I feel unsafe in the neighborhood I work in

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I am a woman in my late 20s, and work for a nonprofit in a mid-sized city. I grew up in a bigger city than this one, and went to college in a city with a higher crime rate than where I am now, but I feel more unsafe in the neighborhood where my office is located than I ever have before.

My office is in an area that is often referred to by a nickname that indicates the type of drugs often found here. Many of the people who live in this area might need the services my organization offers at some point. The majority of the time, I need to take public transportation to work, which involves about a 10 minute walk to and from my office. However, all of the issues I have had have been in the area closer to my office (rather than near the bus), including issues directly in our parking area behind the building.

In the past six months alone, there has been a man hiding next to my car (someone coincidental pulled into the lot as I was walking into it so they ran away); another man follow me for blocks screaming threats as I walked to the bus, and another man drive slowly next to me as I walked to the office trying to get me into his car. I feel unsafe most of the time when I leave the building, but appear to be in the minority. I know that some people have quit without notice because of issues with people in the neighborhood, but most of my coworkers seem to feel they are overreacting. When I mentioned the person hiding next to my car to a coworker, she literally laughed and was shocked when I said I was afraid he was going to try to rape me.

I have not spoken to my supervisor about this because I don’t really have any ideas about what the organization could do to fix this issue and I am not sure if they have any responsibility to do so. I feel like flood lighting behind the building is the least they could do, but of course that wouldn’t solve the issues that have taken place a block or so away. Also, I have been trying to get in early and leave on the earlier side because my husband is able to pick me up rather than me having to take public transportation and I’m not sure if I should discuss this with my supervisor. He does know that I tend to get to work on the earlier side and I do work a full 8 hours (if not more). I am not the only person in my office who works a bit outside the typical 9-5. I also know that before I started working here the office had a police officer come in to talk about the neighborhood, but the general feeling what that it wasn’t helpful. Everyone is also in agreement that continuously calling the police is unlikely to lead to a safer neighborhood for a variety of reasons.

Is there anything at all that I can ask of my office? It seems a bit silly but ideally I would like them to have us take a self defense class. I have not spoken to my supervisor about any of this but everyone is aware of the reputation of this neighborhood. Lastly, I DO like my job and do not want to leave but it is stressful to have my personal safety threatened so often, and I know my friends and family feel worried about me.

Readers, what ideas do you have?

{ 691 comments… read them below }

  1. Al who is that Al*

    Explain that you feel unsafe, list the experiences you have had and request a change in working hours so you husband can pick you up. Then decide how to proceed from what they say.

    1. Meredith Brooks*

      I agree you should at least ask your boss about the option to change your work hours, which might mitigate the situations you’re facing. But, I would also say, if you have a good relationship with your boss, that it doesn’t to open the door to a conversation about ways to make employees feel safe in the neighborhood and to mention your ideas about flood lights or a self-defense class (if the company doesn’t offer one, perhaps they might reimburse staff for taking one).

      On the other hand if you feel your boss might react as your coworker did and ignore you, I’d say, it might be time to look for another job.

      1. Busy*

        Yeah. I am leaning towards another job. Not for any other reason than everyone around her seems to completely underplay and disregard her safety concerns that are absolutely legitimate. I would 100% expect my employer to “over react” if someone was hiding behind my car when I got off work. And I would expect my coworkers to be as worried as I was about the implications of that. So the yeah the neighborhood isn’t safe, but OP isn’t really working with people that have a firm grasp on what “bad situations” are. That is the most alarming part.

        1. Mimi Me*

          Agreed. For me the fact that the co-worker laughed at OP’s very real and very reasonable fears is a deal breaker.

          1. Southern Ladybug*

            Yes – it’s more than it occurred (which is terrifying in and of itself), but that reaction was inappropriate and wrong.

            1. Busy*

              Yes. And the fact that these guys have been living “in the bubble” so long that not one but multiple people have quit over this. And not just quit, but left without notice – without anything else lined up. To a good manager and company, having numerous people walk out of their jobs would be enough of a red flag to investigate. In this situation , they don;t even need to do that! They already know as the leaving employees already told them! That alone should be enough to at least acknowledge it. And you CAN acknowledge that some neighbors have become known for some activities that can attract certain types of people who are harmful. It not representative of everyone in the neighborhood, but just pretending that it isn’t happening isn’t going to make not happen, bad optics or not.

              1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

                I wonder if there is a common demographic in a) the people who quit and b) the coworkers to dismiss their concerns.

                1. AnnaBananna*

                  I’m curious too. I am blond haired, blue eyed, fairly tiny. You’d think I would be scared of working in a place like that, but let’s just say that I’ve seen a lot. With the right attitude you stop being a victim and start being just one of the neighborhood. But it takes the right attitude and I don’t think it’s one you can really teach. I imagine the folks recruiting/interviewing aren’t really digging in deep to the soft skills needed to work in that neighborhood, and instead they’re just super focused on getting someone in the seat.

                  Tl:dr
                  Agreed.

                2. TheSnarkyB*

                  AnnaBananna, I’m curious about what your facial features have to do with how afraid you should be…?

              2. Aggretsuko*

                I’d guess that the business just doesn’t care, figures people are disposable, and this place has cheap rent, or something like that.

                1. Lilysparrow*

                  I got the impression that this is a nonprofit that serves the needs of the immediate community, so the location is significant. But they should certainly take these concerns seriously and do something to help.

