I am from Denver, Colorado so I think my perception of crime might be different from other Americans who come from small towns where you can leave your doors unlocked. I just thought I would touch base on a few tips and facts about basic safety in the UK.
First off, the crime rate is relatively low here.
Here are some tips:
Put 999 in your phone- this is emergency number.
Lock your doors even if you are home. Most crimes are petty and people are opportunists.
Keep keys in a place that is not in sight, people might just quickly grab car keys from an open window or door and go.
If you have a bike, lock it even if it just for a quick in and out stop (I learned this the hard way).
Military paraphernalia is targeted as it is valuable so keep it secure (and not in your car!).
Do not leave your curtains closed during the day. People will think that you are not home.
If you regularly close your curtains at night, get a neighbor to close them while you are away (thieves watch for consistency).
If you own an American car, park out of sight or away from house.
Do not fly the American flag outside of the house.
Avoid walking alone in isolated areas after dark. It is better to walk farther in light than taking a short cut in the dark.
Some of these seem like common sense but people forget that they are in another country but I don't want you to panic, it is very safe here. Many of these tips are also found in the U.S. Department of State’s Security Guidelines for American Families Living Abroad.[iii]
I come from Colorado and I would always lock my house and car. It is always best to error on the side of caution. Even when I was stationed at Minot AFB, I would lock the doors to my house.
Americans can be targeted for several reasons, British people don’t spend their money on things as much as the Americans as things are expensive here and Americans love to have expensive TVs and other electronics. The cars you drive make you a target. It is very easy to spot where an American is living just because they have a huge F-150 outside a small English house. Also thieves tend to target the larger more expensive houses because they often have expensive things in them.
It is not a dangerous place to live, the crime rate compared to the States is very low. You just need to be vigilant and take precautions. Here is the Government's information about crime.
Crime is relatively low in England. This could be tied to the 4.2 million Closed-circuit televisions (CCTV) (surveillance cameras) in the United Kingdom. The U.K. has more cameras per person than any other country in the world! In fact, crime in the U.K. has fallen over 38% the past 11 years.[i]
The types of crime experienced here are the same as in the States, such as pick-pocketing, mugging and theft. It is also often opportunistic crimes.[ii]
They like to target tourists/foreigners so watch out when you are out and about. Some tips include:
My recommendations do not mean that you cannot be a proud American, just to be safe. I am a proud American too! They advise you to keep a low profile and not to draw attention to yourself.
I personally recommend that people do not wear their uniforms off-base and now finally you can't!!! Initially I use to wear mine off-base but when I was waiting in line at the bank or shopping in the local Tescos, I could feel all eyes were on me. I decided that I did not want to draw attention to myself. I would leave my uniform in the office and change into jeans and jacket or whatever else. I personally feel that it makes U.S. military personnel a target and there is active terrorism in the United Kingdom. My intentions are only for protection for my fellow Americans. The farther you go from the bases, you will find Americans who are here through school (e.g. Cambridge University) or business so you will fit in, of course you will not be British, but then again neither will I and I have lived here for many years. Also not everyone is aware of the American bases when you get further from base. I have seen a Master Sergeant in the Sainsbury's in Cambridge in her uniform and thought it was unnecessary to be there like that.
I am just afraid of an incident like the attack on a USAF at the German airport in Frankfurt, where the two airmen were killed and another two were wounded.[iv] A British soldier was killed in London on May 22, 2013.[v] I know that he was not wearing his uniform but they were targeting soldiers. Other recent examples of things like this are the foiled plot to behead a British soldier in 2007,[vi] the 7/7 bombings that took place in London,[vii] and more recently, the plot that was foiled to bomb the Territorial Army base in Luton (which is 60 miles from Mildenhall).[viii] I just do not want you to become complacent by living over here; we should always remain vigilant no matter where we are.
[i] The Guardian, “Crime Statistics for England and Wales: What is Happening to Each Offence?” updated April 25, 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jul/14/crime-statistics-england-wales.
[ii] Travel.State.Gov., “United Kingdom and Gibraltar Country Specific Information,” accessed June 7, 2013, http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1052.html#country
[iii] U.S. Department of State, “Security Guidelines for American Families Living Abroad,“ accessed May 24, 2013, http://photos.state.gov/libraries/angola/209911/RSO/Security_Guidelines%20for%20Families.pdf
[iv] Air Force Times, “Gunman Kills 2 Airmen at German Airport,” accessed May 24, 2013, http://www.airforcetimes.com/article/20110302/NEWS/103020302/Gunman-kills-2-airmen-at-German-airport
[v] BBC, “Woolwich Attack: Suspects Known to Security Services,” accessed May 23, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22634468.
[vi] CNN, “London attack mirrors plot to behead Muslim soldier,” accessed May 23, 2013, http://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/22/world/europe/uk-attack-2007-plot/index.html
[vii] The Guardian, “7 July London Attacks,” accessed May 23, 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/july7
[viii] BBC, “Four 'planned to bomb Territorial Army base' with toy car,” accessed May 23, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22156243.
One item you cannot bring to the U.K. is your guns and if you do, they must be stored on-base. Certain guns are illegal to own and others require a shot gun certificate which is not easy to obtain.[i] England has taken a hardline against guns since the 1996 Dunblane massacre, where 16 four and five year olds were killed along with their teacher.[ii] The benefit of this is that the U.K. has relatively little gun crime. In 2010, there were 8,874 gun related deaths in the U.S. and 60 in the UK.[iii][iv]The average was 62 gun related deaths in the last 15 years.
The U.K. has the strictest gun laws in the world. Not all police officers carry guns as part of their uniform and there are several specialized units who are specially trained and carry guns. In fact, even after two female police officers were killed in 2012, 82% of the police still felt that carrying guns could escalate a situation.[v] This highlights the difference in attitude towards guns in the U.S. and the U.K.
You are also not allowed to have or carry knives (flick, gravity, butterfly, belt buckle, stealth or hidden), deathstars, knuckledusters, blowpipes, truncheons, self-defense sprays, stun guns or Tasers or swords.[vi] Hopefully you will never feel that you need to carry these items, just follow the tips earlier in this section and use your common sense.
[i] BBC, “Gun Control and Ownership Laws in the UK,” updated November 2, 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10220974
[ii] BBC, “On This Day,” accessed June 7, 2013, http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/march/13/newsid_2543000/2543277.stm
[iii] Home Office, “Homicides, Firearm Offenses and Intimate Violence 2010/11,” updated January 2012, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/116483/hosb0212.pdf
[iv] Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Crime Statistics,” accessed June 7, 2013, http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/crimestats
[v] BBC, “Why British Police Don’t Have Guns,” updated September 19, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19641398
[vi] HM Revenue & Customs, “Notice 1 Travelling to the UK,” updated October 2011, http://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/channelsPortalWebApp/downloadFile?contentID=HMCE_CL_001734