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Are your possessions secure? Safety tips for international students

Meld Magazine

Thu Mar 24 2011

Victoria Police

POLICE have warned international students about a spike in thefts as they start the new university year. Connie Foong and Karen Poh catch up with North Melbourne Senior Constable Nick Parissis on personal safety, the common mistakes students make and how you can better safeguard your valuables.

POLICE have warned international students about a spike in thefts as they start the new university year.

Drawing from annual theft figures, North Melbourne Senior Constable Nick Parissis said thieves tended to be most active during the beginning of the semester.

“There are 50,000 people who are returning to the university with their iPods, iPhones, laptops, handbags, bicycles,” he said.

“The universities are like supermarkets for the bad people. There is a lot of potential for thefts.”

Sen-Constable Parissis said new students unfamiliar with their surroundings were the most vulnerable, but urged everyone to take their safety seriously.

He warned students never to leave their windows or doors open or cars unlocked, even if they were only going out for a short while; and to report any suspicious behaviour.

“If you think something isn’t right, call 000,” Sen-Constable Parissis said.

“We would rather turn up and it turns out to be a false alarm than turn up later and find that someone’s had something stolen, that could have been prevented, or we may have turned up and the perpetrator is still there.”

Being aware of the little things makes a big difference in personal safety, especially when travelling to somewhere unfamiliar, he said.

“Stick to the main roads, the busy roads, especially if you are new to Melbourne.

“That way if you need assistance or get lost, it’s a lot easier to get someone’s assistance because there are always more people on the main road than on a back street.”

He also urged students to sit close to the driver whenever they were travelling on a tram or train late at night, in case they encountered trouble and needed to attract attention.

“A lot of it is common sense. We could have 20,000 police out there, but we wouldn’t be able to stop every crime, so we try to educate people on how to be safe,” he said.

The start of semester safety message comes as Victoria Police continue their Melbourne Precinct Policing initiative, which focuses on reconnecting with the community.

“Basically each suburb is broken up into little pockets and each pocket is the responsibility of a particular sergeant at a station with their little team. That helps the community to get to know certain members of the police station and will, hopefully, help feel a bit more comfortable knowing there’s a particular group of police officers responsible for their area,” Sen-Constable Parissis said.

As a final piece of advice, Sen-Constable Parissis encouraged international students to never be afraid of approaching the police.

“It can be really difficult coming to a new country and asking for assistance when you need it, but police are there to help you.”

Safety tips and hints

  • Make sure your doors are locked, even if you’re only stepping out for just a while.
  • Stick to the main and busy roads, where there is more lighting, especially when walking late at night.
  • Sit closer to the driver when on a near-empty tram/train/bus.
  • Plan your journey ahead.
  • Don’t advertise that you are carrying valuables. For example, carry your laptop in a gym or normal bag, rather than a laptop bag.
  • Try not to wear your earphones or headphones when walking on the streets. So that you can be more aware of your surroundings. If you do wear them, minimise your volume so you can hear if someone’s coming up behind you.
  • For the girls, consider strapping your handbags over your necks instead of carrying it on your shoulders, so that your bag can’t be dragged away from you.
  • Be aware of where you place your bags when in cafés or foodcourts.
  • Zip up your bags, so that people won’t be able to look into them.
  • If you see something suspicious, report it, even if you do not think it’s important. Save the number 000 into your phones.
  • Look out for your friends and those around you as well.
  • Get to know your local police, and where the local police station is.

Have you had your possessions stolen before? Or had an experience where you felt your safety had been compromised? Share your story and how you dealt with the situation in the comments section below.