How to stay safe in a crowd

Image: Robert Swier: Still, in a Crowd CC x2.0

It’s finally summer, which means it’s time for traveling, festivals, holidays and sporting events. Unfortunately, the warmer weather and seasonal holidays often lead to crowded streets. Humans are social beings, so it isn’t surprising that you may end up in a big crowd at some point this summer. However, it’s important to stay cautious in a crowd, if only because the increased number of people can translate to an increased number of muggers, identity thieves and other individuals who wish you harm. I like to look for the best in people, but it’s essential to prepare for the worst!

Here are some tips to keep you and yours safe in a crowd this summer:

1.) Carry your belongings in a cross-body bag. It can be tempting to distribute the weight of your bag on both shoulders by using a backpack, but fight the urge! Backpacks are easy to break into, and most times you won’t even know you’ve been robbed until you get out of the crowd. A cross-body bag is hard to break into and sticks tight to your side. Get one with a secure zipper, and keep a hand on it while you’re in a crowded area.

2.) Park in a busy and well-lit area. It’s not unusual for thieves to target parked cars at many concerts and sporting events– the owners are at the event, completely unaware that their car is being robbed. To avoid this, get to your event early and find a parking spot close to the entrance and surrounded by other cars. Preferably, get close to a busy street with foot traffic. The best way to protect your car is to park in a pay lot, since many of them have guards. However, if you are abroad or in an area threatened by terrorist attacks or natural disasters, you should also balance the need to park in an area you can easily escape from. Underground parking garages, while safer for your car and belongings, can be hard to escape from in a hurry. In this case, it depends on the situation.

3.) Have a planned meeting place. If you’re traveling with a group, it’s important to have a plan in case you get separated in a crowd. Speak to every member of your group before you enter the crowd and make sure they know where to meet if they get separated. Easily recognizable and public landmarks are the best for meeting spots– a specific food vendor, outside a restroom, at a ticket booth, etc. Make sure your meeting spot is in a busy, public area. You don’t want to get even more lost trying to find your meeting spot!

4.) Keep your phone charged and bring an external charger with you. Pretty self-explanatory. Your phone is your lifeline in a dangerous situation, make sure it’s ready to go.

5.) Steer clear of drugs and alcohol. Both recreational drugs and alcohol can dehydrate you and make you more susceptible to thieves and others who wish you harm. They also impact your judgement and make it harder to stay safe. If you’re in a crowded area, drink lots of bottled water and keep yourself alert. It’s tempting to have a few drinks at a concert or festival (and by all means, have a good time!) but remember to stay aware of your surroundings and remember your emergency escape plan.

Stay safe this summer!