                2. A*

                  OP works at a non-profit that also services the community it resides in. Definitely not an ok situation, but an important distinction. Labeling it as corporate greed can unintentionally down play the bigger issue of finding a balance between helping to address socio-eco disparities through services within high risk communities (which requires overcoming the “not in my backyard” mentality), and the very legitimate need for employee safety.

              3. I Write the Things*

                A man was shot in a robbery gone wrong last month not far from my workplace, and our company put in floodlights, sent out safety tips, and encouraged us to let them know if anyone ever felt unsafe so they could do something about it. Without us asking. THAT is what an employer should do.

                But that was a very unusual occurrence where we are. I’m wondering whether the LW’s co-workers and managers have been in the bubble so long they’ve become desensitized or if laughing it off is a defense mechanism; look, we’re laughing about it, we can’t really be in any danger… I just can’t come up with another reason they’d be so dismissive of the LW’s very, very legitimate concerns.

                LW, I’d be one of the people who quit because of the lack of concern, but I realize you may not be able to do that without a job lined up.

                After the incident near us, the police increased patrols in the area, and you said an officer had stopped by your office at one point. Do you know what kind of presence they have in the neighborhood? Is the department in the area approachable enough that you could ask for extra presence during the times employees are arriving and leaving? That way you’re not calling all the time, but they’re making themselves known and available. If there are other businesses nearby with similar hours, that might strengthen the request. I would hope that the company would be willing to talk to them about it, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

                And definitely push to change your hours so that you can ride with your husband. If they won’t take the safety issue seriously, give them some excuse. Anyone who doesn’t let you do what you can to mitigate the danger has earned themselves a white lie or 2. Or 12.

                Another thought is to download an app like Noonlight. You turn it on and hold your thumb on it the screen while you walk. If your thumb leaves the button, you have 10 seconds to enter your 4 digit PIN (plenty of time, even if it doesn’t sound like it) to cancel the automatic call to the police (with your GPS location) that is about to happen. It does cost $3 a month, I think, but I like it much better than having to actively call 911. If something happens that makes you drop your phone, help will be sent to you. I very much hope you can find a better solution, but maybe add something like that just in case.

          2. The Original K.*

            I immediately wrote off a job when the woman interviewing me brought up safety concerns at the office (it was in a kind of weird area, a bit isolated) and LAUGHED when she mentioned that a worker had been mugged and shot on the premises. Like, she brought this up apropos of nothing as a funny anecdote. Someone broke into the warehouse in which he worked. She reacted to my horror with more laughter. I asked “was he all right?!” in a panicked voice; he was, though he no longer works there because OF COURSE NOT. I was thinking, “OK, so I know this place isn’t safe to work, the company doesn’t care, and my would-be boss is a terrible person.” She worked mostly remotely so I think the safety issues were abstract to her. You’d think SOMEONE GETTING SHOT would make it more real, but apparently not.

            I called the recruiter immediately after the interview and told her to withdraw my name from consideration because the company had very real safety issues it wasn’t addressing and I’d never feel safe working there. (I told her the shooting story; she was horrified.)

            1. Cochrane*

              I can only imagine the reaction when the incident occurred.

              “Call an ambulance! I’ve been shot!”

              “Okay, YOU’RE AN AMBULANCE! Oh that Mark, what a character! He really knows how to liven things up around here. “

            2. I Write the Things*

              And she brought this up!?! Not only was it not a concern to her, but something she thought telling a prospective employer about was a positive thing? Like, “this hilarious break in and shooting, ha ha, this is such a great place to work, people are so funny”?!?!?!

              Wow. I know you were the one there and you know how it was said, but for my own sanity I’m going to pretend it was a nervous laugh and she was warning you away.

          3. Sloan Kittering*

            I was trying to determine whether being located in this neighborhood and being a part of that community was specific to the nonprofit’s mission – but I suspect it is. In that case, the boss should have explained that rather than laughing, but it might partly explain the lack of a more sympathetic response.

            1. ChimericalOne*

              Even if you regularly work with a high-risk community, you shouldn’t be blasé about the safety concerns that go along with that. Matter-of-fact, maybe. But you can be matter-of-fact and still be kind, sympathetic, and compassionate. You can acknowledge the practical limits of risk mitigation and still approach the issue with reasonable care & concern.

              1. 'Tis me*

                I used to work in the same building as a small company that did work with homeless people (or possibly some subset thereof with particular challenges). They had a video door monitor set up, let us know about twice a year when they were doing training for hostile intruders so not to worry if we heard shouting, made sure people working in other offices knew not to let people in… My company also took our safety seriously, and e.g. advised me to go walk around for a few minutes if there was somebody hanging around outside in case they were confrontational (and on the odd occasion where, after multiple passes and 10-15 minutes, I’d call up and let them know somebody was persistently present, they were understanding – I think they came downstairs to meet me but I am casting my mind back over a decade). I think that was after one of them asked if I could give a flower to one of the people working for the other company (and they’d seen him approach me on the video monitor and came down to make sure I was OK).

                You can work with unpredictable individuals and take safety concerns seriously. You can work in dodgy areas and still prioritise your staff’s wellbeing.

              2. Tiny Soprano*

                Exactly. Your workers are in a better position to help the community if they’re reasonably safe. Even if it’s just a matter of perception, feeling safer will help retain good people to keep doing good in the community. Laughing it off seems weirdly defeatist to me.

            2. Jennifer Juniper*

              My guess is that the employee will soon be told to check her privilege and examine her own biases (if she hasn’t been told so already.) The employer sounds like they are getting ready to accuse OP of being racist as a way of dismissing and deflecting her safety concerns.

              1. VelociraptorAttack*

                There is absolutely no indication anywhere in the letter that race has a thing to do with this.

              2. Bookslinger*

                Nothing in OPs letter indicates race, and I don’t see how speculating about it helps the OP’s situation.

                OP, I once worked for the City. We were civilian employees working midnight shift. Our supervisor had a homeless person break into her car and sleep in the back seat. You can bet they made better parking arrangements for us after that occurred. (Before then, we were lowly civilian employees and not allowed to park where the officers parked.) If anything, your work should be more cognizant of the area’s crime rate and do everything it can to ensure employee safety. Normally, I’d suggest you ask security (if it exists) to walk you to your car, but you use public transport. It doesn’t sound like you have set hours, so ask your boss about altering yours so you can ride with your husband. In the end, safety first. You may love your job, but that won’t do you any good if you get mugged for doing it. I’d advise looking for a new job that either has better security in place or a better location.

                1. aposiopetic*

                  Very much this.

                  It sounds like OP’s employer is reluctant to constantly involve the police because of the potential harm to their mission/the people they serve. And that’s legitimate! But the second part of that sentiment *has* to be “so we take the idea of community and care for one another very seriously, and do everything we can to prevent dangerous situations from arising in the first place.” That can include anything from specific training to parking lot floodlights to arranging buddies for anyone commuting via public transit–there is *a lot* of room for minimizing risk, and it’s care not just for one’s employees (though that should be enough!) but *also* for vulnerable members of the community served. Ignoring things or laughing it off is totally unacceptable and really doesn’t speak well to the mission as OP describes it.

                  OP, I’m so sorry! Your safety is important and your concern for it reasonable.

                2. Chinookwind*

                  Can I make a comment that implied that police officers got special parking because they are important? The real reason police officers get secure parking is because the people they arrest and bring to the station/detachment are often angry at being arrested and smart enough to watch which vehicle said police office then gets into after work. They can then follow said police officer back to their home and confront them or their family after hours.

                  This is not an overreaction – DH has told me stories of investigating a gang members phone after they have been arrested and coming across all sorts of pictures of cars owned by local police officers. The aresstee’s explanation “I happen to like that type of (non-descript) car.”

                  Civilian employees who work regular business hours should not have the same type of worries (though those working after hours should have the same protection as anyone who works late nights and has to walk to their car in the dark).

              3. aebhel*

                That seems like a stretch, especially since we don’t know the races of anyone involved here. The underlying assumptions you have about that are interesting, though!

            3. boop the first*

              I’m not a boss, but sometimes I am flippant if I ever tell the story of my coworkers who were attacked at work one day (no one died). Even though I was VERY distressed to hear about it on social media (I wasn’t there), and even though the video footage will be imprinted on my brain for the rest of my life, I still mention it like a “funny” story these days, because I usually only tell it in the “my last job was nuts” context. Even though I’m deeply horrified by it. Lots of people were traumatized and didn’t come back.

              If OP was being trained on safety, I’m sure the boss’ tone would have been much more grave.

          4. Broomhilde*

            I kind of understand the reaction of those co-workers. They have to walk through the same unsafe neighbourhood and have been in survival mode longer than LW.

            When I first joined the work force many years ago, I trained as a lawyer’s assistant for a defense attorney. The clientele of such a lawyer traditionally tends to be a wee bit unsavoury, and as a young woman, this scared the living daylights out of me. After my boss witnessed a particularly tense conversation I had with a client, he took me aside and explained in detail the impact fear has, what an effect it has on the body language and how it relates to criminal law and perpetrator behaviour. After conceding that there was indeed a risk involved and that it was prudent to be cautious, he proceeded to recommend a few cognitive techniques mostly for self-soothing and boost of confidence.

            In short, he told me not to worry and that this kind of mindset of wilful ignorance would protect me at least a little. I can only guess that this is what is going on with those co-workers (as I said: survival mode), and with that kind of attitude, even a neighbourhood like the one LW is describing becomes an amusing anecdote at best and somewhat normal at worst. That is not reasonable, of course, but from my point of view, I can somewhat relate to that reaction.

            I do not think that simply putting the blinders on is a viable solution for LW. While it is true that the employer can’t change anything regarding the situation in the neighbourhood, LW could loop them in and ask for more flexible hours. Carpooling or meeting up to use public transportion with co-workers might be a solution (and would make those unhelpful people helpful), provided that LW doesn’t want to quit this job. The neighbourhood can’t be changed, and LW is quite reasonable to feel unsafe. What else could be done to relieve some of those fears?

          5. JSPA*

            The laughter could have been a response to the (awkward?) assumption of rape rather than robbery in an area where people are desperate for drug money. Strung out people can be dangerous, but their list of wants and needs becomes rather dreadfully compressed. (Also, if someone’s hiding behind your car to shoot up, it’s not because it’s your car. Or A car. A bush or a dumpster would do.) I think it would be worth investigating / unpacking what that was all about before jumping to assumptions.

