Your personal safety outside your home is as much a mind-set as anything else.
While at home, you can protect yourself with fences, burglar bars and locked security gates. Once behind your physical defence measures you can relax because you feel safe. You can focus completely on reading, watching TV, listening to music, or working. You can stop paying attention to anything beyond arm’s reach. Even a disturbance in the street outside may take a while to impinge on your consciousness. Your home is meant to be safe.
As soon as you leave home, your only protection is your AWARENESS of the environment you will be moving through.
Take a walk around your block. How many people are in the street? Are they walking away from you or toward you? Those walking away you can ignore – for now. Do you know or at least recognise those walking toward you? Those you know or at least recognise you can probably ignore, unless you recognise one as a potential threat or a nuisance. Strangers walking with purpose are probably passing through on the way to or from home or the Railway station. They probably feel as unsafe as you do! Look at them and greet them cheerfully – it may sound daft, but a little friendliness sent into the world does no harm!
People walking aimlessly may just be pre-occupied with their own troubles, or simply out for a stroll – or they may be on the lookout for an opportunity to get up to no good. Learn to “read” body language and demeanour to tell the difference. Look at them and greet them too – if they have a guilty conscience, they’ll read that as “I see you… I have noticed you!”
Notice people talking on their mobile phones, paying absolutely no attention to their surroundings. An alert thief could snatch the phone and be around the corner before the victim was even aware of being followed. They would be unable to give a useful description to Grit or to the Police.
Decide that you won’t make yourself as vulnerable! If you have to take a call in public, STOP, move back against a wall or fence, and LOOK UP, LOOK AROUND AND LOOK OUT. Even if you do have to concentrate on the call, your body language at least suggests that you are paying attention to your surroundings. Reminding yourself to LOOK UP, LOOK AROUND AND LOOK OUT will hopefully also remind you to actually pay attention.
If you have a gate or a garage on the street, survey the street as you approach slowly. Your car radio should have been switched off before you entered your own neighbourhood. If you have an automated gate, experiment to find out how far away you can activate it. Only turn into the garage or driveway when the gate is fully open, keeping a wary eye ahead and on your rear view mirrors until you are in the garage or on your property, then get out of the car immediately and turn to face the entrance.
If you need to take something such as a laptop out of the trunk, do it in stages, looking around frequently, and wear the strap over your head, not just on your shoulder.
If you need to lock the garage door, have the right key ready, in the lock if possible, with your car keys and your house keys safely in your pocket or handbag. Close, bolt and lock the door in stages, applying the principle of LOOK UP, LOOK AROUND AND LOOK OUT throughout. (More on keys in a future Post!)
Some people may resist these suggestions by saying “I don’t want to live my life in a state of paranoia”. Fear arises partly from not having a plan to deal with a threat, so by making a habit of being aware of your surroundings you will in fact empower yourself by being open to early warning signs of potential trouble.
Understand that “Opportunistic Crime” does not mean “Casual”. You have to pay at least as much attention as the “skollies” who are actively on the lookout for you to provide them with an opportunity.