Meg asked a good question in the comments to today’s scanner report: how can you avoid becoming a victim of street crime?
I called up Mike Yasutake, the Crime Prevention Coordinator for the East Precinct. Here’s his tips:
- At night, stick to well-lit areas, avoiding shortcuts through dark or otherwise sketchy areas.
- If you carry a purse, consider wearing it on the inside of your coat
- Travel light: Backpacks are often a target because so many people carry laptops in them
- Be aware of your situation. Don’t walk around with your iPod volume jacked up where you can’t hear anything else around you
- Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, change direction and don’t put yourself in a position where you can be victimized.
- If you have a cell phone, consider putting 911 on speed dial
- Avoid wearing visible, expensive jewelery that could make you a target
- Wear sensible shoes. It’s hard to escape bad situations in heels
- If you carry mace or pepper spray, make sure it’s easily accessible and know that it may not be effective on a windy or rainy day
- Walk with a purpose, head up, self-assured, and know where you’re going
There’s a whole list of tips at http://www.cityofseattle.net/police/prevention/Personal/streetsmarts.htm, and Mike is available to come out and talk to your and your neighbors, blockwatch, or other organization any time. You can reach him at 206-684-7717.
For a different perspective, I was talking with a neighborhood pastor at the last EPCPC meeting who has experience ministering to some of the young gang members and gang-wannabes we all see on the street. He made a suggestion that surprised me, saying that it’s not always the right choice to avoid and walk around these groups of kids when you encounter them on the street. He says that respect is the major factor in their world, and that consciously avoiding them is a big sign of disrespect, and that it’s actually preferable to walk through them and offer a polite “how are you all doing today?” type of greeting.
Again, trust your gut in all situations. But also realize that the overall crime rate in our neighborhood and the city at large is relatively low, so don’t let any of this stuff freak you out and make you stay indoors.
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Oddly enough, I have to agree with the Pastor you spoke with, Scott. I had a big group of guys walk by my house the other day as I was putting my kids in the car. One of them cussed, and I just said “Hey, Children present!” kind of in a reproachful tone. They all looked ashamed, and said “Sorry, Ma’am”. And as they kept walking said “shoot” and “dang”, etc. It was really interesting. Where I don’t find any respect is with the transient or ‘crack heads’ that aimlessly wander around the neighborhood, and just smoke it as they go. It’s fun to explain that to a 5 year old…
I second what the pastor said too. Avoidance reinforces fear. Treating people like people usually works out pretty well.
Hilarious. If I ever do go shopping for a taser, I’d totally pick pink camo bedazzled with swarovski crystals. Or maybe leopard. ;)
I have to ask about the suggestion of walking up to them and treating them as if they are just another person: If they are “gang banger” types, dressed the part, speaking the part and behaving the part, are we not condoning their behavior by accepting it? If it’s just a bunch of kids in clothing that does not appear normal to me (40) then, yes, it’s better to acknowledge as they likely are harmless. But if they are “G” (pardon the term) then why treat them as a normal citizen and accept them? Please understand this is a question and not a statement, I am simply trying to gather other’s opinions.
we have always felt that treating all of our neighbors (homeowners, transients, and gangstas) with respect makes the neighborhood a safer place. i am especially careful to address the groups of teens by flo ware park just as i would anyone else and almost always receive polite responses. if we treat people like they are dangerous, we reinforce their behavior. of course we have to be sensible if people are overtly aggressive, but avoiding the “G’s” just reinforces the us vs. them mentality.
Didn’t mean to be glib with my comment. I was speaking more about my take on how to increase your own personal safety and confidence than making a general comment about accepting gangstas in the neighborhood.
I think that generally, crossing the street to avoid walking by a cluster of guys only reinforces your fear, and makes it more likely for you to want to avoid them in the future. I’ve had better luck just walking through, saying hey, looking people in the eyes, and treating the situation casually. I think that type of approach conveys respect and a lack of fear, and usually results in getting the same treatment back from them.
If your gut tells you to avoid a situation, or you encounter something that appears to be volatile, you should of course pay attention to your instincts.