Walking Boston streets can be safe and sound

by Beacon Staff • February 14, 2007

According to Morgan Quitno Press (morganquitno.,Emerson is known for its prime location in downtown Boston, but being in such an urban area has its downfalls. Students are more susceptible to becoming victims of petty theft and being followed by potentially dangerous strangers.

According to Morgan Quitno Press (morganquitno.com), which collects its data from yearly figures released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston is ranked 57th out of the 371 most dangerous cities in the US, with St. Louis, Mo., being the most dangerous, and Brick, N.J., being the safest.

Emerson students, whether they live on campus or off, in areas like Beacon Hill, the South End and Cambridge, are exposed to the danger of potential attacks on a daily basis, especially when coming home from evening classes, extra-curricular activities or parties in dark winter hours.

Luciana Almeida, a freshman broadcast journalism major, lives in Belmont and uses both MBTA trains and busses to get home from her Research Writing class, which ends at 7:45 p.m. She said she feels safer riding the subway than taking the bus.

"I think it's because the [subway] station is a more closed space, while bus station stops are available for people to just sit there and watch you," she said before going home on a recent Wednesday night.

Almeida isn't the only one who seems to think this way. Many students interviewed agree with her, citing that the subway stations have become much safer since the MBTA installed cameras to record possible terrorist activity as a reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While there has been no real terrorist threat yet, the cameras have helped catch many criminals operating in subway stations at night.

Another reason for a safer feeling might be the now-omnipresent personnel at the fare collector's booth at the entrance of every station.

Kyler Taustin, a sophomore theatre major, lives in the North End and has not had any unpleasant encounters with strangers yet.

"Haymarket can be sometimes sketchy where I get off, but I never have any problems," he says.

Although most students feel safe walking around Boston, it is better to be prepared than to be caught off guard when encountering a strange and possibly threatening situation.

The Department of Public Safety at the college has no record of Emerson students who have reported being followed by strangers, but it does offer several tips in case you should feel threatened by someone.

Make sure you walk on populated, brightly lit streets. This way, you can avoid a dangerous situation in the first place.

Stay away from areas that you know are not safe by word of mouth. If your gut feeling tells you that you are in the wrong neighborhood and someone is indeed following you, you should take precautions right away.

Almeida said when she has to walk alone at night, she makes sure to talk to her mother or her boyfriend on the phone until she gets home, so they know where she is at all times.

If you find yourself in a situation where a potential stalker comes too close, "go into a business or other well-lit place and report the incident to the police having jurisdiction," Director of Public Safety William McCabe suggested in an e-mail to The Beacon.

If you find yourself constantly worrying when walking back from school or stumbling back from a party, you can enroll in a self-defense class.

Most martial arts studios in Boston offer classes to teach the basics of being safe on the streets. The Boston Kokikai Aikido Inc.(885 Washington St.) and Jae Hun Kim Tae Kwon Do Institute (102 Brookline Ave., Fenway) offer memberships from $89-135 a month. A martial arts uniform is included in both studios.

According to Heather Randolph, one of the instructors at the Boston Kokikai Aikido, this sport is especially suitable for women, whose bodies are usually smaller than men's. The Kokikai Aikido center offers a trial membership of two 30-minute lessons for $19.99. The sport of Aikido, instead of using force against force, teaches one to use the opponent's power to one's advantage.

Although your neighborhood may feel intimidating now, it might seem more welcoming if you learn the simple rules of safe walking and equip yourself with knowledge of self defense.