How to Avoid Attack and Some Defense Measures Crime in L.A. - Los Angeles magazine

How to Avoid Attack and Some Defense Measures

These lists of safety tips accompanied “Are You As Safe As You Think?” a story that ran in Los Angeles magazine in August 1980. From staying in well-lit areas to locking your doors at night, Laurel Fingler’s tips remain useful today

Published August 1980.

How to Avoid Attack

Okay, so you know the rapists, muggers and murderers have invaded the palm-lined boulevards of L.A. The question now is, How can you avoid attack? The following are, unfortunately, some hardly foolproof precautions.

  • Stay in lighted areas. Avoid dark alleys, shortcuts and unfamiliar streets where someone can grab you from the shadows.
  • Act like you know where you’re going, even if you don’t. Criminals are more likely to attack someone who looks lost.
  • Watch for anyone following you. Scream before an attack.
  • Carry keys in your hand. A mugger may be discouraged by the possibility of a key jammed into his eye.
  • The beach and park attract lovers at night—but also muggers and rapists.
  • Walk on the left side of the street to prevent someone in a car driving from alongside beside you.
  • Run in the opposite direction if trying to escape from a car.
  • Don’t get into an elevator with a suspicious character.
  • Check the back seat of your car before climbing in.
  • Leave half a car length between your car and the one in front when stopped at a traffic light. In an emergency, you can turn the car around to escape. 
  • All-night markets are termed “stop and rob” markets by police. Avoid shopping at 4 a.m.
  • If you have car trouble on the freeway, stall as near a call box as you can; after you call, get back into your car, lock all the doors, and wait for the highway patrol or the AAA. If another car pulls up, stay inside and keep the doors locked.
  • Deadbolt all outside doors to your home and keep them locked at all times.
  • Don’t enter your home if you suspect it’s been burglarized—the burglar may still be inside. Go directly to a neighbor’s house and call the police.

Some Defense Measures

Avoiding dark alleys, triple bolting the front door and refusing rides from strangers won’t guarantee you’ll be immune from attack. The same goes for prudence, caution and a pinch of paranoia. But the sad fact is that there is no universal attack repellent. Citizens can take control of their lives via self-defense measures; however, law-enforcement officials are divided on their benefits and pitfalls. Which means, the choice is up to you.

Mace and tear gas
Most police stations offer the necessary three-hour course for certification to buy and use Mace and tear gas, which are easy to handle, lightweight and readily available. But it may not ward off assailants; instead, it could incite them to further violence.

A gun may provide a sense of security, but most police agree that using one for self-defense purposes often means that the wrong person gets shot.

Martial arts
Pasadena police chief Bob McGowan believes self-defense courses alert a person to mentally prepare for an attack. Sergeant Raymond Champagne disagrees, saying, “I’m a black belt in judo, and I don’t think it will help someone at all unless the person has a full commitment to the martial arts. A little knowledge can be very bad.”

Loud noises
Whistles and piercing screams can scare off an attacker.  Detective Gordon Bowers of the Burbank Police says, “If you see a guy a block away coming at you, you should scream. He’s not going to run 100 yards to get at you while you’re screaming.”

Emptying purse
Dumping the contents of your purse onto the sidewalk can thwart a purse snatcher. Few muggers will pause to pick up the debris, especially if you are also screaming at the top of your lungs.

Other methods
A lowly pencil can be deadly weapon if used correctly, but know what you’re doing. Says Bowers, “If you ram the pencil all the way through the attacker’s throat, it’s going to stop him. If you give him a little poke, he’s going to get mad and maybe kill you.”

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