Author Topic: Staying safe in scary urban areas  (Read 11715 times)

shelivesthedream

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Staying safe in scary urban areas
« on: August 30, 2014, 05:06:02 PM »
My work regularly requires me to come home late at night, sometimes through very dodgy areas of London - sometimes on my bike (which feels safer) but often on public transport as I have things with me that won't fit on my bike like large bags. Also, I am just not up to cycling further than about six miles, especially with a bike trailer in tow (which I don't actually own yet) and after a long day's work.

As a 5'2" lone white female who, to be honest, looks pretty 'posh', I am often very afraid.

The only thing that has ever actually happened is that someone on a bike snatched my phone nearly a year ago - I wasn't hurt but it was pretty alarming and my heart still starts going like the clappers every time I see someone cycling slowly along backstreets. But every day I hear about another person who was mugged or raped or stabbed. I know it is probably statistically very unlikely, but that doesn't make it better when I have to walk past a gang of hoodies loitering on the corner.

I'm hoping you can all offer some sensible, non-hysterical advice about how to stay safe and (perhaps more importantly) feel safe. The only advice I have had so far is to avoid dodgy areas (impossible if you work in them) and to get someone to walk me to the station (but it is ridiculous and impractical to suggest that I be escorted everywhere all the time as there is often no one going the same way at the same time). I do endeavour to stick to brightly lit areas and to always wear flat shoes (it makes me feel better!) but I can't just not go out after sunset!

Gimesalot

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2014, 05:24:12 PM »
Have you thought about taking a self defense class?  You may not be able to avoid bad people but you can at least kick their ass when they try to mess with you.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2014, 05:33:04 PM »
I have actually taken self-defence classes (compulsory at school, optional at university) but beyond the element of surprise I would have very little on my side in terms of actual ass-kicking ability. A punch in the throat and then running as fast and as far as possible is the only thing I believe I would be able to successfully execute - if they didn't immediately let go/stop, I'd be trapped. And don't even get me started on weapons. I know the theory of disarming someone with a knife (long enough to run far and fast) but I just don't think I have the physical strength to do it.

Timmmy

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2014, 05:43:01 PM »
Get your concealed carry permit...  never mind, you're in the safety of the gun free UK. 

All kidding aside.  Criminals and vagrants are often not very confident in what they are doing.  If you look like a victim they will make sure you become a victim.  Walk with confidence, head up, alert, not looking at your phone or with headphones in.  Don't be afraid to look them in the eyes.  There is a balance between looking too much and not enough.  Certainly don't look down or away from them.  If you look like you are not afraid they will often skip you and pick what looks like an easier target.  If you can, keep your phone at the ready but keep it in your pocket or other handy place.

Are you allowed to carry anything like pepper spray or mace?  A small spray to the face will make most people retreat faster than the French.

Gin1984

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2014, 05:48:55 PM »
Have you thought about taking a self defense class?  You may not be able to avoid bad people but you can at least kick their ass when they try to mess with you.
Lol, I have been training since I was a kid and when three large guys attacked me, they won.  All the training in the world won't work if you are out numbered sufficiently.

gildedbutterfly

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2014, 05:49:58 PM »
Don't be afraid to look them in the eyes.  There is a balance between looking too much and not enough.  Certainly don't look down or away from them.

I disagree. As a 5'3" female who, 10 years ago, worked in what was (at least then) the poorest county in the US (in terms of % of pop under the poverty line) and one of the most dangerous, I learned to keep your eyes front, perhaps on the sidewalk 10-15 feet in front of you, but NEVER look them in the eyes unless they have addressed you. Otherwise, it is an invitation or challenge for some people to engage.

Walk with confidence is good advice. The best advice I can give is what you've already said that you do: being aware of your surroundings, stay in well-lit areas, etc.

