"Don't look at your phone!" We hear it all the time, but this self-defense advice is vague, it ignores the practical realities of life, and it is just bad pedagogy. We don't build or break habits by being told what not to do. But rather what we can do.
To build street smart habits, rather than thinking about not looking at your phone, try a different approach.
When you are out and about, actively look for the best times and places that you might use your phone. As you move through your physical environment look for those times and places. Bonus: That practice helps you become an expert of your environment!
My go-to's for checking my phone in public for necessary info (Note: I'm not talking scrolling IG while you walk down the street, I'm talking about those times you legit need to use your phone to communicate or gather information):
Ducking into a store off the street
Back against the wall with one eye out for those passing by
Keep your head up and gaze at around 90* - putting your head down reduces your environmental visibility
Empty spaces are great places to check - just keep in mind that in public that can change at any moment
I love a good long, empty escalator too - its harder for anyone to sneak up on you there.
Now here comes the big dose of reality:
Phone robberies in L.A. are up HARD right now (and are now more frequently including gun violence) so the best place for your phone is out of sight when you don't need it.
As of March 5, 2021 L.A. had recorded 64 homicides and 267 shootings, compared with 46 homicides and 111 shootings at the same point last year. A full analysis from LAPD is still pending, but here’s what we know so far of the most recent 18 shootings:
14 occurred on the street
Gang ties have only been made in 2 of those 18
They are not concentrated to one area or time - there is no yet determined pattern of time or place (even “nice areas” like Beverly Hills have been hit)
Most frequently stolen items: cash and cell phones
At least 5 of the robbery / gun shot victims struggled with the assailant before being shot
Overlapping with the increase in robbery related shootings:
Street vendors are being targeted
Wilshire and Fairfax areas are seeing a string of robberies for expensive watches
Hate crimes against Asian-Americans continues to increase - most frequent targets are the elderly (because racists are punk-ass bitches)
The big take-aways:
Your stuff is just a means to an end for desperate people
Keep your valuables at home or at least out of sight
Don’t struggle over property - it is replaceable, your life is not and there is no self-defense against a discharged bullet
We have to look out for our Asian neighbors
As always, read past sensationalized headlines and social media posts to fully understand the trends - compare available information to your victim profile and adjust accordingly.
Your phone can be a tool that keeps you safer with its communication and navigation features. It can also make you a target. Being street smart means being strategic when you use it.