How to stay safe while walking in an urban environment

While knowing self-defence might keep you safe, avoiding situations where that knowledge is needed is often a better bet. One Regina Police Service member is setting out to make sure people who want to know how to avoid dangerous situations while walking at night have that knowledge. 

Regina Police Service officer and self defense coach Tanner Maurice shares tips on urban safety

Tanner Maurice says his public urban safety walk classes are booked for the rest of the summer but he's still willing to take on some group bookings if people want to learn what to watch for to keep themselves safe in an urban environment. (Submitted by Mark Davis)

This article was originally published on July 28, 2019.

While knowing self-defence might keep you safe, avoiding situations where that knowledge is needed is often a better bet. 

One Regina Police Service member is setting out to make sure people know how to avoid dangerous situations while walking at night.

Tanner Maurice is also a coach at Sentinel Self Protection and hosts Urban Safety Walks in Regina.

"I really want people to not have to be fearful about making the trek through a parkade or to a show late at night," Maurice said. "I want people to be able to enjoy themselves. We believe that you can mitigate most attacks just by paying attention."

Pay attention

Maurice said many people might think they're paying attention to their surroundings but things like using your cellphone, listening to music or wearing a hood or sunglasses can all be distracting. 

He said a human beings average field of vision is roughly 114 degrees. As soon as peripheral vision is taken away, he said the average human's field of view is about 55 degrees. 

"If you're now looking at a cellphone or looking down, because people have a tendency to look down and avoid eye contact with strangers, now you're taking in about five to ten per cent of your environment," Maurice said. 

Scan your surroundings

Maurice said he tells participants to conduct an observational scavenger hunt. He said people are told to think of a noticeable features, like a purple shirt or someone carrying a purse, and identify people with that particular item of clothing or distinctive item.

"We actually teach people how to translate that into looking for something that could be dangerous," Maurice said. "But what it does is it gets people with their eyes out, scanning their environment, trying to notice things." 

Maurice says he strives to give people peace of mind should they encounter situations where they feel vulnerable on the street. (Submitted by Mark Davis)

He said conducting scans of your surroundings shows potential perpetrators that you are aware of what's going on around you and potentially deters them from singling you out as a target. 

Maurice said that practising scanning environments improves the skill and eventually it becomes second nature. For himself, as a police officer, he compared the practice to a computer program that's constantly running in the background of his brain activity. 

He said with enough practice, everyday citizens can achieve the same kind of environmental awareness he has as a police officer.

Watch for anomalies 

Maurice said people should be on the lookout for things that seem out of place. 

For example, he said someone wearing a long thick jacket on a hot day should raise some red flags. 

"In and of itself, that may not be dangerous, but you have to ask, why is this person dressed like this? Why do they not match the environment? Are they concealing a weapon? Are they trying to steal property and conceal it in the coat?" he asked. 

He said on the flipside, if you see someone walking around who isn't dressed for cooler weather, that could also indicate something is wrong. 

"Is that person experiencing some kind of mental health crisis? You'd want to keep your distance from that person potentially, call the appropriate people who are going to deal with that," he said.

with files from CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition