Crime Prevention Guide


The Graduate Center is proud of its safety record and remains committed to providing a safe and secure environment that is conducive to education and research. However, crime prevention is a shared responsibility that requires the assistance of our students, staff and faculty. By practicing the precautions outlined below, you can greatly reduce the odds of becoming a victim of crime, either on or off campus. Please take a moment to review the following personal safety and crime prevention tips so you will be better prepared to help us help you.

Automated Teller Machine (ATM) Safety

  • Always protect your ATM card and keep it in a safe place, just as you would cash, credit cards or checks.
  • Do not leave your ATM card lying around the house or on your desk at work. No one should have access to the card but you. Immediately notify your bank if it is lost or stolen.
  • Keep your Personal Identification Number (PIN) a secret. Never write it down anywhere, especially on your ATM card.
  • Never give any information about your ATM card or PIN over the telephone. For example, if you receive a call, supposedly from your bank or possibly the police, wanting to verify your PIN, do not give that information. Notify your bank or the police immediately.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, particularly at night. If you observe or sense suspicious persons or circumstances, do not use the machine at that time.
  • Have your ATM card ready and in your hand as you approach the ATM. Do not wait to get to the ATM and then take your card out of your wallet or purse.
  • Be careful that no one can see you enter your PIN at the ATM. Use your body to "shield" the ATM keyboard as you enter your PIN into the ATM.
  • To keep your account information confidential, always take your receipts or transaction records with you.
  • Do not count or visually display any money you received from the ATM. Immediately put your money into your pocket or purse and count it later.
  • If you are using a drive-up ATM, be sure passenger windows are rolled up and all doors are locked. If you leave your car and walk to the ATM, lock your car.

Bicycle Safety

  • Always wear a helmet and light colored clothing.
  • Have reflectors on your bike and use lights for night cycling.
  • When riding in groups, ride single file.
  • Don't carry passengers or bulky packages.
  • Keep bicycle in good operating condition.
  • Always assume that cars don't see you. Use hand signals in traffic.

Bicycle Theft Prevention

  • Always lock your bicycle securely, whether you're gone for a few minutes or a few hours.
  • Use a U-lock, securing both wheels and the frame to a stationary object such as a post, fence, tree, or bike rack.
  • For extra security, add a chain or cable with a good padlock. Always park your bike where it can be easily seen.
  • Report suspicious persons or anyone loitering around bike racks for no apparent reason.

Credit Fraud Prevention

  • Watch your credit slip being filled out. Make sure you have received your card once the transaction has taken place.
  • Destroy carbons, but keep all credit card receipts. Check them against your monthly statements.
  • Destroy every credit card that is out of date. Cut in pieces and throw it away.
  • Make a list of your major credit cards, their account numbers, and the phone numbers to call if they are lost or stolen.
  • At ATM machines, pay attention to your surroundings. Assure yourself that no one is waiting around to steal your information or money.

Harassing, Obscene or Threatening Phone Calls

  • Hang up if no one answers after your second "Hello."
  • Hang up quietly if you receive an obscene, threatening or harassing phone call. Do not respond. The subject is attempting to get some kind of response from you and will then probably give up or move on to someone else.
  • Do not include your name or telephone number in the outgoing message on your answering machine.
  • Do not give your name, address or personal information over the phone. Be careful when a caller says he/she is taking a survey. If you have any concern about the legitimacy of a survey, ask for the person's name, organization's name, and telephone number. Say that you will reply after you verify the authenticity of the survey.
  • Do not play detective. Don't extend the communication trying to figure out who the subject is. This or any type of reaction is exactly what the caller wants and needs.
  • Keep cool. Don't let the subject know you are upset or angry.
  • Do not try to be clever. A witty response may be interpreted as a sign of encouragement.
  • Do not try to be a counselor. The annoyance or obscene message originator certainly needs professional help, but he will only be encouraged by your concern and will continue the calls.
  • Do not tell everyone about your messages. Messages of this type are sometimes made by acquaintances.
  • Place classified ads with caution. When placing an ad in a newspaper, use a newspaper or post office box number if possible. If you must use your phone number, do not list your address. Annoyance callers are avid readers of the classified ads.
  • Never volunteer your number to an unknown caller. This is an invitation to call again. If your number is the wrong number the caller does not need to know your number.
  • If an obscene or harassing message is left on your answering machine, retain the tape for later use by law enforcement.
  • Contact Security and Public Safety if you continue to receive harassing on campus. Contact your telephone service provider's telephone annoyance line (Verizon in New York City, 890-6200) if you continue to receive calls at home.

