Proactively thinking about how to stay safe in public areas is something that many people do not consider when going about their daily lives. We often take for granted that the places we visit are safe, secure and nothing out of the ordinary will happen. This may be because some of these places, we visit frequently, trust the local law enforcement to keep us safe, or have no reason to be alarmed. However, once that bubble of safety is burst, it can be hard to look at public spaces the same way again. In fact, the mere act of reading a news story or watching the evening news can instill doubt in your mind about how safe we actually are in public—and this doubt can be a good thing. Sometimes it takes a little uncertainty to properly prepare for an unsafe situation. And in the case of staying safe in public, being prepared is the best defense.
Crimes Happen At Any Time.
Below are some crime statistics from Library Index.
- Violent crimes happen between 6 A.M. and 6 P.M. in 52.7 percent of cases.
- Simple assaults happen 57.6 percent of the time during these same hours.
- Aggravated assaults take place 42.2 percent of the time during these same hours.
- Approximately two-thirds, or 63.2 percent, of rapes and sexual assaults occur at night.
- Most property crimes occur during the day, except for motor vehicle theft. Motor vehicle theft occurs at night 71.7 percent of the time.
Crimes Can Occur In Any Place.
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, in 2002 nearly one-third (31.7 percent) of violent crimes occurred at or near the victim's residence. Common locations for crime were schools (15.1 percent), commercial establishments (11.3 percent), and parking lots and garages (7.6 percent).
There are many factors that play into how safe a public area appears. For example, according to the National Institute of Justice ,
Geography has a major influence on crime. The features and characteristics of cityscapes and rural landscapes can make it easier or more difficult for crime to occur. The placement of alleys, buildings and open spaces, for example, affects the likelihood that a criminal will strike. This means that no matter where you live or what public spaces you visit, you need to know how to stay safe.
There are too many factors out of your control that can contribute to how safe an environment looks or feels. In this article, we define public spaces as a social space that is open and accessible to people. This includes roads, sidewalks, public squares, parks, beaches, concerts, picnics, movie theaters, urban centers, and any place you or your friends and family may spend a day where others freely share the space. Below are some key considerations for staying safe in a public space.
Never Walk Alone
If you cannot find someone to walk with, try to walk closely alongside the nearest group of people, or in extreme cases, call the local department of public safety for an escort. If you must walk alone, plan your path ahead of time. Walk on well-lighted areas free of places a perpetrator may hide such as bushes, dark passageways, or in between parked cars. Trust your gut and stay away from areas that are a cause for concern. And always walk against traffic.
If you feel you are being followed, act confident and let the person know you are aware of him or her. Cross the street, or change direction and walk towards a commercial area where people are gathered if necessary. If you sense a car is following you, write down the license plate number and call the authorities.
Sit In The Back
If you are attending a performance, such as a movie or a concert, sit in the back row by the aisle. Stay alert at all times, and use the buddy system when going somewhere. If possible, see a movie or show early in the day, have your cell phone with you at all times, and park close to a well-lighted space near the exit door. Essentially, use common sense and give yourself the best possible option to get out quickly if something were to happen.
Avoid Alcohol or Other Mind-Altering Substances
It is understandable that you may want to enjoy a cocktail or two when out with friends or family. However, drinking impairs your ability to react quickly to situations, move in a coordinated fashion, and make good decisions. If you are going to drink, ensure there is a sober person with you to be the designated driver and to accompany you wherever you roam.
Protect Your Belongings
Keep your keys separate from anything that can identify you. That way if they get lost, no one can find out where you live to try and break into your property. Carry bags or backpacks close to your body. If someone tries to take your purse or bag, let it go. Men should have their wallet in their front pants pocket. It is important to have a copy of everything in your wallet. This makes the process of knowing what bank or credit cards to cancel, who to notify, and what will need to be replaced a lot easier. In addition, consider downloading a “find my phone” app, which can help find your phone if it is stolen or lost and remotely wipe the data so that no one can access your personal information. Lastly, never put your belongings down and leave them unattended.
Avoid Certain People
If someone makes you uneasy, stay away from them. It could be a friend of a friend, a nearby adult, or a lurking person that seems suspicious. If you sense that someone is dangerous, notify an authority. If you are with a co-worker for a public company event, tell your boss. If it is a fellow student on a university campus, say something to the campus security.
- Always have an escape plan
- Tell a friend or family member where you are going ahead of time and check in periodically. You can even give them a time to check in with you. If they do not hear back from you by this time, they can call the police.
- Communicate your boundaries and what is safe to you clearly with the people you are with. Include a plan of what to do if an unsafe situation arises so that everyone can act swiftly together.
- As you were taught in grade school, don’t talk to strangers, especially if your gut says not to. Trust your instincts.
- Wearing headphones can lead to lack of awareness and make it hard to hear what is going on around you.
- Face people while walking, as thieves sometimes try to come up from behind.
- Carry pepper spray or a loud noise deterrent.
Staying safe comes down to vigilance and common sense. If you plan ahead, communicate with your friends and family, and are aware of your surroundings, you will be prepared and much safer in a public space.