No woman needs to be told not to get cash from an ATM in a dark location at night. Or not to hold the door open for a stranger when entering her apartment building. But there are trends in street crime and new things to watch out for.
As an over-confident native New Yorker, I used to think I had the whole street-smarts thing down pat. Stay away from the crazies talking to themselves. Give a wide berth to a young (usually) man (again, usually) walking toward you, suspiciously empty-handed, no briefcase or even a gym bag.
That was when? Back in the Pleistocene? Cell phones have turned us all into crazies, chatting away on the street. And the hands-free guy approaching isn’t necessarily setting you up for a purse snatch or a grab for your gold chain: He’s simply wearing a backpack like everyone else in town.
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Best Practices for Avoiding Street Crime
Times change, and so does street crime. With that in mind, here are some recommendations from police departments around the country. If some of them seem a bit New York-focused, remember that Broadway shows aren’t the only thing the Big Apple exports.
Don’t’ Flaunt Vulnerable Items
The NYPD couldn’t be clearer: Swap out those cute white earphones for virtually any other color. White says “Apple” and makes you a target. (The police call it “Apple picking.”)
And that sleek white Apple shopping bag carrying your pricy new MacBook Pro? It may be an even better target than your Birkin. During recent holiday shopping seasons, opportunists with resale in mind have stationed themselves outside the Apple stores in some cities waiting to pounce.
I think we can extrapolate the Apple shopping bag caution and extend it to all high-style bags. Street criminals are very brand-savvy. A brand-new Gucci or Balmain (insert your favorite fashion name here) shopping bag would be like catnip to them.
Yes, everyone does it, but resist walking along carrying your phone in your hand. Such an easy target.
Situational awareness is the order of the day. Don’t zone out on the street (see those earphones above). And don’t walk and text (yes, everyone does that too). Make eye contact with those approaching to show you’re alert.
Have your house or car keys ready in your hand before you get to the door.
This may sound paranoid, but consider carrying your house keys and card case or wallet in a jacket pocket, not your purse. If you lose the latter to a street thug, at least you won’t be parted from the former (Just consider what a hassle it would be to replace your driver’s license).
Blogger Ashley Long points out on Instructables.com that people in general, and women in particular, are automatically less attractive targets if they are not alone. Travel in pairs when possible, but don’t get so caught up in conversation that you lose that all-important situational awareness.
Look like you know where you’re going. Confidence is not something potential attackers are attracted to. If you are lost or confused, duck into a store to consult your map or check an address; don’t stand around in the street looking perplexed.
Fitness gurus suggest that we park far from our destination shop or restaurant to rack up more daily steps. But safety, even during the day, suggests otherwise: Closer may be better. And park as close to a parking-lot floodlight as you can.
The new terror in New York is crazies who push subway riders off the platform. In any subway system in the world, stand away from the platform edge. If possible, stand with your back against a pillar or solid wall.
Obviously don’t suffer in silence. If someone does attempt to interfere with you, yell! Loudly! Remember those crazies I talked about? You might consider becoming one of them, yelling and waving your arms about in the hope that a would-be attacker might just as soon not deal with crazy.
Not all of the street hazards come from criminals.
Be alert to scooters, electric and otherwise, ridden on sidewalks. Cities such as London, Paris, Chicago, and New York have wrestled with these demons of “micro-mobility,” eventually allowing them, though not on sidewalks; while Boston, Dallas, and other places still struggle with legalizing them. No matter where you find yourself, look both ways before stepping off the curb.
A lot of street crime is born of opportunity. Make a resolution not to be that opportunity.