You hear your heart pounding at the sound of footsteps behind you just as enter this dark alley leading to your house. Should you stay or change course?
You see three men forcing their way into a neighbor’s apartment just as you approach yours. Will you hide, then call the police, or scream to get your neighbors’ attention?
“Always, always trust your instincts,” says Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director Raul Bacalzo.
Studies show that most crime victims were aware that something was wrong just before an attack. And most of the time, attackers do not always have a detailed plan when they strike, and quickly flee when detected.
How not to become a crime statistic wherever you are remains the top concern of the PNP, Bacalzo says. Often, being observant of unusual activities and persons, or even a change in routine are all it takes to stay safe, he says.
“It’s always back-to-basics,” says this police chief, quoting American scientist/statesman Benjamin Franklin’s famous line, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
One can take an assortment of precautions – from the obvious to plain common sense, adds Bacalzo. Stay on well-traveled and well-lit streets, avoid shortcuts, wooded areas, dark alleys or parking lots, don’t bring or flash large amounts of cash or jewelry, and avoid using ATMs at night or even during the day if you feel uncomfortable with the people around you.
“Crime prevention is not the sole responsibility of the police. You cannot prevent crimes from happening, but incidents of crime can be minimized,” says Bacalzo.
According to him, all police stations are tasked to focus on street crimes in order to make streets safer. The impression of the public on how well we do our job, he points out, is reflected in their feeling of security when they walk on the street at any time of day or night.
Crucial here – and an indispensable part of the PNP’s mission – is enlisting the full support of the citizenry in fighting crime and maintaining law and order.
Such support does not mean taking the law into your own hand, or going after criminals yourself, but knowing exactly what to do when you find yourself the unwitting victim of crime or a witness, he stresses.
Here, Bacalzo shares six guidelines to remember when you find yourself in a crime situation:
SIM: When witnessing a crime, or if you get caught in a crossfire (such as a police chase or shootout), how do you avoid being taken as a hostage or getting hit by bullets?
BACALZO: While public vigilance and crime reporting play a key role in the entire crime prevention and control effort, the PNP suggests that as much as possible, citizens should not expose themselves to unnecessary risks in any crime situation or crime scene. When caught in the midst of a crime in progress, it is prudent to keep calm, follow the demands of the criminals and do nothing to cause panic or provoke them.
SIM: When flagged down at a checkpoint in a remote area late at night, how do you know if the checkpoint and the police officers are real? What should you do if it turns out to be a “hulidap” (hold-up)?
BACALZO: As a general rule, PNP units do not conduct checkpoints in remote areas at night. Police checkpoints are governed by rules prescribed in the Police Operational Procedures (POP). The POP requires PNP units conducting checkpoint operations to post warning signs to caution approaching motorists to slow down. According to the POP, checkpoints must be situated in a well-lit location and should be conducted in such a way that it will cause only minor inconvenience to the public, with the officers manning it wearing complete uniforms. Utmost courtesy and respect must always be observed. Likewise, a Police Commissioned Officer must lead these operations with a marked police vehicle nearby.
SIM: When a holdup is announced in a jeep, how should you react? Should you try to get off the vehicle? Can you ask for the SIM card back if they’re taking your cellphone? Can you bargain with them (for instance, give them the cash but not your credit cards, driver’s license, IDs, etc.)?
BACALZO: Never attempt to resist or argue with a suspect, especially if he is armed. Any provocation or discomfort may cause him to panic or snap and inflict harm on you or other passengers. Your primary concern should be to get out of that situation safely.
SIM: When you sense a burglary in progress in your home, should you hide, pretend to be asleep, make noise, or call for help? What do you do if you see your neighbor’s place being burglarized?
BACALZO: When caught in this situation, calling for help and making noise will likely scare the suspects. Never confront the suspect yourself unless you are adequately equipped and trained. A police whistle can always come in handy for this kind of emergency. If time allows, call 117 or 0917-847-5757.
SIM: If you are in a bus or PUV and you see someone being pickpocketed (or their pocket or bag being slashed), should you call their attention to it? What if they have cohorts who turn on you? How do you warn the victim without calling the attention of the felon?
BACALZO: Do not attempt to confront the suspect, as he could be armed or may have an accomplice. Call the attention of the driver or bus conductor when possible or safe to do so. Remember descriptions of the suspects, the clothes they’re wearing and other special features which will help in the conduct of an investigation.
SIM: Where do you report scams like budol-budol or dugo-dugo? What police emergency numbers should you remember?
BACALZO: Street swindling such as budol-budol and dugo-dugo must be reported immediately to the nearest police station or to the police emergency hotlines. Patrol 117 is the emergency hotline for police, fire and medical emergency assistance. The PNP can also be reached thru TXT PNP 2920 and voice and SMS complaint hotline 0917-847-5757.