DoubleDown

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2014, 05:50:50 PM »
You may be interested in this thread which addressed a very similar question:

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/off-topic/protecting-yourself-from-crime/

Here's my answer from that thread, copied and pasted below:

Quote
OP, you mentioned that you're primarily focusing on staying safe when out and about, not at home, so I'll try to address that in particular. If it helps, my background is in personal protection, so perhaps you'll find some of this advice useful.

Jfer_rose makes an excellent point about paying attention to your instincts. Many, many personal victim stories could have been avoided by this. You should not put yourself in dangerous situations, and if you sense you are being drawn into a dangerous situation, get out ASAP. Don't worry about hurting someone's feelings or being awkward, if you don't feel right then get out. Criminals don't give a F* about your feelings and will attempt to lure you in. In my profession, we are constantly looking for an escape path. This is not walking around in fear, it's being mindful, alert and keeping your options open. In practical terms:

- Avoid places where you are far away from help and vulnerable (far reaches of parking lot or parking garage, deserted alley, running trail, etc.)

- Since it's impossible to be 100% alert 100% of the time, instead make an effort to be alert during those times when you're particularly at risk. For example, the walk from the shopping mall to your car. You face no practical risk in the clothing section of a crowded Macy's store, but you do face a risk walking to your car, so be alert there. Don't wear headphones or be fiddling with your phone in these places -- be alert.

- Do not approach anyone who looks out of place or loitering about. For example, if there's someone near your car when you're returning to it from the store -- don't go to your car. Wait until they leave, or ask store security to escort you to your car.

- Have an exit. Using the example above, don't walk to your car if you could not get safely there if approached by a dangerous person, or back to the store or other safety. Try to always have a safe place you could go if needed, and if you don't, then be hyper-alert. When driving, this means keeping your doors locked and enough distance between you and the car ahead of you so you can drive away if in danger (this is great advice for carjacking, or being potentially rear-ended -- leave yourself room to get away, and don't hesitate).

- Be confident. If someone looks sketchy, look at them confidently to let them know that you know they are there, but without staring them down or challenging them

- Don't get close to strangers in unsafe places. Stay more than an arm's length away even if they approach you. If they persist in getting close, move away and tell them to stay away. Don't feel awkward about this. No person with good intentions will persist in approaching you. Don't fall for ruses like "Could you show me where I am on this map?" or "Do you have change for a $5 bill?" or "Could you help me with these groceries?" You can be polite but firm and conduct any business more than an arm's length away, or just decline and move away if it doesn't feel right. Let them ask me or someone like me for help instead.

- The above goes for everywhere: You don't need to open your door to strangers, you don't need to pull over for a cop car on a deserted stretch of road. There are always safer alternatives, so use them.

- Don't protect your stuff, just yourself. If they want your stuff, throw it away from you and run the other way. If they want your car or bike, ditch it and go the other way.

- However, if they want YOU, then scream and fight like your life depends on it, because it does. Don't go along willingly thinking you'll be better off by not resisting. Fight like hell, immediately, and don't give up. Try to kill them, because this is a life and death battle (I'm assuming you are not a trained fighter who might exercise some restraint where possible).

- I have a profound respect for firearms and they are a central part of my profession, including some exotic weaponry. But let's face it, it's not a practical form of defense for about 99.9% of "regular" citizens or situations, and there are plenty of people who don't feel comfortable using or owning them. Here's what I recommend as a simple, safe, yet highly effective weapon for anyone:

http://www.amazon.com/Aluminum-Blunt-Force-Kubaton-Keyring/dp/B003GCSJAC/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1398359139&sr=8-3&keywords=kubotan

This weapon costs $3 on Amazon. It's easy to carry, discreet and doesn't even appear to be a weapon. You can have it in your hand any time you're in those vulnerable places , and it's legal everywhere (even airplanes!) since it's not a weapon, it's a "keychain." It's simple to carry, extremely difficult to take away or use against you, and it's devastating when striking vulnerable parts of the body (hint: hit an attacker in the head, face, or groin with it). Hitting someone in the hands, forearms, or solar plexus are other good, easy targets if that's what's presented.

gildedbutterfly

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2014, 05:58:48 PM »
^This is AWESOME! I love when professionals and people who are well-trained in an area can share expertise. That's why this community is so amazing; we're all so diverse that I feel like every need is taken care of by just throwing a question out. Somebody will say, "I do this for a living, and here's what you need to know."