Harassing or Threatening E-Mail

  • The same tips for handling harassing phone calls (see above) also apply to harassing e-mail.
  • Report harassing e-mail received on campus to Security & Public Safety.
  • Report harassing e-mail received at home to your Internet service provider.
  • Report threatening communication to the Police.
  • Save all obscene, harassing or threatening e-mails for later use by law enforcement.

Identity Theft Prevention

  • While you probably can't prevent identity theft entirely, you can minimize your risk. By managing your personal information wisely, cautiously and with an awareness of the issue, you can help guard against identity theft:
  • Before you reveal any personally identifying information, find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others. Ask if you have a choice about the use of your information: can you choose to have it kept confidential?
  • Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time. A missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your credit card account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
  • Guard your mail from theft. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after it has been delivered. If you're planning to be away from home and can't pick up your mail, call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 to request a vacation hold. The Postal Service will hold your mail at your local post office until you can pick it up.
  • Put passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
  • Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry to what you'll actually need.
  • Do not give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or know whom you're dealing with. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of banks, Internet service providers and even government agencies to get you to reveal your SSN, mother's maiden name, financial account numbers and other identifying information. Legitimate organizations with which you do business have the information they need and will not ask you for it.
  • Keep items with personal information in a safe place. To thwart an identity thief who may pick through your trash or recycling bins to capture your personal information, tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, bank checks and statements that you are discarding, expired charge cards and credit offers you get in the mail.
  • Be cautious about where you leave personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having service work done in your home.
  • Find out who has access to your personal information at work and verify that the records are kept in a secure location.
  • Give your SSN only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible.
  • Don't carry your SSN card; leave it in a secure place.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies every year. Make sure it is accurate and includes only those activities you've authorized. The law allows credit bureaus to charge you up to $8.50 for a copy of your credit report. Your credit report contains information on where you work and live, the credit accounts that have been opened in your name, how you pay your bills and whether you've been sued, arrested or filed for bankruptcy. Checking your report on a regular basis can help you catch mistakes and fraud before they wreak havoc on your personal finances.

Information and Data Security

  • Erase confidential materials from chalkboards before leaving.
  • Shred materials before discarding them.
  • Do not leave confidential materials unprotected overnight.
  • Lock file cabinets and desks at the close of each workday.
  • Carefully follow Information Resources guidelines for passwords and anti-virus protection.
  • Back up data files frequently and keep copies separate and secure.
  • Store your laptop computer and diskettes out of sight in a locked cabinet.
  • Use encrypting software for confidential e-mail communications.
  • Promptly report any data or computer irregularities, including virus detections, to Information Resources at x7300.

Laptop Computer Security

  • Treat your laptop as though it was cash. If you would not place a hundred dollar bill on your desk while out to lunch, do not do it with a laptop either.
  • Always secure your laptop in a locked desk or cabinet when not in use.
  • Be alert to unfamiliar persons in your work area. Immediately report suspicious persons to the Office of Security & Public Safety at x7777.
  • When using payphones, make sure that the laptop is in sight at all times.
  • When traveling in a car, do not leave your laptop on the seat next to you, keep it out of sight in the trunk or place it under the passenger seat.
  • If you park your vehicle and can't take the laptop with you, make sure that it is locked in the trunk prior to reaching your destination.
  • Be aware of scams involving distractions. One such scam is conducted at airports. When your laptop, briefcase or pocketbook is placed on the x-ray machine, the thief will cut in front at the metal detector, intentionally causing the detector to activate. While the thief is being searched, the thief's accomplice walks off with the property. If traveling with others, wait until one member of your party goes through the metal detector before sending anything through the x-ray machine. If alone, be alert to persons around you and try to have your laptop manually screened when possible.
  • Promptly report thefts to the Office of Security & Public Safety or your local police precinct.

Office Security

  • Keep valuables and personal items under lock and key.
  • Inventory and if possible, secure office equipment.
  • Never leave money, including change, in your desk.
  • Maintain key control procedures.
  • Know your co-workers and question any strangers, delivery persons or repair persons.
  • Report broken locks and lost keys to the Office of Security & Public Safety.
  • Be cautious when working late or on weekends and holidays. Inform Security & Public Safety of your location.
  • Report suspicious activity and incidents Security & Public Safety.

