No – I am not talking about following someone on Facebook (although that can be a bit creepy too), but have you ever had the feeling that someone is following you?
Whether you are on foot or in you car, there are things you can do if you are, or think you are, being followed by someone. Here are some tips to help you stay safe:
In Your Car
If you are driving and think you are being followed by someone else in their vehicle, don’t panic. It may just be that they are taking the same route as you, but there are some precautions you can take.
- Once in your car, ensure you lock all the doors.
- Do not drive straight home – it may be that they are trying to find out where you live – especially if you drive a desirable car, so they can return later to relieve you of your pride and joy, (have you seen the stories about keyless entry car thefts?)
- Stay calm. Remember – you are safe in your car and they are in theirs.
- Keep your attention focused on driving and what is happening in front of you.
- Do not get transfixed on what is happening in your rear mirror.Do not get transfixed
- Drive as you would normally, do not speed up or slow down. That will help keep you safe and in control.
- Don’t stop if they are honking their horn and/or flashing their headlights and gesticulating as this could be a ruse to get you to stop so they can make off with your car (carjacking) – or worse. The best thing to do is to keep calm and carry on driving to a place of safety.
- Do NOT stop and try to confront your follower.
- If you can find a police station open, draw up on the forecourt and remain in your locked car and keep sounding your horn until a police officer comes to your aid. A fuel station forecourt is a good alternative as most have CCTV. As before, remain in your locked car and keep sounding your horn until help arrives. If you have a mobile phone, call 999 if you believe your personal safety is at risk.
- If someone does come up to your vehicle, keep your doors locked and only open the window a crack to tell them your concerns. This way, if there are accomplices to the attacker (travelling in another, seemingly innocuous, vehicle) they cannot reach through your window to attack you or grab your car keys.
- Invest in a dashcam, ideally with front and rear cameras. A good quality dashcam can record registration numbers in both daylight and at night and will be invaluable to the Police.I
- If you are able and it is safe to do so, stop you car in a place of safety and write down as many details of the vehicle that has followed you and as many things as you can remember of occupants inside it – male(s)/female(s)? How many? How old? Hair/clothing colours, any features that stand out (beards, tattoos, distinguishing features or marks). The sooner you are able to do this, the more you will be able to remember and this will help the Police a lot. But, only do this if it is safe to do so.
- Report the incident – even if the vehicle peels off, but you felt intimidated, scared or fearful, it is still better to report an incident like this to the Police as you may have helped it happening to someone else.
Being Followed On Foot
If you think you are being followed on foot by someone it can feel quite scary, but there are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe and deter a potential attacker from following you in the first place.
- To avoid attracting unwanted attention, cover up your valuable items such as jewellery, mobile phone, keys, etc.,
- If you are going home after an evening out, walk with friends or, better still, take a taxi (from a reputable firm).
- If you have to walk, avoid short cuts through parks, alleys and other lonely areas. Keep to well-lit, busy streets.
- Always walk facing oncoming traffic so a car cannot pull up behind you.
- If you regularly go walking or jogging, vary your route and avoid using a personal music player or mobile phone while walking or jogging. These items can distract you from what is happening around you and you may not hear people or vehicles approaching you.
- If you think you’re being followed, walk to the busiest place you can find or knock on a door, then call the police.
- Never hitchhike – it may be an uneventful journey, but it could be something much worse too. Don’t chance it.
- Consider carrying a personal attack alarm and practise how to use it, so it is second nature.
- When approaching your car or home, have your keys ready so you can enter without delay.
- If you are attacked, shout for help as loudly as you can or shout for someone to contact the police. Use your personal attack alarm if you have one and act like a cornered animal (think of cats fighting!). Try to get to a safe place and call the police
- If someone tries to mug you, consider letting them have your possessions rather than risk being hurt. Material things can be replaced, your life cannot.
- Consider taking self-defence classes.
Think that only celebrities or James Bond spies get followed or stalked?
Ask you friends, colleagues and family. Before long, someone will tell you that they or someone they know has had unwanted attention.