Staying Safe

Living in Philadelphia has many advantages: cultural diversity, historical areas, and night life attractions. However, like other big cities in the United States, it's important to be mindful of your surroundings. Being aware of and taking appropriate safety precautions can help you avoid problems.

View the topics below for more information on staying safe.

Common crimes, such as robbery and theft, are unfortunate aspects of today's society. Certain situations cannot be prevented no matter what precautions are taken but there are a few things one can do to decrease the chances of becoming a victim of crime in the US.

  • When traveling, do not carry or display large amounts of money or jewelry. Instead, carry traveler's checks, redeemable for cash at most banks and stores, or use major credit cards, such as VISA, Mastercard, and American Express.

  • Be careful with personal belongings. Always keep money, jewelry, and valuable documents in your possession. Do not leave them in your luggage, in a storage locker, or in a locked car.

  • Do not go out alone at night. If you must go out alone at night it is better to take a taxi to and from your destination. Penn Transit provides safe transportation services to members of the Penn Community.

  • If approached by someone demanding your money, do not resist. It is better to lose your money than to risk your safety. In the case of such an incident, notify the police as soon as possible. Throughout the US, the emergency number for the police, as well as the fire department and emergency medical service, is 911.

  • Be careful when accepting help from strangers as they may not be trustworthy. Ask a police officer or other person in authority for information.

  • Beware of "con artists," individuals who offer you money or the opportunity to make money in exchange for some small service or assistance from you.

  • Identity theft has become a growing problem in the United States. It is important that you guard all personal identity documents such as your passport and visa, immigration documents, as well as credit card and bank account information. If you have a Social Security Number, you must also guard this information carefully. Before discarding unneeded documents, it is recommended that you shred any documents containing your personal information as well as any credit card solicitations you may receive in the mail. Finally, refrain from carrying your important personal documents unless absolutely necessary and keep these documents safely stored in your home or in a safe deposit box at a local bank.


    The Division of Public Safety's educates the Penn Community on how to be safe and secure on campus and in Philadelphia. 24/7 walking escorts and secure riding services are available after 6:00 p.m. 

    Division of Public Safety
    4040 Chestnut St.
    Tel: 215-898-7297

    Emergency phone numbers:

    On-Campus Call

    Off-Campus Call

    University Police:
    511 (from a campus phone)
    215-573-3333 (from off campus)

    Philadelphia Police:     

    University Police

    It is important to familiarize yourself with the Personal Safety Tips provided by the Penn Police and follow them meticulously and consistently. Topics include:

    • The Office, Classroom, Lab, Street, Residence Halls, and Fraternities/Sororities

    • Off-campus Residence and Operation Identification

    • Car or Bicycle

    • Avoiding Fraud, Con Artists, Identity Theft, and Harassment

    • Computer Security

    • Everyday Safety Instructions

    • Special Issues

    After Normal Business Hours

    In the event of a serious illness, injury, or death requiring assistance or support from a staff member at ISSS after normal business hours, contact:

    Penn Division of Public Safety
    4040 Chestnut Street
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
    Phone: (215) 573-3333 or 511 (from any campus phone)
    DPS will contact the appropriate ISSS staff member for assistance.


    During Normal Business Hours

    In the event of an emergency during normal business hours, contact:

    International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS)
    University of Pennsylvania
    3701 Chestnut St, Suite 1W
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-3199
    Phone: (215) 898-4661

    Many students and scholars choose not to carry their passports and instead carry their Penn Cards or obtain Pennsylvania State identification cards from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. However it is recommended that you carry at least a photocopy of your passport information page, US Entry Visa page, and I-94 card as all non-US citizens are required to carry proof of status at all times.

    In the event you have been arrested or detained you have the right to notify your government:

    • If you so choose, the police must inform the appropriate consulate or embassy immediately.

    • Your consular officers have the right to visit you and arrange for your legal representation.

    • Many countries (i.e., China, Nigeria, and Singapore) require that the consul be notified when their nationals are confined or detained.

    • In these cases, you have no choice in the matter of whether the authorities notify your consulate; they must do so.

    • If you are accused of a crime, in most cases you should obtain legal advice from an attorney.

    In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union is the US (self-appointed) "guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and the laws of the United States." Their site includes information about your individual rights if arrested.