Stay Safe. Stay Alert.

While Suriname’s crime statistics don’t even skim those of big American cities, Paramaribo is still an urban center that has its share of criminality. In fact, many residents are feeling uncomfortable with the recent crime waves, a rarity to Suriname. It is always best to take precautions; they may prevent you or your loved ones from becoming easy victims.

Many of the following tips are common sense, but there may be some new ones that you could add to your own list of safety habits. These tips are also not meant to bring you paranoia, but rather remind you that being alert and prepared may possibly prevent you from becoming a victim. Instinct tells us to defend ourselves and our loved ones, but if the crook has a weapon and you do not, play it safe and cooperate. Your life is far more valuable than your wallet!

Street Smarts
– Never walk around with wads of cash or flaunt your cash when making purchases.
– Try to keep cash and valuables in the bank or, if you must, well-hidden in your home.
– Avoid walking with a purse or exposing your cell phone when walking in the downtown area.
– Try to avoid using ATM’s at night or when it’s dark out.
– Stay in groups, have someone escort you to your car if possible.
– Do not frequent the same cambios.

Home Safety
– Always keep your front gate(s) and your doors locked.
– Purchase a home alarm with motion detectors and glass breaking sensors, and make sure it is functioning as it should. Does the alarm monitoring company have all the correct phone numbers to reach you on?
– Always use your home alarm; at night, when you leave, when you are home alone, and when you are gone for long periods of time (make sure that a trusted person can check on your home or has a key).
– Do not open the gate for strangers.
– Keep a cell phone/home phone near your bed.
– Before exiting your vehicle, upon arrival at your home, check that everything appears normal. Did your dogs greet you? Are the lights on? Are there any open doors or windows?
– If you have pets/dogs that assist in alerting you, protect them too. Burglars are known to poison pets. Train your pets not to take food from strangers. At night, keep your pets in your home, inside the iron bars, or on the leash (out of site to passer-byers) so that your pets do not go near the front gate and risk being poisoned.
– Keep good relationships with your neighbors. Try to keep an eye on each other’s homes and remain alert for screams or uncommon noises.

Car Safety
– Lock your car doors and keep your car windows closed while in traffic.
– Never leave purses, laptops, or valuable items in your parked car.
– Ladies, do not leave your purse in the car seat next to you while driving. Make a habit of placing your purse on the floor, in the back seat.
– If you are robbed in or near your car, do as you are told so as not to escalate the situation or cause injury to yourself.
– If you suspect you are being followed, pull over into the nearest public commercial area and call the police (115). Note the license plate, make, model, and color of the car, if you can.

And while we’re on the topic of safety, here are a few other tips to keep in mind.

Most houses in Suriname have windows and doors that are enclosed with iron bars (dievenijzer). Dief means burglar in Dutch, so it’s safe to assume that these decorative attachments were built to serve two purposes: to look nice, and to keep robbers out. Iron bars are a common sight within the Caribbean. But as with most things, there are also drawbacks to having iron bars in and outside of your home. The same bars that keep unwanted guest out can also hold you prisoner in your own home.
The more doors a house has, the more keys are needed to open the locks. Your Surinamese key chain probably weighs more than a pound because you have so many of them. But, can you easily identify the keys? Do you have copies near the exits of your home? Where do you keep your keys at night?
– Begin by purchasing color key rings or products that can help you differentiate the keys so you know exactly which belong to each lock.
– Keep only the important keys on your key ring and place the rest on hooks or nails near the exits of your home. For example, place a small hook with a spare key near windows with locks that open to create fire exits. Make sure the keys are placed in strategic places, easily accessible to you, but not to thieves who may try to access them from the outside.
– Also keep a basket of spare keys that only you and members of your household know the location of. Keep your key chain(s) near you at night. In case of a fire, you do not have time to go searching for keys.
– Make sure your household has a fire escape plan.
Purchase fire extinguishers and smoke alarms for your home. If you have a gas stove, do not place the gas tanks inside your kitchen, in your garage, or in places where they are vulnerable to damage. Even gas tanks get stolen, so be sure to also enclose them in iron cages, as well as outside air-conditioning units, and the copper plumbing that runs outside of your home. The number for the fire department is 110.

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