Attention, New Yorkers: crime still exists.
In recent weeks, I've heard sad tales from both newbie New Yorkers and those that have been here a while and ought to know better. Tales that make me want to shake my head and say, "You did what? Seriously?"
One recent corker is the story of the 30-something mother who wheels her tyke to day care, leaves her stroller outside, unattended and unlocked -- with handbag containing wallet, smartphone, and more, right on the seat -- and is shocked upon coming out to find said handbag and stroller missing. "I was only inside a minute -- this is a safe neighborhood," she says.
D'oh! C'mon people! Wake up! Today's New York City is a far safer place than the Big Apple of the 1970s and 1980s. And that's great news. However, many lifelong New Yorkers have become complacent. They've let their guard down, lost their Mean Streets mojo. And some starry-eyed newcomers to the city can only see the magic of their new nabes and are far too lax (for me, anyway) in terms of safety precautions.
Fear not, however. As part of my quest to keep you safe, I've assembled this checklist of my favorite anti-crime tips. Commit them to memory. Then, focus! I don't care if it's 2013, not 1977. You're in New York City, not Candyland. Wake up!
SHOE SHOPPING: This would seem to be a no-brainer. And yet, it seems that shoe shopping and pocketbook lifting is a match made in heaven. When out shoe shopping, keep your hands (not just your eyes) on your bag at all times. Do not leave it under the seat while you're walking over to the mirror to see how those new Thierry Rabotins look. They're fab, I guarantee it.
NEW APARTMENTS: Call a licensed locksmith and change the locks. Get a drill- and pick-resistant model, not a bargain brand from a big box store. Leave the fire escape window guard on, no matter how badly it upsets your aesthetic sensibilities.
BIKES: Invest in a quality U-Lock plus cable, to secure your rear and front wheel, as well as your seat. Take all accessories with you when you lock up (yes, even for a minute). Ask your local bike store to demonstrate how to safely lock your bike. It's remarkable how many owners of four-figure bikes buy the right lock -- and use it totally wrong.
YOUR CAR: Use your head -- don't park in the neighborhood "jinx" spot. You know, the one at the end of the block where the streetlight is always out, and the sidewalk is always covered with broken auto glass. Yeah, that spot. If you can't find a spot in a well-lit place, flip some bills and throw your car in a lot for the night. It will be far cheaper than replacing broken glass, radios, and more. And please: whether you're in a lot or on the street -- take your valuables with you.
ON THE STREET: Put your smartphone in a pocket, or your bag. Those white earbuds? Change them up for something less tell-tale. Another: don't flash your killer watch when asked the time of day. Smile, say "it's about 10" (if it's around 10, that is) and keep on walking. Put your change and cards away in the store, not when you're walking out onto the street. Men: wallets in a front pocket. Women: handbags with shoulder strap, securely fastened, and positioned on the door side of the sidewalk, not the curb side. When entering your building, take a quick look around for loiterers waiting to execute the classic "push-in." And, in general, if you feel you're being followed, or endangered in any way, cross the street, stop, walk the other way, enter a store, do whatever it takes to get out of the situation.
MASS TRANSIT: On the bus queue, pay special attention to your valuables and be alert for the "bump." Two thieves -- in front and in back of you -- work in tandem to create a distraction and separate you from your wallet. During off-hours: Avoid the last car of the subway (the "party car"). If possible, sit in the middle of the car, rather than close to the doors, to avoid a quick purse snatch -- or worse. Above all else: stay awake. Yes, you, L-train person!
ATMs: Avoid on-street ATMs if possible, especially after dark. In a bank ATM area, during off hours, never be the "good guy" who lets someone in who does not have a bank card. Yeah -- no matter how well-dressed or harmless he or she looks. You know you're friendly and PC. I know you're friendly and PC. Don't worry about how you look.
Fellow New Yorkers, men and women alike, remember: Batman does not really exist, nor do Mr. Reese and Mr. Finch. New York City: it's the big leagues. No matter how safe your new (or old) neighborhood may seem, keep your wits about you, your eyes open, and use common sense.