            A person following you in a car is far more clearly directed and intentional. But was he trying to lure you, or trying to sell you something illegal on the assumption that there’s only one reason a well-dressed woman would be in that neighborhood? (Or maybe two reasons, in which case, he might have been trying to buy rather than sell.) The threat-screamer…sort of depends if they’re screaming at you, or screaming at the delusion that’s moving along the sidewalk in your general vicinity. If the answer is, “that’s James, he’s always seeing flaming helicopters and he screams at them,” then…that’s what that is.

            I would first discuss with the boss what situations the organization considers genuinely threatening vs neighborhood color, and why. I’d next ask if the level of problematic interactions you’re having is par for the course or very unusual. I’d ask the hypothetical: if you feel unsafe enough to call the cops, will that be treated in any way as a mark against you, or a blot on the standing of the organization within the local neighborhood. If anything fails the smell test, Id say it’s is time to bail. You don’t have to wait for an actual attack!

            It’s possible that things are getting worse; that people are getting more desperate; and that any new person is going to have a rougher entry than people who are already familiar faces around the neighborhood. That is, it can legitimately be worse for you now than it was for your coworker now, and also legitimately worse for you now than it was for her when she started (however long ago that was). I’d make that point.

            If they take things seriously, here are some basic coping strategies fixes that people use: Walk together to your car. Walk together to the bus stop. Drive each other to the bus stop, and wait together. Carry a loud whistle close at hand, and know what each others’ whistles sound like.

            Adding lights sounds good, but they’ll blind you as much as they blind the potential attacker, and dealers sometimes like to shoot them out (which is to say, they draw gunfire or at least, thrown bricks). So consider the site and the goal carefully.

            Also remember that coworkers are not always angels. There are times when a coworker is more of a threat than the random cracked-out screamer at the bus stop.

            If you’re polite and respectful, the people selling themselves can become allies. Even if they have substance issues. (Not as in, let them hold your wallet. But I’ve had streetwalkers cuss out guys who were hassling me, and I ALWAYS made a point to thank them and call them sister–and mean it.)

        2. Laurelma01*

          It’s frightening when things like that happen. When I worked at the mall one Christmas season we had a customer go out to their car and saw someone sitting in it. They contacted the mall security. Turned out to be someone with a weapon that was arrested. Min is a small town & considered safe; strange things have been known to happen. Their downplaying your concerns would be upsetting. Your safety becomes first beyond everything else. As the others said, ask about the work schedule change, but also start job searching. You need only one bad incident to happen that changes your life on a permanent note. Considering their neighborhood and events that have taken place, you would think they would have had the flood lights installed a long time ago. Many time employers will ignore a safety concern hoping it’ll go away (I doubt this one will) or due to the cost. It takes one horrible incident for them spend money to address the safety concern; but someone could be dead or disabled by that time.

          OP I do not mean to scare you, but your safety and well being comes first before the job. The self defense classes would be great, but I would be afraid that once you took them, your employer would deny the flexible work hours. “You can protect yourself now.”

        3. Anita Brayke*

          Exactly this. I can’t tell you what you should do, OP, but if it were me I would be out of there ASAP. It doesn’t sound like your coworkers have a real grasp on the seriousness of the situation there. But you have to go with your gut.

    2. OlympiasEpiriot*

      I’m pretty sure the writer didn’t mention having a husband anywhere in the letter. Also, “husband” doesn’t always equal “appropriate bodyguard”.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Ahhhh, please delete. NOW I see “husband”. I still feel a husband shouldn’t have to be a bodyguard. :-(

        1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

          He doesn’t have to be a bodyguard, he just needs to be someone who picks her up directly from the office so she doesn’t have to go out to her car alone or walk 10 minutes to the bus stop.

          1. pope suburban*

            Yeah, I think his value in this situation is as a witness/deterrent to anyone planning something nefarious. It’s the “don’t travel alone” principle. Plus, for good or ill, there are a fair few people in this world who would refrain from instigating something with a male-presenting person, but feel confident about doing the same thing to a female-presenting person. In this situation, I would absolutely want another person, no matter who, in the hopes that they would deter anyone unsavory.

              1. pope suburban*

                Who said that it was? Although if she did get permission to change her hours, it would be a sustainable solution, so there’s that.

                1. Safety*

                  What if she has to leave for lunch or her husband is sick some day or their car breaks down? It’s not a sustainable solution. Increasing safety measures rather than putting the onus on their employee’s spouse is a better solution.

            1. Mephyle*

              It’s not just that someone (anyone) picking her up at work keeps her from having to go out alone, but also that it means that she is only exposed from the door of the building to the car, instead of the several blocks walk to the bus stop.

            2. TL -*

              Actually, men are much more at risk for overall violent crime from strangers than women are.
              Women are at more risk for only one type of violent crime from strangers, and that’s rape.

              But traveling in pairs reduces the risk for anyone and is definitely a wise idea here.

        2. biobotb*

          I don’t think she thinks of him as a bodyguard, but as someone who can help her avoid the walk to the bus stop.

        3. Observer*

          In addition to what the others said, a second person, regardless of gender (or gender presentation, for that matter) always increases safety in these situations. Because the kind of predator who hides behind cars is generally not going to attack when there is a potential witness and because dealing with two people at once is a lot harder that one, especially when surprise is key.

      2. topscallop*

        She does mention it: “Also, I have been trying to get in early and leave on the earlier side because my husband is able to pick me up rather than me having to take public transportation and I’m not sure if I should discuss this with my supervisor.”
        But it’s true that the husband picking her up might not automatically translate into safety if it’s as bad a neighborhood as it sounds.

