Sunday, April 14, 2013

Staying Safe: Moving Into the City, by Dan McEssy

Moving out from under your parents’ roof can be exciting, but to many nerve-wracking too. Every night local media agencies utilize nearly a half-hour to detail a small sliver of the crimes happening in your community. Having to deal with this reality alone can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not from a large city.

There are ways to prepare, if not prevent, falling victim to senseless crimes. The majority of these steps seem common sense, but they are often over-looked. After reading the following steps, make sure to follow them with consistency until they become habit to ensure your safety.

Lock your house or room once you leave

Don’t make simply walking into your house an option. Thieves will often watch people coming out of their homes to see if they lock their door. If they don’t, it is a perfect invitation for burglars to walk in your home without a sound. If you want to go the extra mile, install a dead-bolt lock into your doors. It is not nearly as simple to pick as a conventional door lock.

This also applies to windows. Burglars know this is the one place people almost always forget to lock, which is why it has become so popular. If your window doesn’t have a built in lock, put a stick or some securing mechanism in the tracks. The more obstacles a thief has to endure, the less likely they will continue to pursue breaking in.

Lock your car every time you leave, no matter how brief

Here it is again, locking your things. If it isn’t a habit already, make sure to lock your car doors. No matter how brief your departure is, always be on the safe side. Locking your car should be common sense, especially if you have valuables in your car. Make sure to keep your car relatively low-key; don’t have expensive items in plain sight. Any type of valuable, including a purse, is all the thief needs to see before taking the risk. The safest place for valuables is your trunk, especially if it is a closed trunk (without windows). Remember, it may not always be what someone can take out, but what they put in that you have to worry about. This can include anything from illegal contraband, poisons, and tracking devises.

Nothing good happens after 1am

The old saying definitely applies to the city. It wouldn’t be wise to test your chances even if you’re with a group of friends anywhere this late. By 1am, those at the bars are probably reaching that “one too many” drink. People have known that alcohol and violence are closely related since the early days of civilization. This is also the time when gangs, dealers, and violent criminals of all types make an appearance. Call it quits before it gets too late; it just isn’t worth risking running into the wrong people.

Mind your own business

It’s one of the most used come-backs and advice since your childhood. Minding your own business in the big city is key to staying out of things you never wanted to be involved in. If you focus on what you’re doing without purposely eves-dropping or interjecting your opinion, no one will know you’re there. That’s the key; you want to stay as low-key and friendly as possible. Also be cautious when people ask you to do nice things for them. People may ask for a ride somewhere, to deliver something, or help with something their home; all of these things can be traps and should be avoided. If something seems off, or you don’t feel comfortable in any way, keep to yourself and continue to walk away. You may not feel like the nicest person, but the risk you have to take to help everyone is far too great.

Be aware of your surroundings

This can be said for whenever or wherever you are, but your senses should always be a notch higher in the city. The increase in people means there is more to watch out for. Always keep a watch out for suspicious people. Anyone who looks out of place probably is. Men sitting outside of women’s stores, someone staying around too long, or a well-dressed person in an alley are all examples of people potentially out of place. Don’t feel flattered by someone always watching you; they’re probably up to no good. Keep your eyes moving on your surroundings. Tunnel vision can lead to accidents if not worse.

If at any time you don’t feel safe because you have recognized something, either walk to the nearest reputable business for the bathroom, or submerge yourself in a large amount of people. Never walk off into an alley or anywhere that you find yourself alone or with no place to exit. If someone touches you, or tries to steal something of yours, draw as much attention to yourself as possible. The more eyes fixed on you, the less likely a criminal will act. They do not want to be seen committing a crime, so they will simply walk away.

Act like you’ve been there before

This is a common saying for football players when they make their first touchdown. The same should be applied when it’s your first time in the city. Show confidence in what you’re doing. Criminals prey on those who look scared, confused, and impressionable. If you’re not sure on directions, ask someone at a business, not someone on the street. Try not to carry tourist-like souvenirs or pamphlets when walking around. People will take advantage of any weakness you show, so keep them to a minimum. Show confidence in what you’re doing, and no one will question you.

The overriding theme is to blend in. If you stick out, you instantly become a target. Most crimes do not happen to random strangers unless they look vulnerable. If you are not sure about a city, or a certain area of town that you need to go to, take a friend. Don’t shrug off asking for help because it doesn’t seem cool. Safety should always be your top concern. Calling the police is always an option, but be weary to call only in emergencies to avoid false alarms. If you consistently abide by these guidelines you’ll decrease your risk and have a safe and enjoyable time in the city.