In an emergency, telephone "999" (or "112"). This number connects to Police, Ambulance and Fire/Rescue services. You will be asked which of these three services you require before being connected to the relevant operator.
Like many big cities, London has a variety of social problems, especially begging, drug abuse and theft (mobile phones are a favourite, often snatched by fast-moving cyclists).
London has the oldest police force in the world, The Metropolitan Police Service, and on the whole, London is a safe place to visit and explore. Alongside the regular Police, there are over 4,000 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) that provide a highly visible presence on the streets and can deal with low-level crime. Normal precautions for the safe keeping of your personal possessions, as you would in any other city, are suggested.
The Metropolitan Police have placed significant resources in combating street level crime. Working in conjunction with borough councils, they have brought the level of theft and pickpocketing in major retail areas in London to a manageable level.
Street gang culture is a growing problem in London as with many other cities in England. While most groups of youngsters are not likely to present any danger to tourists, some people feel the need to be slightly more vigilant in certain areas, especially certain outer suburbs.
Keep valuables out of sight: A lot of crime is opportunistic - a lot of mobile phones are snatched from restaurant tables. By keeping items such as cash and mobile phones out of sight theft can easily be prevented. Use zips and inside pockets to secure items wherever possible.
Be aware of your surroundings: Before using your mobile phone have a look around you. Put your back against something solid such as a wall or window so you can't be approached from behind. Constantly look around you even if you are in a busy area. Don't walk and talk/text!
If you're planning to go out late at night and are worried about safety try to frequent crowded areas such as the West End. There are always plenty of people on the street, even at 04:00. Generally, outside central London, the South, and East suburban areas are considered more dangerous, notably Brixton, Peckham and Hackney, although some parts of North-West London such as Harlesden and northern Camden are also known trouble spots.
The main problem right throughout London to various degrees is drunken behaviour, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights and after football matches. Loud and rowdy behaviour is to be expected and fights and acts of aggression also occur. If you are harassed, it is best to simply ignore and walk away from those concerned. Trouble spots can be expected around popular drinking locations such as Soho and in various suburban centres.
London has a large number of con artists around, all trying to convince you to hand over your money one way or another.
"Clip joint": 'Every night, Soho presents a particular danger: the "clip joint". The usual targets of these establishments are lone male tourists. Usually, an attractive woman will casually befriend the victim and recommend a local bar or even a club that has a "show". The establishment will be near-desolate, and, even if the victim has only a drink or two, the bill will run to hundreds of pounds. If payment is not immediately provided, the bouncers will lock the "patrons" inside and take it by force or take them to an ATM and stand over them while they extract the cash.
To be safe, if a woman you just met suggests you a place, try to recommend a different bar. If she insists on hers then walk away and do not listen to her suggestions. Sometimes this con trick takes place when someone is lured into a private club with the promise of something perhaps more than a drink (like a 'private show' or sex for a small amount of money). A 'hostess fee' will appear on the bill for several hundred pounds, even though there has been nothing more than polite conversation.
"Stress tests": If anyone offers you a free "stress test", they are likely trying to recruit you into the Church of Scientology. The best option is to walk away or just say "No thank you" politely, as people are commonly harassed into giving personal details.
Needing money for phone/train tickets/the bus/et al.: A man or woman will approach you asking for money for public transport. They will claim that they have lost their Travelcard or that it has been damaged somehow. Most people upon losing their Travelcard will seek aid at a train station and not approach random strangers! Another variant of this scam exists wherein a man or woman will ask for change so they can make a call at a phone box (this is a frequent scam in the Shoreditch area). Occasionally a man with a very convincing fake gash on his arm will ask for money so that he can get to hospital (strangely refusing the offer of you calling an ambulance, as you would do for most injured people in the street).
Ticket machine scam: One of the most popular scams in London, is the ticket machine scam : while buying a ticket at a train station someone will approach you and act as if they want to help you buy the right ticket. In reality they will wait until your money is in the machine, then lean across, cancel the transaction and pocket your cash. Say "No thanks" politely - you know what ticket you want to buy!
Selling/asking for a donation for "lucky heather": This scam, usually operated by women, involves someone handing you "lucky heather" (a small flower usually wrapped in foil) and then either trying to sell it to you or asking for a donation. They will come up with a vague charity ("money for sick children", "money for orphaned babies", and so on) and show you a purse full of supposed "donations". This scam has been seen in Chinatown around the time of Chinese New Year.
Although not illegal as such, London is a known hotspot for charity collectors, some of whom can be extremely persuasive in trying to obtain a donation; therefore they have earned the name "charity muggers" or "chuggers". If you do not want to donate, be polite but forceful, and under no circumstances provide any form of bank details. A number of larger charities ask their collectors to have specific and verifiable identification.
Don't take illegal minicabs (see Get around for details). Minicabs are not allowed to ply for trade on the street and any minicab doing this should be avoided.
Travelling on the lower deck of a night bus is generally safer, as there are more passengers around, and you are visible to the bus driver.
If you have been the victim of crime on the railways or the London Underground you should report the crime as soon as possible to the British Transport Police, who have an office in most major train and Tube stations. Or if you have been a victim of crime in the City of London you should report the crime to the City of London Police. Elsewhere, you should report your crime as normal to the Metropolitan Police.
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