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January 7, 2012

A Word of Advice: Use your street smarts to stay safe

Daily Star

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Many of us know the difference between school smarts and street smarts. However, some of us don't know how to use them and when to apply them. Street smarts are crucial nowadays because of the creeps, the stealers and the non-thinkers.

Simple tasks such as going to the grocery store may entail more thought then you think. While you're pushing your cart around the store, if you're a female, you may place your pocketbook in the cart. That would be a bad time to walk away from it. Zip your bag shut and keep an eye on it at all times. You would think you could go to the store without problems; however, due to the economy, people are sinking to all-time lows. Desperation has caused some people to attempt to get money anyway possible. The same rule applies when you are walking around a large town; make sure to keep your bag close to your body and keep it zipped. Some people will pick pocket anyone they can.

A trend that has recently become more frequent is people walking around with a magnetic card scanner. They are able to scan your credit cards or bank cards right through your wallets. So ladies and gentlemen, I suggest you line your wallets with aluminum foil as this blocks the magnetic card reader from reading your cards.

If you are at the mall shopping and have multiple bags, it may be a good idea to make an extra trip to the car and leave some in there. This way, you're less likely to place them down somewhere and leave them by mistake or have them stolen.

This brings me to my next point. Don't leave your shopping bags in clear sight while in the car. This is an open invitation to thieves who are tempted by the chance you may have something valuable in them.

Something that should seem second nature, yet not a lot of people do it, is looking both ways before you cross the street. Even if you're using a crosswalk, it doesn't mean people will see you or respect your crossing. There was an accident two weeks ago at the college I attend, where two girls crossed the street using the crosswalk; sadly they were hit and seriously injured.

So it's very important to make sure the coast is clear before you cross the street.

If you are walking home from school or work and it's dark out, it should be obvious that you should avoid any dark alleys. If you are walking past someone who seems sketchy or you have a weird feeling, listen to your intuition.

When I don't feel safe, I press "911" on my phone so it's there just in case I have to quickly press the "call" button. However, do not dial it by mistake because too many accidental phone calls to 911 can result in getting fined.

With incidents you come across or are involved in, try to take a lesson away from each. Be prepared to face all sorts of people and problems when you go outside of your home. You never know what situations you will encounter; all you can do is be prepared and learn from your mistakes.

Melissa Flathmann, a 2011 graduate of Oneonta High School, is a freshman at the State University College at Plattsburgh. Would you like A Word of Advice from her? Send her an email at or send her a letter to "Teen Talk: A Word of Advice," C/O The Daily Star, P.O. Box 250, Oneonta, NY 13820. 'Teen Talk' columns can be found at