        1. Murphy*

          I think the main benefit is that she can exit the building and immediately get into a car, as opposed to walking to the bus stop, so at the least it will limit her time in the environment.

        2. ItsmeOP*

          Hi OP here – wow things progressed quickly here! yeah I didn’t mean to imply he is my bodyguard there is just a big difference between being able to walk outside directly into a car with another person sitting in it and either having to walk to the bus or even behind the building. I guess part of what I was wondering about is if I need to say to my boss that I’ve adjusted my hours for this reason because at no point did I tell him that I was going to regularly start coming in earlier and leaving earlier. Now I plan on discussing it with him next week in our next 1:1.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I think it’s absolutely worth mentioning to your supervisor because staff safety should be a concern for them. You’re lucky that you have this option, but some of your coworkers may not.

            Some kind of buddy system or a security guard on site might also be useful.

            1. Clisby Williams*

              I second the security guard. Not that a security guard can help with the walk to the bus stop, but it absolutely can help with patrolling the parking area. I worked for years for newspapers (at night), and the security guards were always willing to walk with me to my car in the company parking lot. (These weren’t “bad” neighborhoods, but this typically would be 10 p.m. to midnight. Never hurts to have a second person around.)

              1. TootsNYC*

                A security guard COULD help with the walk to the bus stop, if the organization wanted him to. There are plenty of places where the security guard is tasked with walking people to their cars int he parking lot, and a nonprofit in a dangerous area could absolutely say, “walk people to the bus stop and stay until they board.”

                There’s also the idea of organizing a “caravan” of people to walk to the bus stop and wait.

                There’s also the hope of riding out of the neighborhood w/ a colleague; maybe they just drive you two bus stops further, where it’s busier and safer, and then you can wait in the crowd at the bus stop there.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  Yep. This. I worked in a mall decades ago. Management said everyone (not just women) had to use the buddy system as often as possible after dark. Additionally, people were told if they could not find a buddy, then call security. In my store we would figure out who was parked closest. (The spots that were farther away were out of sight of the mall building.) We’d pile into the car that was closest and drive around to each person’s car. If someone specifically asked we would wait for them to get their vehicle started. The last two remaining people would follow one another to the parking lot exit together. This kind of gave people incentive to drive everyone else around first.

            2. Glitsy Gus*

              This was my thought. If your organization could get security that would be good, but it may not be possible depending on the situation. What you could do, though is ask around and find out who else walks towards the bus and when you do need to take it walk with them. Same thing for the parking lot, figure out who leaves round about the same time and whenever possible walk out with someone.

              I know that one other employee was a total jerk about it, but most normal folks wouldn’t mind having a walking buddy to the bus stop or parking lot. Even if they do think you’re overreacting a little most folks will help out in such a simple way.

          2. Steve*

            Allowing you to shift your hours a bit is almost literally the least they can do. If I was in this situation and they refused that, they would be adding my name to the list of people who quit without notice.

          3. Jaid*

            I’d worry about your husband being attacked if he’s sitting in the car outside! Your work needs floodlights, a couple of security guards and cameras.

    3. Gerald*

      I have worked in a place which was very similar (homeless shelter around the corner and there were incidents of my colleagues being threatened (with a knife) for money, and I had a couple incidents with indecent exposure). I found that timing was critical, as I felt much more safe if it was daylight. I think that it would be very reasonable to ask one’s boss about flexibility with hours. It might also be worth finding out if anyone else has a similar schedule, as walking to the bus stop with a colleague was also good for me.

    4. Judy Johnsen*

      In addition to having your husband pick you up, or carpool with co workers, 2oild it be a good idea to take a self defense classes, carry pepper spray, get concealed carry firearms permit, have a co-worker walk you to your car, and get a whistle, or stay on your phone while walking to your car? Then if you were grabbed, someone could call the police right away. I hope you get a good soleutin to this problem.

  2. Volunteer Enforcer*

    Do what you feel is right, whatever that may be and includes helping others. Trust your gut instinct in this situation. Good luck.

  3. Anonymous Poster*

    Maybe a fence with badge access can be built for the parking lot? That might help cut down on the car issue, though not the public transport item. And it’s expensive, but something I’ve seen in right neighborhoods.

    Also, is remote work possible? Perhaps work the first half of the day in the office, then the rest at home? Maybe that would cut down on some hairier incidents later in the day?

    Honestly there aren’t great fixes though, other than moving the office. Please stay safe.

    1. Crazy dog lady*

      Yeah, I’ve worked in offices in sketchy areas and the parking lots were fenced with gates that only opened with your badge. It made at least the immediate property safer. It doesn’t solve the bus stop issue, but if she can change her hours to get a ride home that would be good I’m sure.

        1. Colleen*

          Keys are actually more useful than pepper spray. They’re sharp and can be used as a weapon if needed. Pepper spray can backfire or affect both you and the attacker if not used properly.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Ten years ago, before I ever read about the keys as a weapon, I found myself and my two then-teenage sons walking through a bad neighborhood, and instinctively took the keys in my hand and continued walking with the keys. All it got me was that a random guy approached us with a sob story trying to talk me into giving him my car keys (He probably thought I had a car parked nearby. I did not.) Plus, OP wouldn’t have the car keys on her if she’s taking the bus?

            Going to continue reading the thread to see what the other options are. Someone I know did try carrying the Viper taser that is mentioned downthread. I’ll have to ask them to see how that worked.