Thanks, DoubleDown! OP, do exactly what (s)he says.

Timmmy

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2014, 06:01:52 PM »
Don't be afraid to look them in the eyes.  There is a balance between looking too much and not enough.  Certainly don't look down or away from them.

I disagree. As a 5'3" female who, 10 years ago, worked in what was (at least then) the poorest county in the US (in terms of % of pop under the poverty line) and one of the most dangerous, I learned to keep your eyes front, perhaps on the sidewalk 10-15 feet in front of you, but NEVER look them in the eyes unless they have addressed you. Otherwise, it is an invitation or challenge for some people to engage.

Walk with confidence is good advice. The best advice I can give is what you've already said that you do: being aware of your surroundings, stay in well-lit areas, etc.

Well as someone who regularly spends time in three (Detroit, Saginaw and Flint MI) of the cities ranked in the top 10 most dangerous cities in the US I'll disagree.  I'm not saying to stare them down.  A glance at them and then back to looking straight ahead.  You certainly don't want to make prolonged eye contact.  That would be perceived by most as a challenge. 

dividendman

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2014, 06:29:13 PM »
I'm no expert and very rarely feel afraid since I'm a pretty big guy... but have you considered a balisong (aka butterfly knife)? Not only is it fun to learn the tricks with it, if you open one up in front of someone you're going to look pretty badass  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUznwfhbEGo (that's not me). But, like with any weapon, it can make the situation escalate and/or be used against you.

But seriously, if you are that scared what about switching jobs so you're not in a scary area, is that a possibility?

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2014, 06:33:04 PM »
Keeping an eye far ahead and planning to go around and loitering groups. Walking, this may mean crossing the street, going around an extra block.

On the bike, it can mean (safely) running stop lights or taking the far side of the lane, so you're as far away as you can be from the sidewalk.

EricL

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2014, 07:12:17 PM »
Read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.  It was recommended in a similar thread by jfr_rose and others and I heartily endorse it as well.  It will help you recognize and use your intuition and situational awareness to avoid or at least respond to danger. 

On the subject of knives, I once knew a martial arts expert who's knife fighting strategy entailed: drawing his own knife, wrapping a jacket around his arm, and running like hell.

As for women fighting men, no women can be Buffy the Vampire Slayer but skill can be a serious equalizer.  The legendary British Special Operations Executive commando/spy Nancy Wake (a.k.a. "The White Mouse") described by her superior as "one of the most feminine women he'd ever met", once broke a Waffen-SS sentry's neck with her bare hands.  She used a hand chop later incorrectly called a "Judo Chop".  (The SOE hand to hand manual taught Judo but the move was included as an extra maneuver,)

BlueHouse

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2014, 08:16:03 PM »
Check your local police academy to see if they provide free self-defense classes.
I took the type where they teach you a lot of prevention techniques, then a few basic moves for how women can protect themselves from much larger and stronger aggressors, then they role-play. 
So in one scenario you are coming out of the mall and three big dudes approach you to either take your purse or hurt you physically.  (they never tell you exactly what will happen because they want to prepare you to react).  The end result is, you have to kick their asses enough to run away (and they fight hard and you are expected to hit and jab as hard as you can).  (they wear protective suits)
In the very first lesson, you're just taught how to hold up your hands and say very loudly "STAY BACK".  And they force you to do it over and over until it no longer feels stupid.  The other techniques are about how to get out of certain holds, and then about dropping to the ground and using your legs to kick so no one can get near you. 
This is the course I took:
http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/police/services/women-self-defense.htm

