Since the November 28 attack on Avondale against New York dancer Alan Tibbetts, accompanied by rumors of other hate-driven assaults, many in the community remain on edge. For some ideas on personal safety, particularly in the Montrose club district, we checked in with Chris Arasin, chairman of Q-Patrol, the volunteer group that patrols the area on weekend nights. His tips:
Pay to park. Use one of the paid parking lots or even get your vehicle valet-parked at the club. Consider that for the cost of a single drink, you have taken out an insurance policy for the night—first, that your vehicle will be secure and easily accessible to you, and, second, that it will still be there when you are finished for the evening. If you must park in the street, check for parking signs and park as close to the club as possible and near a street light. Avoid areas with bushes or shrubs or overhanging trees.
Never walk alone. Walk with a friend and then drive him or her back to the club or vehicle. You can also ask one of the off-duty police officers or a doorman for an escort to your vehicle. It never hurts to ask. Always walk with purpose. Keep your head up and on a swivel. Always be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. Have your keys ready. Get your keys out and in your hand as soon as you leave the club. This keeps you from fumbling for them when you get to your vehicle and also allows for them to be used for defense if necessary. Get loud. Carry a whistle or horn or something that makes a lot of noise if needed. Predators do not like to draw attention. Walk in the street. I know that this is illegal, but walking in the street while facing traffic is a lot safer than walking on most of the sidewalks in the neighborhood. Avoid greenery. Stay away from large shrubs, bushes, and overhanging trees, which make great cover for troublemakers.
Know your limits. Too much alcohol or other substances can limit your ability to react to a situation and make you an easy target. You might even be at the point where you should not be behind the wheel of your vehicle. Get a friend to take you home or take a taxi.
• If you are attacked
Report the attack. Give whatever information you can. Contact the Houston Police Department and file a report. The city operates a Hate Crimes Hotline at 713/529-9615. If you are in need of counseling after the attack, the Montrose Counseling Center (713/529-0037) has people trained to assist you. Contact Q-Patrol. Let us know so we can keep a closer eye on that area on our next patrol. Our number is 713/528-SAFE (7233) or e-mail [email protected]. Consider joining us for a patrol just once a month and see what is happening in the Montrose from a different perspective.
Remember that we patronize the bars, clubs, coffeehouses, restaurants, and bookstores to enjoy ourselves and the company of others. We have to be vigilant in making sure that we do not become a crime statistic, but we need not crawl into a shell. We need to stand up and show our pride in ourselves and in our community every day. That starts with being safe.