By Grant J Everett
Going out at night is fun. That’s why people do it. But many an enjoyable Friday evening has been ruined by muggers, coward punches, and a seemingly limitless amount of people who drink way more than they can handle. And while we want to stress that it’s rare for a night out to end with somebody getting jumped, there are a lot of common-sense precautions we can take to greatly reduce our chances of being a target. Prevention is always easier, quicker and more effective than repair.
One of the biggest factors in how safe your night out will be is WHERE you go. While some postcodes are inherently more dangerous than others, you cannot say with certainty that visiting any public place or venue at night will be safe. The later it is, the drunker people will get, and the chances that someone might say or do something they otherwise wouldn’t will get higher and higher.
There is safety in numbers, and a group is a less tempting target than an individual. It also makes clubbing a lot more fun! If you are on your own at night, even for just a few streets, use common sense. Walking somewhere secluded, like a darkened park or an empty lot, is a bad idea. Even if it’s only a few streets from your own neighbourhood, it’s best to stick to streets that are well-lit and have traffic going past. Taking an extra five minutes to get to where you’re going is a small price to pay.
If you’re not planning on driving, the Trip Planner site can help you figure out exactly what buses and trains will get you to your destination and back again. The less you hang out around isolated train stations and bus stops at night, the better. And don’t cut it too close: if you miss a bus at five to midnight, you might be waiting hours for the next one.
While you might not want to part with $15 for a taxi home, if the only alternative is wandering the back streets halfway until dawn, you’re better off ponying up the money. This is another advantage of going out in a group, as splitting a taxi three or four ways is much more cost effective than a taxi for one.
Showing that you are aware of your surroundings will make you a less desirable target, so pay attention to who’s near you. No need to make eye contact or anything like that; just keep their presence in mind. Talking on a mobile phone can make this difficult, which is why it’s illegal to drive and use a phone at the same time. Use body language that makes you look confident and bored rather than scared or unsure.
It’s important not to advertise anything that people might want to steal. For instance, try not to have your wallet or purse out except when it’s necessary, like if you have to pay for something. If the wrong person sees you have a lot of money on you, they may try and take it if the opportunity presents itself. Same goes for withdrawing money from an ATM or with EFTPOS: cover the keypad with one hand, and don’t let anyone see your PIN or receipt. If you have a handbag, secure the strap around your hand so somebody can’t easily snatch it. Prevention is especially important here, because if a thief takes something of yours and bolts away, chasing them might lead to a much worse situation.
If you’re going to a club, excessive drinking can lower your inhibitions and lead to making poor decisions. A situation that you might have easily managed sober could turn dangerous or violent without those inhibitions holding you back. Know what your limit is, and don’t test it.
Good manners make a big difference anywhere, including clubs. Be polite, don’t push in line, don’t say smart-alec things to anybody, don’t stare at anyone, and don’t bump anybody. If you poke the bull, you might get the horns.
Don’t do anything to escalate a situation. If somebody is having a go or generally carrying on foolishly, leave. Getting into an argument with somebody who’s been enjoying too many drinks or just had a bad day can lead to violence, such as coward punches. If there are dramas at a venue, don’t put yourself in the firing line: that’s why all pubs and clubs have security guards.
Any martial arts expert worth their salt will tell you that the best self-defence technique of all is known as “running away at top speed”. There is nothing weak in avoiding people who are out to cause trouble. Bullies and standovers rarely fight fair, and if they’re with some equally foolish mates, there’s a good chance that the whole group will get involved in whatever happens, too.
Sometimes running isn’t an option. If you are mugged by somebody with a weapon, especially multiple muggers as is usually the case, being a hero is a bad idea. Don’t try and disarm them, or attempt to use any other tricks you saw in an action movie. It rarely ends well. Honestly, your wallet, cash, cards and phone can all be replaced. Your life can’t be.
If you are being chased or get into trouble and can’t get away, yelling the word “FIRE” will draw more attention than “HELP”.