            1. Elizabeth Proctor*

              I mean, my car keys are on my keychain with my house and office keys. I don’t drive to work, but I do have all my keys on the train/bus.

            2. Samwise*

              Keys in your hand with the pointy parts between your fingers pointing out. Anywhere you hit or scrape someone with all or some of the keys is going to hurt and, hopefully, surprise them enough to let you get away. We were taught this in junior high (early 1970s). Also to scream “fire!” really loudly, because bystanders will pay attention to that more than to “help”. Sadly, this was a useful lesson. More than once. In both sketchy and upscale neighborhoods.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                I never understood the “fire” thing… isn’t the point of yelling “fire” usually to get people to *leave* the area? Not to come closer and check it out…

                1. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

                  The rationale is that yelling “help” will cause people who don’t want to get involved in a potentially violent incident to make themselves scarce. Fires, on the other hand, make interesting viewing for bystanders.

          2. anon today*

            Not when someone grabs them and throws them away from you. Then you’re left hurt and without keys to get into your car or apartment.

            They’re fairly useless as weapons, all things considered.

          3. formergr*

            A lot of self-defense instructors actually advise against doing that for a number of reasons. If they are in between your knuckles (Wolverine style), you’re much more likely to hurt your hand with them than your attacker. You’d need to punch to be able to use them, and unless you’re very practiced at punching, it’s likely going to throw you off to have to hold them in your fingers like that while taking a swing.

            You could try to hold one key and use it to stab an eye or whatever, but you could do close to as much damage with just a finger, and have far better aim with using a finger directly.

            1. Flower*

              Regardless, they require you to get really close to an attacker to use.

              For this reason, I’ve seen suggestions about carrying umbrellas regardless of weather.

            2. SelfDefense Samurai*

              Thank you! This was my first thought. I train martial arts, and I detest “self defense” classes and tools.

              This might be against the rules, but if you are truly concerned about your safety, please use this hierarchy:
              – Avoiding is better than De-escalating (Don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation)
              – De-escalating is better than running (If someone tries to attack or intimidate you take the temperature down)
              – Running is better than Fighting (Run-fu is my best advice; if you are walking to the bus or somewhere be sure you have the right shoes on to make an escape)
              – Fighting is better than dying (Having self defense tools/weapons only encourages fighting which should be a LAST resort)

              I highly recommend a book called “Meditations on Violence” by Rory Miller. These concepts may save your life someday.

              1. tangerineRose*

                “De-escalating is better than running (If someone tries to attack or intimidate you take the temperature down)”

                How do you do this?

                1. SelfDefense Samurai*

                  Good question and there isn’t a single answer.
                  If a drunk picks a fight with you, you might apologize and offer them a beer.
                  If someone approaches you in a dark alley or parking lot, you need to be prepared for a fight and NEVER let them take you to a secondary location. You might offer them a meal and go somewhere public with witnesses, or you might just act crazy (as in fighting with Elvis and Jesus at the same time and be slightly violent about it) to make them think twice. But really you should be looking out for potential situations like noticing someone in a dark parking lot.

                  This will probably be a contrary advice than others would give but I think of weapons as deescalation tools, due to them being highly ineffective for people who do not train regularly. So pulling a knife, gun, or pepper spray IMO is to make them go away instead of actually fighting them.

                  Rory Miller goes into a lot more detail and ideas in his book. So I can’t recommend it enough.

                2. Jasnah*

                  Thank you for sharing, Samurai!

                  Christine–deescalation isn’t always successful for anyone. That’s why Samurai included running and fighting beneath it.

                3. Deejay*

                  The psychological illusionist Derren Brown has this advice:

                  This is simply about not engaging with your aggressor at the level they expect. I was coming back from a hotel at about 3am one night and there was a guy in the street with his girlfriend. He was really drunk, clearly looking for a fight and he started kicking off at me. I had a routine ready in my head for this sort of situation and it worked a treat on this occasion. He asked me that typical aggressive rhetorical question — “Do you want a fight?” You can’t say “yes” or “no” — you’ll get hit either way. So, I responded with, “The wall outside my house is four-feet high.”
                  I didn’t engage at the level he was expecting me to, so immediately he was on the back foot. He came back with, “What?” and I repeated my bizarre response. I delivered the line in a completely matter-of-fact tone, as if he was the one who was missing something here. Suddenly, he was confused. All his adrenaline had dropped away, because I’d pulled the rug from under him. It’s the verbal version of a martial-arts technique called an ‘adrenaline dump’, whereby you get the person to relax before you hit them. A punch will have much greater impact if the recipient’s guard is down. I stuck to this surreal conversational thread with my assailant, saying things like, “I lived in Spain for a while and the walls are really huge, but in this country they’re tiny.” After a few of these exchanges, he just went, “Oh f*ck!” and broke down in tears. The guy had all this adrenaline and was on the point of really laying into me — I was seeing myself beaten to a bloody pulp — but these non-threatening nonsense statements broke that aggression down and he genuinely started crying. I ended up sitting next to him on the kerb, comforting him. It’s the same with guys that come up and ask to “have a look at your phone”, and you end up handing over your stuff and hating yourself for doing it — you can use the same approach. My PA had some stuff nicked in a Tube station recently, and I said to him, “If you’d just starting singing, they would have left you alone.”

                4. SelfDefense Samurai*

                  Christine- You are absolutely right that it’s not always effective for women or others in general, but women do have a much more difficult time.

