The New York police department gives their tips for running safely in light of the recent runner murders

By Julie Mazziotta
Updated August 10, 2016 01:10 PM

With the tragic and brutal murders of two runners – Karina Vetrano, in Queens, New York, and Vanessa Marcotte, in Princeton, Massachusetts – over just one week, the need for runner safety is at an all-time high.

New York City police officer Sophia Mason gives 12 tips to stay safe before and during your run.

1. Find safety in numbers
“Avoid running alone,” Mason tells PEOPLE. “Always run with a partner, group or local running club to stay safe on the road.” And if you do need to run on your own, make sure someone knows where you are and expects you to check in when you get back.

2. Know your route
“Familiarize yourself with the location of phones, police and utility call boxes, local police precincts, hospitals, firehouses and 24-hour businesses along your route,” she advises.

3. But keep it varied
While it’s important to know your path, have a few options so you’re not hitting the same trails where an attacker could expect you, especially if you’re a daily runner. “If you sense that you are being watched or followed change your route and head toward a more crowded area.”

4. Run during daylight hours
Though both Vetrano and Marcotte were killed before sunset, it’s still important to run during the day, and not at night. But if you must run at night, “do not run alone, and always wear light-reflective or light-colored clothing to increase your visibility,” says Mason.

5. Stay alert
“Always remain aware of your surroundings and listen to your instincts if you fear you are in danger,” she says.

6. Which means avoid wearing headphones
While it can be tough to run without music, it’s far safer and leaves your ears open for any disturbances. If you need them, though, keep the volume low.

7. Stick to running in well-lit areas
Stay away from wooden trails unless you’re running with a group, and only run where there’s plenty of light in well-populated paths.

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8. Run against traffic

If you run in an area without sidewalks and need to go on the streets, make sure you’re always opposing traffic to avoid getting hit.

9. Dress appropriately
Leave the black clothing behind, and stick to something reflective or white. And be prepared if something does go wrong with some form of identification, “especially medical alert information and ‘who to notify’ for responders to use if you are in an accident or suffer an injury,” Mason says.

10. Don’t wear jewelry while you run
Jewelry only attracts attention. “For your safety, it is best to leave these items at home.”

11. Never respond to harassment
Do not reply to any catcallers or other verbal harassment. “Carry a whistle or air horn to summon emergency assistance if necessary,” says Mason.

12. Be aware of the other people around you
Stay constantly alert to the other runners and the people nearby as you run.