments tight, fastening belts or ties on rucksacks securely and by placing your valuables deep inside of your bag.
Nowadays scammers can place tiny cameras above ATM keypads with crafty Lebanese Loops and other sorts of devices to commit identity fraud. Check that the machine you’re approaching hasn’t been tampered with, which is in a main, busy high street.
Other tips for cash point security are covering your PIN as you type with your free hand; running your finger along the card slot before you put your card in (the sleeve of a Lebanese Loop device has a couple of tiny prongs that the thieves need to get the sleeve out of the slot), and checking there’s no one standing too close behind you looking over your shoulder or stood beside the ATM who can clearly see the keypad.
Students will find they’re amongst, not only hundreds of different types of people from around the world, but also a hotbed of criminals looking to swipe from student accommodation.
Look into contents insurance and you’ll learn how a simple phone call with an insurance broker will protect your TV, laptop, Xbox/PlayStation, tablet, bicycle or anything else which you consider to be high value from being lost forever.
Although your smartphone can come in handy for Google mapping your way around London, if you’re holding it in your hand it may attract attention from phone snatchers. One of the most frequent crimes in London is moped crime, with victims using phones often approached whilst they’re on a call by moped drivers and robbed.
Protect yourself from moped theft and use your phone sparingly out and about. Avoid standing too close to the road whilst on a call and perhaps invest in a phone lasso to attach to your wrist. You could also register your phone to help police identify lost or stolen devices.
Walking in such a big city as London, especially for a student who’s not visited before, can seem daunting. Criminals will target anyone they think looks lost or unsure of their surroundings, so it helps to plan your route in advance and research as much as possible about the area.
Acting confidently, even if you don’t feel assertive, will help you to blend in with the people around you on the streets. Using body language such as holding your gaze straight ahead, positioning your shoulders back, and moving with purpose will give the impression that you know where you’re going. Stay vigilant as you walk and face oncoming traffic, so that moped or bicycle thieves won’t be able to ride-up quietly behind you.
Avoid walking alone anywhere at night. Opt instead for public transport or a taxi to get to your destination. If you must walk alone, stay in well-lit areas and avoid dark alleyways or side roads. No matter how long the journey will take, always message or call someone to let them know that you’ve arrived home safely.
No one can predict what can happen to us at any given time when we’re out and about in a bustling city such as London. It’s best to prepare yourself for the unexpected which could range from terrorism attacks, acid burns, first aid or knife attacks. The CitizenAid App has guidance on what to do in these situations.
Other ways in which you can prepare for emergencies are charging your phone up in case you need to make an emergency phone call, taking some physical cash and telling a friend or family member where you’re going and at what time you expect to arrive at your destination.
If you’re travelling alone on the tube or bus, make sure you’ve not got any open pockets for people to reach into as you board or leave. Avoid empty train carriages and sit or stand where there are plenty of people around. Try and wait for the bus or train in a well-lit place near other people if possible, and try to arrange for someone to meet you at the bus stop or station when you’ve arrived.
If you feel like someone is going to commit an offence to either yourself or another passenger, alert the driver or raise your voice to alert others. There is guidance on London Underground safety and Transport for London has advice for reporting a crime.
London has thousands of people passing through its streets every day, meaning that there is always a chance some of those people could walk past your accommodation and try and enter unsolicited. Lock all front and back doors and windows before you leave and at night, as well as when you’re at home. Don’t leave car keys or other valuables near windows and take door keys out of locks to stop criminals entering easily.
Student life will no doubt involve being asked to go out for drinks at bars and clubs, which means that there’s a chance people could try and spike drinks. Keep a close eye on your tipple and hold it as much as possible, so that it won’t be tampered with. Also consider watching the drink being prepared at the bar. There is more information about what to do if you think you or your friend’s drink has been spiked here.