                  Deejay has some excellent examples of how to deescalate situations as well. One of the things I’ve read from Rory and other self defense authors is we as a society are conditioned to be polite (especially women; I’m not trying to be sexist I promise…). Don’t make noise, don’t call people names, etc. If someone if following you, you are somewhere in between Avoidance, de-escalation, and running. One of Rory’s recommendations was to start screaming and calling them names (“Stop following me you &%*^ #$&% $%&*). People in general crumble under public embarrassment and immediately change their behavior to suit the societal norm.

                  The truth is, self-defense is messy and extremely situational; in other words it’s hard. Keep your head on a swivel and if you have a gut feeling to wait or that something isn’t right. Listen to it. No sense needlessly endangering yourself.

                5. aebhel*

                  @SelfDefense Samurai, the kind of people who follow someone down the street screaming at them are less likely to crumble at the public embarrassment of being loudly called a creep.

          4. Youngin*

            Unless you are trained in hand to hand combat, using keys as a weapon (which are not very sharp to begin with) is highly unlikely to protect you. The odds of the perpetrator over powering her is highly likely, and keys are not a useful deterrent since no one is afraid of car keys. Pepper spray is significantly more useful in both aspects.

            Also, she takes the bus, meaning she would be using a house key, not car key.

          5. Chinookwind*

            Plus there is a small percentage of the population of that is immune to pepper spray. DH shocked his police trainers when they sprayed it in his face and he shook it off like it was just water.

    1. RKMK*

      I’ve heard of alternatives where it’s not legal, too. Bear (or other animal-deterrent) spray was mentioned to me in passing, or even a small continuous-stream hairspray bottle.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        Bear spray normally comes in a container about the size of a small fire extinguisher. It’s not something you can really throw in your purse. I have to strap mine to the outside of my hiking pack.

            1. DataGirl*

              OP might want to double check about pepper spray illegality (didn’t see where she posted that it’s illegal in her state). In my state it’s restricted, so you can’t have the good stuff but can carry a lower dose version. Personally I have a Kubotan on my keychain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kubotan) which is basically a heavy, short stick for hitting or poking someone in the eyes. You can also get purses where the clasps mimic brass knuckles, like these: https://www.google.com/search?q=brass+knuckle+purse&rlz=1C1GCEU_enUS835US835&source=lnms&tbm=shop&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiKjuWO4bzgAhXjjlQKHeQLCTIQ_AUIDigB&biw=1536&bih=723 . Or wear heavy, bulky rings (My friends call them Nazi punching rings). You’ll probably hurt your hand punching someone with heavy stuff on your fingers, but their face will hurt more.

              It’s also really worth while to take a self-defense class, not necessarily for the fighting skills but for the tips you’d never think of, like ‘be gross’. For example, most people are grossed out by the thought of sticking their finger in someone’s eye but it’s definitely going to distract or stop and attacker.

              1. media monkey*

                i have heard (from a martial arts instrructor who was hot on teaching self defence to the girls in the class – i took the class when i was about 15) that telling a would-be rapist that you were on your period, peeing or throwing up can make them think twice (or at least hesitate). wouldn’t fend off a really determined attacker but worth a shot.

                1. DataGirl*

                  I have also heard this from a police officer. Specifically they said ‘soiling yourself’. I know that would be really hard to do as we are so psychologically conditioned not to, but if it’s a matter of life and death…

          1. Hello.*

            I live in a large city and mace is banned within the city limits. Which is great when you are a single female in the highest crime area of the city.

            1. Bunny Girl*

              Right? I have never understood that. Same with knives over a certain size. I still carry mine anyway but seriously I’m not sure carrying a pocket knife. Give me a break. When I hike I actually have a small axe but that’s not within city limits so it’s whatever.

          1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

            I mean, she also recommends going after people who are walking around the property frightening residents personally instead of alerting law enforcement/the courtesy officer, so her judgement is not what you might call “great”…

        1. QuiteContrary*

          I accidentally sprayed myself in the face with wasp spray once, including in my eyes. It didn’t burn like pepper spray would, so wasp spray would not be an effective deterrent.

        2. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

          I carry wasp spray sometimes; it would give me a twenty foot range to disable someone with bad intentions. I’m of the position that only if I live do I get to tell my side of the story, so no holds barred on weapons or tactics. :)

      2. Ann Nonymous*

        I’ve heard wasp spray is good, but I’m pretty sure it only comes in a large can which is awkward and weird to carry while walking. I’d take my chances with a handheld can of mace or whatever. If I had to use it to protect myself from an attack, I’d take the consequences of being cited for carrying/using it.

        1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

          Always remember: One shift of the wind or nervous hand jerk, and you are suddenly spraying yourself.

      3. Lady Blerd*

        I’ve seen bear/dog spray being sold in small pink containers and it couldn’t be more obvious that it’s not the actual intended use.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Not just any pepper spray – they make some really great ones that shoot up to 20 feet. I carry one that looks like a small water gun and it goes far and looks imitating. I also carry this noise making thing where if you pull it off it’s chain a loud alarm will go off.

      But honestly… I would consider looking for another job. If you don’t feel safe every day that affects your quality of life. I’ve turned down jobs before that were in the wrong part of town, and I have no regrets. Don’t let anyone convince you that you are being crazy or too paranoid – you get to decide what feels safe for you. Pepper spray is always a good idea though.

