Be alert. Be vigilant. Be safe.
Guest contributor and social worker Vicky Ang shares her thoughts on safety and survival in a big and dangerous city.
I have been constantly warned of the dangers that lurk around corners of the big city since moving to Kuala Lumpur in my late teens. Since then, there have been thousands of murders, rape cases, kidnap cases and probably even more cases like pick-pocketing, harassment, the list goes on.
Nevertheless, there are still youngsters or ignorant individuals who wander around cities unarmed with the knowledge they should know to survive its surroundings.
Below you will find the most basic and yet the most useful information that could help you stay safe in a big city.
- When at home or going to your vehicle.
Make sure your locks are working and that you use them. It is useful to have a fire escape plan at home, too. Always check that you are not followed when you reach your home or vehicle, and always have your keys ready to get inside.
- When in public places.
You need to be alert at all times. No matter how excited or carried away you may be, you NEED to remain aware of your surroundings and guard your belongings at all times.
It may seem like a cool plan to ignore the world by plugging in to your choice of music but it is a really bad idea to do so outside your safe zone. You could easily get mugged, have your things picked from your bag or pocket or get knocked down by oncoming traffic. Your room is probably the only safe place to plug in and get lost in your music.
There may be times when you feel like getting away from everything and even risk taking a walk around to cool off. Reality check, buddy. A scenario that sees you running into trouble will double up your stress anytime. It is really not advisable to go for a solo walk, especially during the wee hours of the morning and late hours at night, unless there are other people nearby who could help you when you get into trouble.
For lone rangers and introverts, this isn’t good news. It is actually safer to be in pairs or groups than to be alone. The risk of someone wanting to attack you when you are with another is much less compared to when you are alone. On the other hand, do not let yourself be so distracted by company that you lower your guard!
Remember the ‘do not talk to strangers’ advice your parents gave you as a child? Well, as adults it is hard not to talk to strangers as you may need to ask for information such as directions. However, following or going somewhere with another stranger is also a really bad idea – almost the equivalent of a character in a murder or horror movie that blindly heads to the basement or the attic despite all the creepy warning signals.
When something is too good to be true, it usually is! It seems a bit sad to be unable to have faith in humanity. As a rule, just remind yourself not to accept kindness blindly. Food and drinks could so easily be drugged and someone asking you to follow him or her may lead you to being kidnapped.
Do not be so occupied with your phone as well. One second you’re messaging a friend, the next, it’s been swiped from your hand. Snatch thieves can snatch phones off the user’s hands and within seconds escape on their getaway vehicle.
Never leave your things unattended. A stranger or newly-met acquaintance may also not be the best person to leave your things with at any point. This applies to airports as well. Never accept the responsibility of taking care of another passenger’s baggage – particularly a stranger’s – while they go off somewhere.
- When you are commuting by public transport.
To avoid being cheated by taxi drivers or even other public transport officers, always check online or with available phone applications of the estimated cost and time of travel you would need. Checking the route would also be a good idea as you would notice if something is amiss.
It is common to enter a bus or a train and find yourself squeezing with crowds of people. This could also be a good opportunity for someone with bad intentions to pick your bag or your pockets.
In view of this, always keep your valuables in between books or clothing material inside the biggest compartment of your bag. If they try to pick the corners or the front pockets, they would probably end up with nothing. Oh, and do make sure your bags are properly closed!
If you need money to commute, have some loose change available but don’t leave your purse or wallet exposed. Make sure your phone is not clearly visible for others to see.
Valuables inside your pockets whether front or back could just be a very bad idea in a crowded public transport. Many friends have shared that a bump they experienced from a stranger had led to their valuables being stolen. To note, bags without zippers or closures are just not appropriate while commuting in public transport in crowded cities!
There used to be a time when taking power naps on public transport was possible. The same can’t be said for today. Even when you are taking a nap when travelling on public transport that travels from a city to another (which could sometimes go up to a few good hours) please ensure that your belongings are safe within your clutches before you let your eyelids drop.
We are blessed with gut feelings that help us sometimes. Please do not mistake it for paranoia though. When you feel that something is not right with the situation, take off. This could save you from getting into unnecessary hot soup.
There are some who may think that they can ‘handle’ the situation. I have friends who suffered physical injuries due to hold-up situations they tried ‘handling’. Safety first and avoid dodgy or sticky situations.
How you take care of yourself and your belongings (the way you carry your bag, handle your money, etcetera) or present yourself actually can lower your risk to all these lurking dangers. Oblivious and ignorant individuals are usually targets of attack.
In the years of living in dodgy areas in the big city and another, and by heeding my mother’s advice that it’s better to be safe than sorry, it was possible to avoid getting into unnecessary trouble or suffer unnecessary losses.
You CAN avoid danger. Just don’t forget to be alert, be vigilant and be safe.