Other than that, I will definitely agree that you have to look everyone you pass in the eye.  Sometimes I even tip my head up in that kind of "urban greeting"  acknowledgement that could either be interpreted as "I"m cool enough to not smile when I say hello" or "yeah, I see you and I could pick you out of a lineup" kind of way.  I've lived in some pretty sketchy areas and I've done really stupid things and I've used techniques like that and I'm pretty sure there were at least one or two times that someone was sizing me up but I've never had an actual problem.  oh yeah, and once I get far enough away, my face turns bright red and my knees get weak and my stomach does somersaults. 

former player

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2014, 09:42:48 PM »
London is pretty safe, even in the dodgy areas.  A lot of the violence in the dodgy areas is between young men in gangs, and young men can get caught up in it by accident but this is less likely to happen to women.  Knowing exactly where you are going and how to get there, and looking confident, are key.

Please be aware that many of the self-defence gadgets mentioned in a US context are illegal offensive weapons in the UK, and knife-carrying can be a crime.  A set of house keys pointing out between the knuckles would be OK. Met Police advice on safety is here -

http://content.met.police.uk/Site/crimepreventionpersonalsafety
http://content.met.police.uk/Site/safetyandsecurityadvice

UnleashHell

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2014, 04:43:59 AM »
years ago we moved one of our offices to a building in Bermondsey, not too bad but a few stretches that weren't the most pleasant and often had homeless and others accosting people for cash. We implemented a policy that after dark all women should walk back to the stations/safer areas with a male colleague (and preferably nobody alone at all after dark). We were one of the first offices there so being dressed up made us stand out.
If that wasn't a viable option then the company would pay for a cab for people back to the stations.


Would your company look into something like that?

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #15 on: August 31, 2014, 06:28:40 AM »
I've seen a few recommendations to kick asses, but surprisingly, none to kick dudes that are attacking you right in the junk. Sure, in sports it's illegal, but when someone is actually trying to hurt you? A straight shot to the babymakers will make pretty much anyone curl up. Hell, at 5'2 you could even punch them there. Steven Seagal displayed this technique in his seminal work, "Cockpuncher."

Gin1984

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #16 on: August 31, 2014, 07:16:13 AM »
I've seen a few recommendations to kick asses, but surprisingly, none to kick dudes that are attacking you right in the junk. Sure, in sports it's illegal, but when someone is actually trying to hurt you? A straight shot to the babymakers will make pretty much anyone curl up. Hell, at 5'2 you could even punch them there. Steven Seagal displayed this technique in his seminal work, "Cockpuncher."
Guys will protect that, to an extreme.  I have rarely found it useful, other than as a distraction to hit something else vital ( many guys will leave actual vital area unprotected if you fake a knee to the groin).

Tai

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #17 on: August 31, 2014, 07:51:11 AM »
This likely isn't very mustachian, but to me personal safety is a priority. You feel afraid, and that likely means that you have a reason to be afraid. Is this a seasonal problem? When the weather is colder/wetter are there still groups of youths hanging around on the street? If it is then maybe a temporary solution might work. Sometimes if the weather is extremely cold I'll take a taxi, often just the last part of the trip. I don't like to spend the money but I don't have a car so I figure the odd taxi trip to save my toes is worth it. If the situation is year round then I think you need to consider some changes. If a car is out of the question what about a scooter or electric bike? Or maybe change either where you're living or where you work. Neither of those is easy to do I'm sure. Do you feel like they'll target you for looking posh ?

Self defense training is useful to a point, with 1 guy you might be able to disable him enough to run away, but a group is scary for anyone.

What about carrying some kind of personal alarm? Or would no one respond?

I used to live in a sketchy part of Toronto, and we moved about 9 years ago, for other reasons, but I was happy to get out because I want to be able to come home late at night without worrying.

LadyStache

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #18 on: August 31, 2014, 07:58:51 AM »
Can you negotiate with your employer to cover the cab fare home? If they value you as an employee, they should care enough about your safety to do so. If not, perhaps start looking for other employment.

