I ride public transit every day to get to and from work. Since I ride with the commuters, I feel safe but I never let my guard down. You never know who is up to no good and you always have to look out for yourself. It’s good to get in the habit of making yourself aware of your surroundings and to keep your eyes up and looking around. Here are a few practices I follow to make myself feel safe while I’m walking to and from the bus or car.
If you’re going to be walking for a long distance, plan your route to avoid the “shady” areas. For example: By my office, 2nd and 3rd avenues between University Street and Stewart Ave are where all the homeless and druggies hang out. I avoid these areas like the plague so I won’t be hit up for money or cigarettes every 5 feet, also I’m a pretty, white female. I’m not trying to get jumped or raped.
Avoid empty parking lots, alleys or any other deserted area. Those areas are where all the bad things happen. If the parking lot you parked in is deserted, make sure to survey the area and have your keys in your hand and ready to unlock the door before you get anywhere near your car. The faster you can get into your vehicle, the better and make sure you lock your doors the second you’re in. If there is something tucked under your windshield, DO NOT retrieve it. Drive to the closest gas station or a well-lit populated area before you retrieve it. Rapists and car thieves like to use this trick to get you out of your car. It only takes a second of having your back turned to become a victim. They are also tying cans to the back bumper of your car to get you to jump out really quickly with the car running to check it out. The second you’re around the back fender they jump in and take off with your car AND your purse. If you hear a noise when you go to pull out of your spot, turn off your car and take your keys out of the ignition before you check it out. Your keys also work as a weapon if you have nothing else. What I do is hold the keys in your hand with the key tips and teeth sticking out between your fingers. This way you can punch an attacker and do more damage. If you have to use your keys as a weapon, make sure you go for the vulnerable spots like the eyes.
If you’re using the ATM at night, be aware of everyone around you. If you don’t feel safe, don’t risk it and find another ATM. It's not worth getting mugged because you need cash. An alternative to an ATM is going to the grocery store and getting cash back from your purchase.
If you’re being robbed at all, do not fight the assailant. Your best bet is to throw your purse or wallet one way and then run the opposite direction. The thief will most likely go after your possessions and you can escape safely. Good ways to avoid tempting a thief is to not wear flashy jewelry or watches, don’t carry expensive handbags, don’t wear expensive headphones and don’t walk around with your phone out. The less it looks like you have, the more likely you’ll be left alone.
I carry a pocket knife wherever I go. There are rules on carrying knives, so be sure to check out your local laws on pocket knives so you don’t find yourself in trouble with the law. My knife is ⅓ the size of my hand when it is folded and flips out easily so I can have it ready when I need it. I haven’t needed it yet, but I feel a lot safer walking to my car by myself. A lot of the women I work with carry pepper spray. You can find pepper spray in most sporting goods stores and I know Rite Aid carries it behind the counter with the tobacco products. There is also a company that makes a phone case that doubles as a taser. They currently only make it for the iPhone but they’re working on one for different phones. http://www.yellowjacketcase.com/
If you live alone, its best to get in the habit of always locking your doors and windows. If you’ve got the chain on your door, use it on top of the deadbolt and doorknob locks. Even if you’re just stepping out for a second or you’re staying in for the night. I immediately lock our front door the second I close it even if I’m not home alone. You never know when some random person is going to try and let themselves into your house. Be suspicious of people who come around the neighborhood knocking on doors to “sell magazine subscriptions”. Unless they’re a part of the Boy Scouts or some youth group, they’re probably casing the neighborhood to see who is home and using the magazine bit as a cover.
If you’re being attacked from behind, remember the acronym SING (Yes this is from Miss Congeniality, but it is great advice) SING stands for Solar-Plexus, Insole, Nose and Groin. Jam your elbow as hard as you can into their stomach, stomp as hard as you can on their insole, elbow them in the nose and back-kick them in the groin (their crotch, family jewels, junk, whatever you call it). Doing this will immobilize your attacker long enough to get away.
If you feel a place is unsafe, chances are that it is. Follow your gut instincts because they could save your life. I hope you never have to worry about being mugged or attacked, but it’s better to be prepared for it.