Living in Stuttgart requires ‘big city’ vigilance, safety practices

By Robyn Mack
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

Hop on a subway in New York City and be one of 8.5 million people. Catch a train in Stuttgart Metropolitan Region, and you’re one of nearly 5.5 million people who call the area home.

Living in a “big city” requires people to heighten their safety awareness because of more people and activities happening around them.

“Large cities or groups are perceived to be a more worthwhile target for attacks based on the value, symbolism or media coverage – the attacks in Paris are an example,” said Michael Pons, an antiterrorism and physical security specialist for U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart.

Antiterrorism experts note that Americans living overseas present a lucrative target for criminals and terrorists alike. People are out-and-about with opportunities to travel and participate in local host nation events.

“Not saying we need to stop participating in events, we just need to be more situationally aware of our environment,” said USAG Stuttgart Commander Col. Glenn K. Dickenson. “With Fasching events happening soon, we must understand the culture and what happens at these festivities – take appropriate precautions to keep our family and friends safe.”

Parents are encouraged to make extra considerations for children and teens that are taking advantage of cultural festivities.

“We live in a big city and must change our habits like habits we would have in U.S. big cities,” Dickenson said.

“It’s not unusual for teenagers to be afforded an increased level of personal freedom here – like traveling alone or with friends,” said Pons. “But people should be aware of defensive measures that can help reduce risk to their personal safety.”

Minimize the risk:

  • Never travel alone; always travel in groups of two or more.
  • Think ahead and choose safe travel modes and routes.
  • When departing from home, advise your family members of your destination and anticipated arrival time.
  • Whenever possible carry a cellular phone and know the local emergency phone numbers (such as police and medical).
  • Maintain situational awareness of your surroundings at all times. This means to pay attention (see and listen) for things happening around you and to identify anything unusual. If necessary, leave the area and report the suspicious activity to local authorities.
  • Take precautions with social media networks (such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs) and avoid posting or providing personal information.
  • Do not reveal details of your personal life (such as where you live, work, family members, your association with the U.S. military, email address or phone numbers) to anyone you don’t know and trust.
  • Maintain a “low profile.” Try to blend in with the local populace through how you dress and your appearance. Avoid wearing U.S. affiliated clothing like fan or spirit wear.
  • Understand the culture where you are living. Knowing the culture and customs of the host nation will facilitate better communication and understanding and will reduce the likelihood of terrorist attack from actions that foster hatred toward the United States.
  • Developing your basic language skills will help you gain the respect and trust of local citizens, even if your fluency is minimal. Learning key survival phrases in the local language (such as, “I need a police officer or doctor”) will be vital in an emergency situation.
    • Police Officer = Polizist
    • Doctor = Arzt
    • Help = Hilfe
  • Stay away from civil disturbances and demonstrations of any form. These venues can turn violent with little to no advanced warning.
  • If you think you are being followed, go to a safe location such as the U.S. Embassy, military installation or local police station.