Goldielocks

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #19 on: August 31, 2014, 10:00:32 AM »
Look for average residents in the area, get used to who is there, eventually nod a quick greeting. 

Once you start to be part of the neighborhood, you start to see where/who the trouble spots are, and the others may give you a subtle warning, by empty street or having different behaviors or body language.  Dodgy areas I go through tend to have people in the streets as living conditions are cramped, poor, or non existent.  They also tend to have other working people too.   

Neighborhoods change through the day, so if you go later than usual, or if the street is pretty empty, I suggest a taxi or different bus route if possible.

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #20 on: August 31, 2014, 03:04:32 PM »
I've seen a few recommendations to kick asses, but surprisingly, none to kick dudes that are attacking you right in the junk. Sure, in sports it's illegal, but when someone is actually trying to hurt you? A straight shot to the babymakers will make pretty much anyone curl up. Hell, at 5'2 you could even punch them there. Steven Seagal displayed this technique in his seminal work, "Cockpuncher."
Guys will protect that, to an extreme.  I have rarely found it useful, other than as a distraction to hit something else vital ( many guys will leave actual vital area unprotected if you fake a knee to the groin).

That is a good point, HOWEVER, roughly 79%* of assailants are intoxicated when they commit assaults. This leads to "fumblefingers arms" that you can sneak a knee or fist through.

Case in point, I just got back from a beach vacation with my family. I'd been drinking for a few hours, then the rest of my family woke up and wanted to go to the beach, where we started throwing around a football. I was, like the aforementioned assailants, pretty hammered, when my brother threw a low, tight spiral, that went right through my flailing, useless fucking arms, and slammed right into my Power Source. So, despite my most eager, desperate attempt to protect myself, I still took a shot that put me onto the sand. If it can happen to a non-rapist, surely God would like to see a rapist get taken down.

* I made that up.

MoolahLula

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #21 on: August 31, 2014, 04:02:38 PM »
I feel you, sister.  Can you wear an old gray hoodie and a baseball cap?  Definitely no exposed cleavage/legs.  Pepper spray on the keyring if you can find it. 

I know I couldn't win in a physical contest with a man so I try to avoid getting in that sort of situation.  I like to make eye contact with people although I know a lot here say that is too challenging. 

Gin1984

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #22 on: August 31, 2014, 06:01:49 PM »
I feel you, sister.  Can you wear an old gray hoodie and a baseball cap?  Definitely no exposed cleavage/legs.  Pepper spray on the keyring if you can find it. 

I know I couldn't win in a physical contest with a man so I try to avoid getting in that sort of situation.  I like to make eye contact with people although I know a lot here say that is too challenging.
Do NOT wear a hoodie.  Much like hair pulled back in a ponytail, this can be used as a handhold for the attacker.

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #23 on: August 31, 2014, 06:09:23 PM »
If they are holding your hood/ponytail, their crotch is woefully undefended. A furious attack on that Maginot Line of anatomy will likely yield results.

Gin1984

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #24 on: August 31, 2014, 06:23:54 PM »
If they are holding your hood/ponytail, their crotch is woefully undefended. A furious attack on that Maginot Line of anatomy will likely yield results.
Actually they can protect their groin by simple lifting their knee.  Given the size differential between most men and women, this does not stop them from holding you. 

Mrs. Frugalwoods

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #25 on: August 31, 2014, 06:24:41 PM »
First let me say I'm sorry you're in this situation. When I lived alone in a very dodgy part of Brooklyn a few years, I had a long walk from the subway to my apartment, which I usually had to make after dark, alone. My strategy was to make friends with the shopkeepers along my route. These were mostly bodega-style, rather dodgy shops themselves, BUT, the owners had a vested interest in keeping their storefronts safe. So, I made a point to buy something from each shop periodically and to chat with the owners. They were fascinated by why I was living there and were very nice to me. So, over time, my route involved me waving and greeting all of the shopkeepers on my way home. I don't know if this made me safer, but I certainly felt better knowing they recognized me every day. Not sure if you could employ this same strategy? And let me reiterate that these were dingy, gross, graffiti-covered shops--but again, nice folks who were happy to talk with me.

