Thanks to these shaky economic times, the number of muggings has jumped nearly 35% nationwide, which is why we each need to become our own bodyguards when we’re out and about. That’s the word from Irene Van der Zande, executive director at Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International – a non-profit organization that teaches safety and self-defense techniques to kids, adults and seniors. She says that most of us know to always be aware of our surroundings, but here are a few tactics beyond that to help you stay safe. We got these from the Bottom Line Personal.

  • Program your cell phone with the local police number on speed dial. Police say this often gets a faster officer response than dialing 911, because the emergency operator ultimately has to route the call to a local police officer anyway.
  • ALWAYS lock your car. Van der Zande says this seems like a no-brainer, but many people forget to do it. Lock your car as soon as you get in it, and when you get out.
  • Carry mugger’s money. Keep a wallet with $20 to $50 in small bills someplace easily accessible. Muggers want to get in and out as fast as possible, and giving them this “second” wallet will distract them from your real valuables.
  • Press the panic button on your car alarm. If someone frightens you, this’ll set off your alarm from at least 45 feet away, and the loud noise can deter would-be attackers.
  • Don’t yell “HELP.” This makes people afraid for their own safety. If approached, Van der Zande says yell clear messages at the mugger, such as “Stop!” or, “Leave me alone!” If others are around, yell “Call the police!” or, “Call 911!” This can startle the attacker into leaving you alone, and inspire others to take action to help you.
  • If it comes down to it, use the “EYE STRIKE” on your attacker. Squeeze the tips of your fingers together like a bird’s beak, and jab the person hard in their eyes. This isn’t meant to overpower a mugger, but it can buy you enough time to break away from their grasp.