Traveling through tough neighborhoods doesnÂ’t have to mean risking it allÂ—as long as youÂ’re prepared. By Stacey Marcus
Safety and security are obvious priorities in your travel plans. There are times, however, when traveling in and around high-crime neighborhoods to get to your ultimate destination can be unavoidable. How can you best ensure your safety? We asked Christopher Falkenberg, President of Insite Security, what the best ways are to protect yourself while traveling through dangerous areas. Falkenberg is a former Secret Service agent and represents well-known celebrities like Ralph Lauren and Martha Stewart. During his tenure with the Secret Service, he served on the detail for President Bill Clinton.
Mitigate risk through research. You can be diligent in your pre-travel plans by checking out your route on the consulate and embassy websites or by hiring a private company to conduct a travel security analysis. ItÂ’s important to have a clear understanding of possible danger. For example, there may be an increase in street crime at certain times of the day or there may be a specific predator in the area.
Travel under the radar. While most savvy travelers know not to carry large amounts of cash and to properly insure valuables, itÂ’s also important to jettison the Rolex and leave the Gucci luggage at home. Make every effort not to stand out in the crowd as criminals target victims who look like they have a lot to lose.
Secure transportation in advance. Make sure you get a photograph of the person who is responsible for your transportation at each leg of your trip and have a code planned to verify the identity of your driver.
Pay attention when on the move. Falkenberg comments that most crimes take place when one is traveling from point A to point B. He notes that every presidential assassination (except LincolnÂ’s) has unfolded in motion. People are especially vulnerable when traveling because it is easy to let oneÂ’s guard down.
Carry copies of passports and read security guidelines. Having the proper forms accessible and knowing the rules are simple steps to increase your safety.
Act like a spy. If there is a kidnapping attempt, the best chance for escape is at the beginning. Be aware of your surroundings, and if there are any means to an escape, take them immediately. Lindsay Moran, a former CIA intelligence officer, offers the following tip: Â“CIA officers undergo extensive training to be able to determine if theyÂ’re being followed. The average traveler can employ some basic spy tactics as well. Be aware of whoÂ’s around you and make a mental note if you see the same person more than once. Use the reflective property of storefront glass and mirrors to see if anyoneÂ’s behind you. Cross the street, even if you do not have to, so youÂ’re afforded the opportunity to look both ways. If you think you are being followed, move quickly into a store or call someone. I always walk with my phone in my hand for this purpose.Â”