So, you have decided to take your first trip to New York City. Good for you. It is one of the most exciting and fun places in the world. I hope you have a wonderful time. An important ingredient to having a wonderful time is to have nothing go wrong.
The City has been “cleaned-up” a lot in recent years as far as tourist crime, but we should not take anything for granted. Bad guys are still out there. I have every respect for the NYPD. They are always pleasant and helpful. However, they cannot be everywhere at all times. It is up to visitors to take individual responsibility for their safety, be aware of their surroundings, and make sure they are not an easy mark.
What is an easy mark? An easy mark is someone a criminal pegs as being easy to take advantage of. How do you avoid being an easy mark? First and foremost, ask yourself often, “Am I an easy mark right now?” Beyond that, here are a few more tips:
If you enter the City via public transportation you will arrive in Grand Central Station, Penn Station, or the Port Authority. As soon as you arrive GET OUT! I mean this sincerely. Do not lollygag around, gawking, like an obvious tourist. Criminals look for poor, unsuspecting souls who behave this way and peg them as an easy mark.
• Tip #1: Do not hang around transportation terminals – GET OUT!
Tote your suitcase or what-have-you and walk and look as if you know exactly where you are going; as if you know the score. Where are you going? You are going UP! So, head for the nearest escalator and get up and out onto the street.
• Tip #2: Walk and look as if you know “exactly” where you are going.
Once you are on a NYC street luggage says, “Hello, look at me, I’m a Tourist!”
• Tip #3: Get rid of your luggage, pronto.
There are always available taxis waiting outside of every terminal.
• Tip #4: Your best bet with luggage is a cab, unless your destination is nearby.
• Tip #5: Be sure to choose and/or hail taxis yourself.
• Tip #6: NEVER accept anyone’s offer to help you with your luggage or to get you a cab. They are not being nice. They are most likely pulling a scam.
• Tip #7: Beware of the “cheap ride” scam.
The “cheap ride” scam goes like this: Two guys walk up to you and tell you it is your lucky day because they can get you anywhere you want to go cheaper than any other taxi. They tell you that they are partners who own their own cab. Business is slow and they are poor, struggling “little guys”. So, you see, you will be helping each other out. You get a “cheap ride” and they make a little money to keep their cab on the road. Then, they ask you where you want to go and quote you a flat rate. They tell you it is well below the meter rate and you are going to save a bundle because the traffic is really bad today. One guy claims to be the partner who handles the money. He asks you to pay him right there in the street because he has to go. The other guy claims to be the driver who is going to get their cab that is parked “right over there.” Do NOT give them any money. If you do, these two jokers will run like hell.
• Tip #8: ONLY get in licensed City taxicabs.
• Tip #9: NEVER pull out money on a NYC street.
While we are on the subject of money:
• Tip #10: Carry as little money as possible.
Try to use plastic whenever possible. If you do not have a debit or credit card buy a prepaid card before your trip.
• Tip #11: Always make ATM withdrawals in busy, well-lit areas
If for some reason you should have to carry cash:
• Tip #12: Ladies do not carry money in a purse; guys do not carry it in a wallet.
If a criminal eyes money going into a purse or wallet, you become an easy mark.
• Tip #13: Carry less than $20 at a time in a front pocket.
• Tip #14: Conceal any more than this in a boot, sock, bra, etc.
• Tip #15: After purchases pocket your change instantly while still in the store
• Tip #16: NEVER count money on the street or out in the open
• Tip #17: Go to a restroom to retrieve your hidden money if you need it
Speaking of carrying hidden things:
• Tip #18: Pepper Spray may be purchased legally in NYC.
The folks at Self Defenses, Inc., (246 West 54th St.) are very helpful. You might want to call them in advance regarding the current laws and requirements (212-541-5400).
Here are a few more tips to avoid being an easy mark:
• Tip #19: Purses are best with shoulder straps worn across the body
• Tip #20: Never dangle a purse from your arm, wrist, or hand
• Tip #21: Never put a purse out in plain view on a tabletop, etc.
• Tip #22: Do not wear expensive or excessive jewelry.
• Tip #23: Never walk the inside of streets, stay away from alleys
• Tip #24: Never let anyone crowd your personal space for any reason. If they are trying to get too close; they are up to no good.
• Tip #25: Do not pull out money on the street for beggars. Donate to charities.
• Tip #26: Be well aware of who is walking behind you.
• Tip #27: If you feel you are being followed head for a business, police, etc.
• Tip #28: Do carry a cell phone and report suspicious activity
• Tip #29: Avoid dark, deserted areas. Stick to popular, well-lit areas.
• Tip #30: Avoid the subway.
• Tip #31: If you do use the subway get in and out and avoid eye contact
• Tip #32: Never bend down to help anyone; you may be jumped from behind
• Tip #33: Never open and/or read maps on a NYC street.
• Tip #34: If anyone asks you for anything (a light, the time, etc) say “sorry” and keep moving. Many times these requests are diversions.
• Tip #35: ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings and ask yourself, “Am I an easy mark right now?
I have tried to think of everything, yet I am sure I have forgotten some things. Whatever you do, please do not let these tips deter you from going to New York City. I have been visiting the City a couple of times per year for over ten years now, and I have never been mugged or harmed in any way. These tips are meant to help you enjoy everything the City has to offer, too, take plenty of pictures, and return home safely to share your experience with family and friends.
Have a great trip!