Personal Safety in Elevators

  • When waiting for an elevator, stand away from the door to avoid being pushed inside by someone near, but unseen.
  • Do not get on an elevator occupied by a person or persons who make you feel uneasy. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, get off at the next floor.
  • Always stand near the control panel and the emergency phone.
  • If you are accosted in an elevator hit the alarm button and as many floor buttons as possible so the elevator will stop and the doors will open.

Personal Safety in Your Car

  • Always lock your car after entering and exiting it. Try to park in a well-lighted space.
  • Before getting in your car, check the front and back seats to make sure no one is hiding inside. Do this even if your car is locked.
  • Have your keys in hand so you don't have to linger before entering the car and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Do not offer rides to strangers.
  • If you suspect that someone is following you drive to the nearest open public place and sound your horn.

Personal Safety on Public Transportation

  • Wait at well-lighted areas.
  • Enter only subway stations that display a green light at the entrance.
  • If someone bothers you, say in a loud voice, "Leave me alone!" Move to another area of the bus or train.
  • Do not get off the bus or train in an isolated area.
  • If you are followed when you exit, use the measures listed above for safety on the street.

Personal Safety on the Street

  • Be alert and aware of others on the street.
  • Carry a whistle on your key chain.
  • Walk with keys in hand as you approach your home so you don't need to fumble for them.
  • Stay on well-lighted streets.
  • Avoid dark or concealed areas.
  • If you think you are being followed, cross the street or change direction. Find an occupied building, one with a doorman, or an open store.
  • If a car follows you or stops near you to ask for directions, do not approach the car.
  • Try not to overload yourself with packages, books, purses, etc.

Pickpocket Theft Prevention

  • Pickpockets have been known to work on the busy midtown streets surrounding the Graduate Center. The following precautions should be used on the streets, on public transportation and on crowded elevators:
  • Do not be distracted by strangers seeking directions.
  • Be wary when someone tells you that there is something on your clothing such as a condiment when you have not come from an eating establishment.
  • Do not carry valuables in a shoulder bag and do not let the bag hang behind you. Keep the flap to the purse to the inside of yourself.
  • Try to carry a purse that has a zipper or locking device of some sort.
  • Carry your wallet in your front or breast pocket.
  • Be wary of people who drop things in front of you, such as change or keys.
  • Keep handbags on your lap and keep your hand on it at all times while on public transportation.
  • Be careful of the person who shoves or pushes you while trying to get to the rear or front of a bus or subway car.

Safety and Security while on Campus

  • Lock office doors while offices are unoccupied.
  • Do not bring unnecessary valuable items on campus.
  • Do not leave purses, briefcases, or books unattended.
  • Be aware of suspicious persons.
  • Call Security (x7777) to report crimes or suspicious activities.
  • Use Emergency Assistance Stations in corridors and stairwells and Emergency Tape Switches in bathrooms in the event of an emergency.
  • Call Police (911) or Security (x7777) if immediate danger is suspected or if you are threatened.

Travel Safety

  • Don't publicize your travel plans -- limit knowledge to those who need to know.
  • Ensure that your passport, if needed, is good for at least three or four months.
  • Make sure visa(s) are appropriate and current for place and type of travel.
  • Take only the credit cards and personal identification that you will actually need.
  • Carry a driver's license from your state of residence with a photograph.
  • Make a copy of your credit cards, traveler check numbers, and the telephone numbers needed to report a theft. Keep the copy in a location separate from the documents.
  • If possible, carry any required prescriptions in the original containers. Consider carrying them on the plane instead of leaving them in your checked bags.
  • Carry a list of blood type, allergies, or any special medical conditions. Medical alert bracelets are a good idea.
  • Hand carry any sensitive or proprietary information. Leave all expensive and unneeded personal or professional property at home.
  • Check with your medical insurance carrier about coverage away from your home and work. Know coverage protection for out-of-country travel.
  • Avoid a demanding schedule upon your arrival if you have traveled across many time zones. Give yourself a chance to adjust to new surroundings.
  • DO NOT transport items for other people.
  • NEVER leave your bags unattended -- anywhere! Portable computers are particularly susceptible even at airport security checkpoints.