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #26 on: August 31, 2014, 06:34:01 PM »
If they are holding your hood/ponytail, their crotch is woefully undefended. A furious attack on that Maginot Line of anatomy will likely yield results.
Actually they can protect their groin by simple lifting their knee.  Given the size differential between most men and women, this does not stop them from holding you.

If they are lifting their knee, they aren't raping you!

Gin1984

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #27 on: August 31, 2014, 06:46:37 PM »
If they are holding your hood/ponytail, their crotch is woefully undefended. A furious attack on that Maginot Line of anatomy will likely yield results.
Actually they can protect their groin by simple lifting their knee.  Given the size differential between most men and women, this does not stop them from holding you.

If they are lifting their knee, they aren't raping you!
But they can keep hurting you.  It only takes one hand to hold you, they put their knee up and then they hurt you with their other hand.  They also can be using that hand to remove your pants or sexual violate you in a way that does not require their penis.  Using a technique that is known to fail, as well as wearing something that is known to be used by attackers is not my idea of a good idea or two.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #28 on: August 31, 2014, 06:49:57 PM »
Just a quick reply for now on three points:

1. I'm pretty sure anything like mace is illegal in the UK. We are not keen on weapons. I have heard about spray deodorant being useful in a similar way, though...?

2. I freelance so not only do I not have a kindly employer to pay for taxis, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that each contract I take is in a different area. I live in a fairly safe area with a few iffy patches, but I know it very well so know the best routes to take and know what's round every corner. If I'm on a job for a few days, I don't get to know local shopkeepers or even the layout of local streets off the most direct route.

3. Are there any statistics on average attackers/victims? It might make me feel better!

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #29 on: August 31, 2014, 06:51:43 PM »
If they are holding your hood/ponytail, their crotch is woefully undefended. A furious attack on that Maginot Line of anatomy will likely yield results.
Actually they can protect their groin by simple lifting their knee.  Given the size differential between most men and women, this does not stop them from holding you.

If they are lifting their knee, they aren't raping you!
But they can keep hurting you.  It only takes one hand to hold you, they put their knee up and then they hurt you with their other hand.  They also can be using that hand to remove your pants or sexual violate you in a way that does not require their penis.  Using a technique that is known to fail, as well as wearing something that is known to be used by attackers is not my idea of a good idea or two.

Touche, salesman. I guess in that case, they can attack those other vulnerable areas you mentioned. I think it'd be smart to equip the +8 Thumbs of Anti-Rape and poke those things through their eyeballs and goosh around in their noodle a bit.

Goldielocks

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #30 on: September 01, 2014, 09:23:49 AM »
First let me say I'm sorry you're in this situation. When I lived alone in a very dodgy part of Brooklyn a few years, I had a long walk from the subway to my apartment, which I usually had to make after dark, alone. My strategy was to make friends with the shopkeepers along my route. These were mostly bodega-style, rather dodgy shops themselves, BUT, the owners had a vested interest in keeping their storefronts safe. So, I made a point to buy something from each shop periodically and to chat with the owners. They were fascinated by why I was living there and were very nice to me. So, over time, my route involved me waving and greeting all of the shopkeepers on my way home. I don't know if this made me safer, but I certainly felt better knowing they recognized me every day. Not sure if you could employ this same strategy? And let me reiterate that these were dingy, gross, graffiti-covered shops--but again, nice folks who were happy to talk with me.

+1!

greenmimama

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #31 on: September 01, 2014, 10:19:01 AM »
If mace is illegal, do they sell wasp spray? this shoots up to 12-20ft.

