Even minor situations in the city can cause you inconvenience that could compound into a situation of great risk.
TACTIC: Prepare and carry an urban kit that contains essential supplies for going around town or traveling.
Think about probable situations you may face and the simple supplies that might help you. Of course, you can't carry everything for all possibilities, but consider what pocket-sized items you would like to have in a variety of situations.
What if you are out of cash or your wallet is lost? Some change for a phone call and money for a taxi or a meal would come in handy.
Or what if you just need an adhesive bandage or an aspirin?
What about when you unexpectedly have some time while waiting in line or delayed? With a pen and some small pieces of paper, you can make that a productive time to plan or write down ideas.
What if you need to get around an unfamiliar area? A small map, a compass, and even a small flashlight would help. Some other convenient items you might carry: postage stamps, extra business cards, and list of phone numbers and contact addresses for family.
Prepare your urban kit separate from your regular wallet. Don't include supplies in your urban kit that you need for a specific trip or project only--pack those separately as you need them.
Make this kit very compact, and use a small nylon or plastic bag to hold the stuff.
Carry it with you in your coat pocket, backpack, purse, or briefcase. If you ever need even one of the items, you will be glad you prepared your urban kit.
TACTIC: Don't give money to or accept anything from strangers.
In urban environments, you will encounter beggars, swindlers, and thieves (and many nice people, too). Prepare yourself in advance to be alert.
Anytime you are confronted by someone on the street, you are at risk for crime. Be particularly wary anytime a "nice" person offers you an unusual deal or seeks your assistance or money for a scheme of some kind. Decline the offer and contact the police or appropriate authorities if you feel threatened.
Make it a policy not to give money to beggars. Doing so might be paying for a substance abuse problem or criminal activity. Giving money also encourages vagancy and devastates urban neighborhoods by reducing pedestrian traffic, tourism, and businesses. What you think is your "kindess" by giving to a street beggar is actually a devestating act that dramatically reduces the quality of life in the area. If you want to help homeless people, volunteer with an agency serving the homeless. Better yet, work for public benefit programs that support, empower, and reward people for working and earning a living in dignity. Also, petition your city government to make panhandling illegal in your area. Ask for mandatory fines not only for the people soliciting, but for the people who give money to street beggars. Panhandling destroys the urban fabric and make streets unsafe.
Certain cities, particularly large ones, are rife with professional beggars. Be prepared to ignore beggars when they shout, cause a commotion, or seek a confrontation. Don't appear frightened, just keep walking, and call the police if you feel threatened.
TACTIC: As you travel around town or around the world, remember, "A good soldier never gets separated from his or her gear."
The quote is from a US Air Force pilot I knew. The idea is that as you travel about, don't leave your stuff behind or send it on ahead via a different conveyance than you travel.
If you are a college student, you might travel from school to your home city carrying just a backpack. You might travel via bus, by rides from friends, and even stay overnight in intermediate places. During all this time, keep your backpack with you, because you never know when your travel plans might change.
For example, let's say you leave your backpack at your friend's house because you plan to stay the night. You go out for the evening, 30 minutes across town to a party. You unexpectedly meet another friend at that party who could give you a ride directly home that night from the party. You don't want to inconvenience either friend to have to take the hour round-trip time to go back to get your backpack.
Or you might be traveling on a business trip. Your group of colleagues may have two rental cars. If you send your luggage on ahead to the hotel in one rental car and go to a meeting site in another, you may find you left an important paper or item in your luggage. Or you might find that your group will stay in a different hotel apart from the other rental car. Backtracking to get your stuff could cost time and inconvenience.