Crimes can and do happen. The best thing we can all do is to try to prevent being victims.

Criminals look for easy opportunities. One good way to protect yourself from crime is to make it difficult. Look for and remove any opportunities before criminals spot them.

Here is a list of things you can do to reduce your chances of being a victim. This list comes down to a few basic, common-sense ideas, including to pay attention to your surroundings and to be prepared. You don’t necessarily need physical strength, agility, speed or expensive security devices to avoid being a crime victim. You do need to be alert, cautious and self-confident.

At home

Keep your doors locked. Install easy-to-use deadbolt locks. Install new locks if you move to a new home or lose your key. Keep garage and basement doors locked, too.

Install and use a peephole. Never open the door to strangers or let them know you’re alone. Ask service people for an ID before you open the door. Remember, chain locks can be forced open.

Consider a pet. Even a small dog can provide some protection.

Protect your valuables. Keep money and securities in a bank. Have your Social Security or pension check deposited directly into your account. Mark all valuables with an ID number

Beware of phone scams. Don’t give personal or financial information out over the phone. Hang up on nuisance callers and report them.

Organize a buddy system. Have neighbors watch each others’ homes or form security patrols. Do laundry, shopping or errands in groups.

Find out about alarm systems. If you’re away a lot or have many valuables, an alarm may be worth the cost.

When you go out

Secure your home. Leave outside lights on. Don’t leave notes about your return. Leave a radio or TV and a light on. Make sure all entries are locked

Secure your wallet. Don’t carry large amounts of cash. Carry your wallet in a safe inside pocket and take Care with Your Purse: Leave your purse at home, if possible. Don’t use a purse with a shoulder strap –you could be thrown to the ground and injured if it’s snatched.

Go with a friend. Dogs of any size will deter most muggers.

Plan your route. Choose a safe, familiar and well-lit route. Let someone know where you’re going and when you should return.

When you return home

Have your key out and ready. Have the driver watch until you’re inside, if possible. Don’t enter an elevator alone with a stranger. Be alert for anyone hiding nearby.

Travel safely on public transportation

On buses: Sit in the front, near the driver (but, not too near the door). Hold onto your packages. Ask the driver — not other passengers — for directions.

On the subway or train: Wait near the ticket booth until ready to board. Pick a car with several people in it. Don’t enter an empty car.

Stay safe in your car

When driving: Keep the doors locked and windows up. Keep your purse and valuables out of sight. If you’re harassed at a stop, drive away as soon as possible. Never pick up hitchhikers.

When parking: Park close to your destination. Choose an area that will be well-lit when you return. Lock valuables in the trunk before you arrive.

When returning to your car: Be alert for anyone hiding behind nearby cars. Check the back seat and floor before you get in.

If your car breaks down: Raise the hood, but stay inside. Keep your doors locked. If strangers stop to help, just ask them to alert law enforcement officials or a service station for you. (Remember to speak through a closed window.)

When going on a trip

Take protective measures before you leave. Lock all entries and don’t leave an extra key out. Don’t discuss your trip in public before you go. Give your house a “lived in” look. Be sure to leave the lights on timers, shades up, and turn down the ringer on the phone.

On the way, act safely: Keep your luggage locked and in sight. Put an ID tag inside luggage, too. Carry traveler’s checks or credit cards instead of cash.

Be alert at your hotel: Carry your room key at all times. Keep the room locked with your luggage inside. Leave valuables in the hotel safe.

Officer Larry Jacobs is a crime prevention specialist with the Crime Prevention Unit of the Sandy Springs Police Department.