It’s that time of year when the nights grow colder, the streets are darker and the weather is wetter… and yet we put up with at all because the parties are unmissable! I thought today I’d talk about crime and how to stay safe. If any of this advice helps any of you even a little bit then it was worth writing!
If you’ve lived in a city for a while then you’ve probably encountered crime yourself. I’ve been mugged, threatened with a knife and the subject of an attempted gang rape – all whilst walking home at night. I got out of all of those situations unscathed, and with my belongings and sanity intact. I’ve stuck to a few simple rules and today I’m going to share them.
You often hear people saying “You never think these things will happen”, to which I say, well why not? We live in an extremely flawed society where “the system” is fucked. It makes me angry, and whilst I certainly don’t support crime it’s possible to be critical whilst also understanding why it happens. If you’re going to live in a busy city and walk around at night, you should be expecting crime. I don’t mean drop-kick everybody who crosses your path but be aware that crime can and does happen. Ignoring this means you’re putting yourself into the least prepared position possible.
Also, girls – yes, we are more at risk. Look at the stats! Society all but supports crime against women: criminals are not held to account and violence is routinely glorified as “masculine”.
I’m specifically addressing the kinds of crime that happen when you walk around on your own, as that’s where I’ve run into crime. It’s common sense to keep to a well-lit area but the prime areas to REALLY stick to are residential. If somebody jumps you and you start screaming, a light won’t be of much use. Stick to main routes (preferably with open newsagents and kebab shops). Avoid super-crowded, noisy areas where pick-pocketing can go unnoticed. Try and plan a route home that means you’re always in clear view of a house. The people in that house might be the people whose door you run up to for safety. Even if it’s slightly longer than your regular route it’s worth it.
During university, the previously mentioned gang attack occurred during a walk between a field and a cemetery; I knew there were no nearby houses but I was tired and couldn’t be bothered to walk the long way. What an idiot.
If you see a person near you, work out where the next nearest person is – if one of them tries to attack you then you need to know where your nearest shout for help is. Where is your nearest escape route to run? Could you jump over any of the surrounding walls? Pay attention to weird behaviour; if you think somebody is following you then go into a shop and wait for them to go away or walk up to a random house and pretend to get yours keys out to go again. (If somebody in the house asks what the hell you’re doing, explain!).
Don’t keep your important stuff in your bag! Bags are super-easy to grab off unsuspecting laps or rip off of shoulders. Don’t take it out unless you absolutely need it, and try to store items on your person if at all possible; inside compartments of coats, skirt/trouser pockets; I’ve even stored my house key in my shoe and in the lining of a dress once. This sounds ridiculous but since I was 18 I’ve always followed the same ritual when clubbing: keep my house key on a bracelet, £20 in my bra, and my phone in my pocket.
My first mugging I lost my bag which thankfully only had a jumper and a load of leaflets from Freshers Fayre inside. Both my housemate and I had our bags ripped from our shoulders. I actually got all that stuff back – having realised there was nothing of value the muggers threw my bag into a bush about 200 metres down the road. My housemate lost her camera, passport, phone, wallet and make-up from her bag on the same night.
Jewellery; anything that can be forcibly yanked off or used against you (chains that can strangle, hoops that can rip through earlobes) is a bad idea, but everything else is a good ideas. Heels can arguably be the best weapon you’ve got but you can’t run in heels (or at least, I can’t).
The best piece of advice anybody gave me as a teenager was always know where your nearest “weapon” is. Obviously we can’t all be Jackie Chan levels of resourceful. A good idea is to attach as many heavy key rings as possible to your keys and then whack somebody with it. As a last resort grab your house key and aim for the eyes if somebody grabs you – sounds gory but it’s self-defence. Chunky bracelets, rings, spiky things and sturdy cat ears are all good weapons. Also hard cases, bags with spikes, or any kind of satchel/luggage/pile of books with a hard edge.