So, in the past six years I have moved around between Saskatoon and Regina, two small high-crime prairie cities, and from there to Montreal, a surprisingly low-crime massive city. I get a bit into comparing the crime rates here.
Not to be all paranoid and assuming that everyone lurking in an alley is out to get you -- my sister, with her random acts of kindness policy towards the homeless and downtrodden has proven that that isn't true-- the reality is that addicts, people with psychological issues, and people who are just plain desperate are out there, and they may have their own reasons for behaving in ways that harm others.
Now, I'm the sort of girl who has never needed a man to walk me home. Saskatoon, Regina, or Montreal, I like to be out and about unescorted at all hours -- six in the morning right through to three in the morning. I have performed a few little social experiments to see what sort of practices on my part makes me more of a target for harassment by the local wildlife, and what practices help me to blend into the background. I guess what I'm trying to do here is to write down a few common-sense ways a girl on her own can wander around in relative safety.
1) Don't dress like you have money, or drugs: That is to say, dress plainly. You'll blend into the background. Invariably, I have experienced the most insistent harassment for spare change when I am dressed up in a skirt and heels, looking like I might have some money to burn. Dressing like you yourself live on the street isn't really the safest option either, as you may appear as a source of illicit drugs. For me, scummy jeans, a plain t-shirt, a slouchy sweater, running shoes, and unbrushed hair works best. You really do become invisible.
2) Walk with purpose: Even if you're not going anywhere in particular, walk like you are. Don't loiter, don't gape, don't wander in circles looking mildly confused, and for the love of God, don't look lost. All of those things are like hanging out an "I'm vulnerable, have at me" sign.
3) Remain aware of your surroundings: If you must have your headphones in, turn them down. Make sure you can at least somewhat hear what is going on around you. Also, keep your eyes moving as though you are driving (minus the rearview mirror check, because that would just be silly). Look far ahead, look closer nearby, look a bit to the left, look a bit to the right. This has saved me some unpleasant encounters, like the time I spotted two obviously high young men emerging whooping and hollering from a building and wandering down the sidewalk screaming in the faces of passersby. It could also save you someone sneaking up on you and grabbing your purse.
4) Make it difficult to grab anything of value: Wrap your pursestrap around your thumb, or wear it slung across your body. Don't keep your wallet in a pocket unless the pocket zips or snaps shut. Securely holding your things makes you less of a target.
5) Don't wear stupid shoes: I'm bad at this. But if you're gonna be in a "bad" part of town late, make sure you have shoes you feel safe running in. Just in case.
6) Avoid deserted streets in non-residential or sketchy residential areas: Generally, a deserted street in a wealthier, more well-patrolled neighborhood is safe. But if you've gotta be out in a "bad" area or downtown at two or three in the morning, try to stay where it is well-lit, and where there are other people still around en masse. Preferably still businesses open as well (though things that are open late are nearly impossible to find in Saskatoon, Regina, and Montreal. Go figure, something they all have in common).
7) Make it apparent that you have a phone: I have never been accosted while talking on the phone. If there is no one to walk with me (which is almost always), I will call someone back home to chatter to while I walk. That way, if something were to go wrong, someone out there would know instantly. Don't get super lost in the conversation . . .still pay attention to where you are. But having another person "present" can be as much of a deterrent to anyone who might want to do you harm as having someone physically at your side.
SO, now that ya'll think I'm super paranoid, I guess I'll sign off for today. Happy Saturday!