Walking trails are attractive to all walks of life. They provide a scenic path for joggers, dog walkers, cyclists and those just wanting to have a beautiful place to explore and enjoy. Walking trails are off the beaten path. They are often secluded, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. But are they safe? It is the same traits that make walking trails attractive that also make them dangerous.
Understand the Crime Triangle
Where I live there have been several tragic incidents along walking trails. All of these incidents share a few similarities. Before discussing factors that can make a seemingly welcoming walking trail dangerous, we need to review the crime triangle. Three things must be present for a crime to occur. There must be desire, ability and opportunity. We can’t control desire and ability, as there will always be people able and willing to hurt us. What we can control is opportunity. With a little mindfulness, we can choose to deny bad people the opportunity to harm us.
When to Avoid Walking Trails
In the context of walking trails, at what point do they become unsafe? The answer is simple. They became unsafe when they are in a state that presents the “opportunity” for a crime to occur. Examples are as follows:
- Alone: There is safety in numbers. Even though there may be others on the trail, it’s best to be with someone you know. Make it a habit to visit trails with friends and family.
- Isolated Areas Close to Path: Avoid trails that are overgrown with limited visibility of the surroundings. It takes a split second for someone to render you unconscious and pull you off the trail.
- Off-Hours: Avoid trails at odd times, such as late at night. Criminals will most likely be stalking victims when they know others may not be around.
- Stay Alert: Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Do not wear headphones, get distracted by a cell phone or anything else that will take your attention off of your surroundings and those approaching.
- Flashlight: Although it’s convenient to hit the trail in the early morning before your day starts, it’s also dark. Always carry a flashlight with you to illuminate dark areas before you approach.
- Unarmed: Accept responsibility for your own protection. At the very least, always carry pepper spray. Have it in your hand at all times. If you choose to do so responsibly and with the proper training, carry a firearm.
Avoid a False Sense of Security
Don’t think that just because the walking trail is in a “safe” neighborhood that bad things won’t happen. Criminals know no boundaries. When and where you least expect trouble could be where you are going to find it.