It’s easy (especially if you watch a lot of television) to associate successful self defense with bigger walls, stronger locks, and more barriers between you and danger. In fact though, we’re generally safer if we reach out and make connections with other people. Isolating ourselves and restricting our activity doesn’t guarantee safety, and it prevents us from the living the kind of active, fulfilling life that’s worth defending in the first place. This week, we’re going to build some connections that will make us safer, better informed, and more connected to people who can help us when we need it.
- Find a reliable source of solid facts about crime in your area. Does your city or town make police reports available to the public? Does your school report crimes committed on campus? Austin, Texas, for example, has an online Crime Map that allows residents to look up reported crimes in different neighborhoods. If your community doesn’t have such a tool, contact your city council or police department and request it.
- Identify at least three people who can be part of your personal safety network, and add their names to your email or phone contact list. These can be formal or informal contacts: Who is your neighborhood’s police liaison? Have you met the block captain for your local Crime Watch? What’s the name of that friendly person you see every Sunday morning at the dog park? Take an opportunity to introduce yourself to the people who have a stake in your community, explain your interest in safety, and establish a relationship.
- Follow up! Networks are more valuable if you work them regularly, prompting people to share information and cooperate on problem-solving. If your local news station reports on an attempted assault, for example, get the reporter’s name and follow up—was a suspect arrested? Are the police seeking witnesses? Have there been similar crimes in the area? If a suspicious person has been seen outside a local school, find out if anyone has reported the problem. Gather information from witnesses, and make a plan in case the person shows up again.
For the rest of the week, try connecting with individuals, organizations, and networks that can help keep you safe. Identify common safety concerns, and start a dialog about addressing those concerns.
By Friday, you should have a growing list of links, names and connections that you can utilize to make your world a safer place. These are the people you can talk to about safety, and the organizations you can work with to prevent and solve security problems.
Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with some of these online tools and information sources:
- The U.S. Department of Justice hosts the online Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics database. There, anyone can access federal data on property crime and violent crime (murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault), Results are searchable by specific offense, year, and city, county, or state.
- The National Council for Behavioral Health offers training in Mental Health First Aid, including signs of addiction and mental illness and a 5-step action plan to assess a crisis situation and help.
- Most colleges have safety plans in place for various emergencies, such as these at the University of Texas at Austin. If you’re a student, find out about emergency preparedness at your institution. If no plans are readily available, ask why.
Do you know of some other good resources? Share them here in the comments or Tweet them with the hashtag #FearLessFridays.
Let’s use the next five days to make ourselves safer and more powerful! Check in below in the comments to share how things are going—or Tweet your responses to @SusanSchorn, hashtag #FearLessFridays. You can find all the FearLess Fridays activities on the main page.