I'm sorry you are feeling vulnerable, it is a terrible feeling. Any way you could carpool home with people? not even from your office, but maybe a friend of a friend who works close to you? Ask around, you never know.

Phil_Moore

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #32 on: September 01, 2014, 10:23:03 AM »
I would be careful carrying sprays for such purposes, I think the law is a little iffy on that.

Can I ask which areas you are talking about? I've been in London a few years now and very few places seem overtly threatening compared to other cities where I've lived. I appreciate I'm a man though so it is different.

Even if they won't pay for a cab couldn't someone escort you to the station/bus stop or whatever from a freelance gig if it's in a really dodgy location where you feel unsafe?  They would have to be pretty rude to say no.

Other than that some good advice above.  I'm not sure if statistics will do anything to allay your fears while walking at night but if I remember my dissertation correctly it is generally true that the groups of people who report as most afraid of being a victim of crime (white people, women and the elderly) are considerably less likely to be victims of crime.  Although it might just be that they are more likely to admit to being afraid when asked...This isn't helping.

neophyte

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #33 on: September 01, 2014, 12:32:05 PM »
A few years ago when I was taking a metal working class, I made a ring.  It's made from a few scraps of copper, the tallest is a triangular point sticking up about 1.5-2 cm.  It's sharp enough and the metal is strong enough that it would definitely break skin and inflict a fair amount of pain whether it's facing out and you are punching or facing your palm and you are slapping or grabbing.

It's also stylish in an artsy way and unobtrusive enough that I can wear it work.  I actually get loads of compliments on this ring. The copper is a little tarnished (artsy) so it doesn't look shiny or valuable in a way that would make it stand out and attract unwanted attention on the street.  The downside is it snags sweaters like crazy.

It won't keep someone away, but if someone were to approach and get physical, I feel like I'd have a little advantage over having nothing on me. I don't know how practical it would actually be if push came to shove, but it does give a little psychological confidence boost, and it's been pointed out that confidence does help.

Maybe you could find or make something similar.  I'd just avoid anything that would look shiny or glittery enough to make someone think it might be worth stealing.

DoubleDown

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #34 on: September 01, 2014, 02:05:23 PM »
I discussed in the similar thread why sprays are a poor choice for personal protection. Besides the possible legality issues in the UK, they just don't work well other than as a submission/compliance tool for authorities. Anyone would be much better off choosing a more direct weapon, and you can find plenty of weapons that aren't even weapons (like my kubotan (keychain) recommendation, or other suggestions people have made here for non-weapon weapons).

To sum up the objections against pepper spray/mace/other sprays: Unlikely to be able to deploy it quickly and under duress; requires fine motor movements that are going to fail under duress; limited number of sprays; difficult to aim right at the face; high likelihood of literal "blowback" or of being used against you, particularly in close quarters; relatively easy to take away; unlikely to hit multiple attackers; does not significantly affect a non-trivial number of people for whatever reason; definitely categorized as a weapon and will be restricted from carrying (legally) in many places.

MBot

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #35 on: September 01, 2014, 10:12:05 PM »
Walking confidently has been said. The suggestion to nod at your neighbours is good too.

From my prior neighbourhood:

1. I always wear my neutral/not bright purse on a cross-body strap and keep an arm over it. It's not easy to just grab it and  it doesn't attract much attention.

2. I carry my keys clenched in one hand so they're ready for the door and could be an improvised weapon.

3. A simple long black winter coat, single-breasted, was my winter "uniform" that wouldn't draw much attention. 

BlueHouse

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Re: Staying safe in scary urban areas
« Reply #36 on: September 09, 2014, 02:14:42 PM »
Quote
A set of house keys pointing out between the knuckles would be OK. Met Police advice on safety is here -

Please do not perpetuate this as safety.  If you do not understand why, place your keys between your knuckles and apply any amount of pressure.  Completely ineffective.  The keys slide backwards into the soft palm of your hand.  It does nothing except leave you undefended.