Crime can be a problem almost everywhere in the world, and many of you, depending on where you come from, could be safer here than in your own home town or city. However, western travellers and tourists are more visible here in S. E. Asia, and are generally perceived to have money and expensive toys with us, so can be more of a target for opportunists, criminals and hustlers. So, know the playing field and take sensible precautions.
The most common type of crime you may have the misfortune to experience is that of the opportunist. The unlocked door to your room, the unguarded pocket, the watch and jewellery, the belt pouch and shoulder bag or back pack - all are potential targets. In Medan, the strong-arm grab from a fast moving passing motor bike is a common method. Make no mistake about it, these guys are good; they are pros at what they do, and they get to make the first move, which is a big advantage.
There are some simple defensive things you can do to give you a better chance. When walking down a street, try to keep one hand free, and carry the shoulder bag on the side away from traffic. Busy intersections can be the most hazardous in other ways than being run down by a car. Do step back from that motor cycle, and be quick about it too! Wear a tee shirt or jacket over the belt pouch, or get a stronger belt for the belt pouch which may give you a few extra seconds of reaction time. Some people carry two wallets, the more exposed being the dummy with only a small amount of cash in it. I carry a small 35 mm camera at all times when I am out and about.
The U.S Embassy suggests you carry a photocopy of your passport (including a copy of your latest visa stamp) and to keep your cash and passport inside a zip-lock plastic bag. You canít change degraded foreign money here, and visa stamps can disappear after having gotten wet.
Another somewhat high risk activity can be the local city buses. In Medan,
riding in the back of local mini buses can be risky, especially at night. It is
better to wait for a bus with an empty front seat - then it is just you and the
driver, who will be a good guy. Or hire a taxi, they are OK and only cost a
dollar or two. For a longer term stay, some consider a bicycle the best way to
get around town. If you get an old clunker bike, as several of my friends have,
it has the advantage that hardly anyone will want to steal it. But in any case,
you might want to learn the word PENCURI, (Thief.) Sometimes yelling it loudly
in time of need will bring some good Indonesian people to your assistance.