Archive for February, 2011

Staying safe – real world advice
February 20, 2011

There is plenty of information floating around out there on how to stay safe from urban predators. Much of it doesn’t seem to come from people who have actually practiced this out there on the streets. So here is some advice that I’ve learned not via others, but through personal experience trying to stay safe in the Southern California area. If you’re smart, you observe things. You figure things out on your own; you don’t need others telling you.

So to start with, keep your phone in your hands and ready to dial 911 at all times.

Just because it’s a nice, ritzy neighborhood, does not mean it is safe. Robbers love nice neighborhoods. They think everyone in them has money.

Worried about someone walking behind you or driving alongside you? Take a casual glance in store windows, car windows, puddles of water – anything that gives off a reflection. This way, you can see what the person behind you is doing – and looking at – without turning around.

Do NOT stare. Do not stare at people, even if they are behind you. Turning around once is fine, but do not get that look of sheer terror on your face just because someone has the audacity to be walking behind you. Assuming an individual is a criminal will piss off even the most mild mannered person. He or she may not have meant you harm before, but they sure do now!

If you really are concerned about being followed, do not go home. Keep walking or driving to the nearest open business and hang out inside there for awhile until the other person has wandered off. If the individual is still following you, now it’s time to call the cops. As a general rule, if anyone is behind you, don’t go directly home. Just circle around and go home after the other person is gone. You never know.

Certain types of cars are more likely to contain criminals than others. Vans, minivans, sports cars, pickup trucks. Vans are good for grabbing people and pulling them inside, and are often driven by shady characters. So are pickup trucks. Those are often driven by illegals, who are very likely to at least disturb and harass you, if nothing else. SUVs and sports cars are driven by assholes who will try to run you over or at least, scream their drunken asses off at you. When you see these cars, pay a bit more attention.

Cars parked along the side of the road are great at protecting you from abductions. Someone driving by can’t just reach out and snatch you if there is a car between you and him. Then again, do pay attention to parked cars as someone who is sitting in one could try to grab you and pull you in. Again, vans and RVs are good for abductions, but any car can be dangerous.

When ever you feel in danger, talk on the phone. Don’t get so into your conversation that you get distracted, but being on the phone can scare off certain types of criminals. Even pretending to talk on the phone can help. It’s saved me on more than one occasion. And speak loudly.

If you see a truly suspicious person, try to get these facts (although try to get them in a casual  manner that doesn’t make it obvious you are studying the suspect): Race, clothes, gender, height, weight, age, car. You may not remember most of these details if all you get is a casual glance at the guy. Clothes, sex, and race are especially important. Even shoes. A suspect may be able to change his clothes quickly, but not likely his shoes. Does he or she have any scars? Earrings? Tats? Any unusual marks on him? Anything unique about this person at all? Hair? Hat? Again, you’re not going to remember most of this in an emergency situation, so do try to practice this with friends before something actually happens.

Sometimes criminals will try to stop you on the street and ask you seemingly innocent questions, such as ask for a cigarette, a light, money, the time, where a street is. Most of the time, these people don’t mean any harm, but just in case, don’t stop too close to the person, and do TALK LOUDLY. LOUD TALK can frighten some criminals. “YEAH, VENTURA BLVD IS THAT WAY!!!!!” “SORRY, I DON’T HAVE ANY CASH ON ME!!!!!!!!!”

Do remember, most people out walking or driving at night are NOT hoodlums. Do not stare, but be aware. Do not glare at them or watch them as though it’s your job to catch every scumbag on the planet. Just merely be aware that there is a person there, take proper precautions, and go about your business or just discreetly remove yourself from the situation (i.e, calmly walk across the street and go into a store).

At night, if you are walking while carrying a purse, put it in a shopping bag. A shopping bag is less likely to attract a robber than a purse.

Do not call 911 because you see something suspicious unless you honestly feel someone is about to attack  – or is seriously following you. Call a non-emergency number such as 1-877-ASK LAPD instead.

A few more trips: Keep a working cell phone, pepper spray, mugging wallet or purse (a wallet or purse with nothing in it – just something to throw at a robber) with you at all times. A knife and a large dog do not hurt either. A chihuahua cannot help you on the street, but they are good watchdogs for the home. They can at least alert you that someone is there.