Personal Safety Strategies for Women

Featuring Harvey Finkle, Certified National Crime Prevention Specialist

“Nobody is responsible for your safety but you.” 

This was an important point made at the community event hosted by Women United on February 26, 2013. The discussion was led by Master Police Officer Harvey Finkel, one of only 50 Certified National Crime Prevention Specialists in the country. He went on to say:

“Trust your intuition. If it feels like a bad situation, it probably is. If it is an emergency TO YOU, call 911.”

Officer Finkel provided information about personal and parking lot awareness, car and traffic safety, safety in crowds and shopping centers, home safety and even online safety tips. Here are just some of the tips we learned that day:

JOGGING: If you run alone, don’t wear earbuds. Unaware runners are more likely to get injured, hit by a car or attacked. Never run alone in the dark.

HANDBAGS: Lock your purse in your trunk if you don’t need it to shop. Don’t put it in your shopping cart. Don’t carry it into festivals, concerts, Fridays After 5 or other crowded events.

PEPPER SPRAY/TASERS/GUNS: Items carried in your handbag are useless. It takes too long to access them. Pepper spray is more likely to go off in your purse than to be useful in an attack.

PARKING LOTS: LOCK YOUR CAR and close your windows. Never leave personal items in view. Never leave a car running when you aren’t in it. It takes 10 seconds to steal a car, and now the thief has your registration with your home address and maybe even the keys to your home.

CAR BREAKDOWNS: Have a charged cell phone with you. If on the highway/remote area, call 911 as well as roadside assistance. Move to the passenger seat so passersby think there are 2 people.

GETTING ‘BUMPED’ AT A LIGHT: Don’t get out of your car and leave the key in the ignition, the person who hit you may be trying to steal the car. Call 911.

GETTING PULLED OVER: If you see the blue lights but can’t see police markings, turn on your hazard lights and drive to the nearest populated area. If no populated area nearby, call 911 before pulling over and ask them to verify it is a real police car.


  • Don’t open the door to someone unless you are expecting them. Use peephole/window to verify identity. Delivery drivers should all be in uniform with logo’d truck. Tell them to leave packages on the doorstep. If someone is in need you can call 911 for them without letting them into your home.
  • Get motion sensing lights in front and behind your house. Sound of a large dog barking will scare off intruders (real or recorded). Make sure your alarm system company has your most recent phone/cell number.
  • Charlottesville police response should be about 5 minutes. Albemarle County only has 6 police officers covering 760 square miles at night.
  • When traveling, have a friend not only pick up mail but also move your car so it isn’t stationary in your driveway. Have someone clean your walkway/driveway/car if it snows.


  • Don’t put the year of your birth and the city in which you live on social media. It opens you up to identity theft.
  • Run anti-virus and malware on your computers. Password protect your phone.
  • Your bank will NOT ask you for personal information via email. You can always print what you are sent and take it into the actual bank to verify.
  • Only purchase from websites that start with HTTPS (not just HTTP). Look for the locked symbol at the bottom of the webpage, too.

 CLICK HERE to visit our Facebook Photo Album from the event. Photography by Jack Looney.