      1. ItsmeOP*

        OP here – so I have pepper spray but its actually illegal here so I’m really hesitiant to use it unless someone actually comes at me. But I realyl like the idea of a noise maker, I’m going to look into that.

        I didn’t meantion it in my letter but I’ve actually been laid off from my last 2 jobs (for reasons unrelated to me) so my goal is to stay in my current position for at least 3 years as to not look like a job hopper.

        1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

          Small tasers are surprisingly affordable, and incredibly useful as flashlights. Search for “Viper” on the Big River site if you don’t mind using that. (A friend of mine gave me one when I lived in a somewhat more rural area and a boy cougar was haunting the woods I went past at one a.m. Now that I’ve moved into the city, it’s not precisely legal to carry and I don’t, but local police officers and the security guards at my work, where they are also banned, they have boggled and asked why not? Which is a complex question that it’s probably not productive to go into in the comments.)

            1. Canadian Natasha*

              Just a fyi about tasers- Especially if the drug common in your work neighbourhood is something like meth or cocaine, the taser may not work if the assailant is high. (Per my police officer relative)

              Also, as with any weapon, it could be taken and used against you. So if you do choose to carry one, I’d recommend you look for some training (esp. law enforcement associated) on how to carry/use it safely.

          1. Peacemaker*

            Speaking of flashlights, they are another good deterrent, if bright enough. Streamlight and others make flashlights that are recommended by police and self-defense instructors for their deterrent effect. With many of them, you can have them at a low brightness (lumens) level, with a blindingly bright lumens level just a button click away. Plus, if it’s after dark, it can already be in your hand without being conspicuously weird, the way pepper spray or a taser would be. Andy many of them are heavy enough to be as effective as a roll of nickels often was in decades past.

        2. Briefly Anon*

          I was also in the “illegal but I’d rather be alive” camp when I lived in LA. I carried brass knuckles that look like a cat (they’re $5 on Amazon!) when I was in places I didn’t feel safe, and they were technically illegal. I figured it was better to be in legal trouble if it came down to it.

          1. DJ*

            I have these! Definitely wouldn’t feel good getting punched with. But I second getting a taser (if possible) too just because they’re surprisingly loud and would be good for frightening someone off.

            1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

              Heck, you can wrap your fist around a roll of quarters. My once-nomadic BAMF friend recommends a padlock and a bandanna as a swinging improvised weapon that you don’t get picked up for, FWIW. (I’d practice with it.)

              1. SelfDefense Samurai*

                But the roll of quarters is $10 the cat knuckles are $5 off amazon… that’s twice as expensive :-P

          1. Bridget*

            Maybe not, but on a resume, it might look like job hopping—without actually talking to the OP, how is an employer going to know? Is being laid off something you would generally note on a resume? I wouldn’t think so. Two short stays in a row could make some people pass (however unfairly) without ever talking to the OP about why those stays were short.

            1. Mike C.*

              You can literally write this on a resume, or address it in a cover letter. It’s not the big deal you’re making it out to be.

        3. Former call centre worker*

          Just to add a note of warning about carrying banned self-defence sprays.

          Someone I worked with lost his job because the spray he was carrying, which he’d got in his home country where it was technically illegal but in practice OK, is counted under firearm legislation here. The poor kid got picked up by the police when he got lost and tried to cross a motorway, and dutifully presented the “firearm” when asked if he had any weapons on him.

          Because it was classed as a firearm, his workplace counted it as though he had been arrested for possessing a gun and sacked him. So if you are going to carry anything banned, i guess make sure how banned!

        4. kittymommy*

          Also look into the legality of carrying bug spray (wasp spray is really good). I’ve heard of some places banning it, but not a whole lot and spraying that in someone’s face who’s coming after/attacking you can be pretty darn effective.

        5. Matt*

          Would you rather face the legal consequences of using pepper spray in self defense?
          OR
          The consequences of not using pepper spray when you needed it?

        6. wittyrepartee*

          You should absolutely avoid using it unless someone is actually coming at you. The reason for this is that pepper spray is really easy to misfire with.

        7. Jennifer Juniper*

          A personal air horn would be a good noisemaker. It also doesn’t sound like a car alarm or a whistle, so it wouldn’t blend into the ambient street noise.

        8. JSPA*

          there are some flashlights out there that can run at 5 lumens for days…or blast the entire charge out for 30 seconds (blindingly). They’re not generally classified as weapons. So if you’re still reading, I only thought of that now. Having your own blinding flash to call upon is a potential answer. And unlike macing/pepper spraying a group of people by accident (been there for one of those, lots of unnecessary puking and asthma attacks) or having a lethal weapon that can be taken from you and used against you, the risks of “non-strobing intense light” are pretty limited (unlike Tasers, which can interact badly with certain drug-induced physiological states as well as heart conditions). Which also will make you feel better about using it, compared to a taser.

      2. Lurker*

        I would be wary of using anything that looks like a gun. Especially in the type of situation where it may need to be used – the police might be involved and think it’s real.

          1. Former call centre worker*

            I have posted my story just above but it’s not just things looking like a gun you may need to worry about, as at least in my location, sprays can be classed as illegal firearms.

    3. EmKay*

      I have a keychain sized can of “anti-dog spray”, which is milder than pepper spray and legal where I am (check your own jurisdiction obvs). 10 bucks on Amazon.

    4. Andy*

      wasp spray. it goes farther. it’s available at home depot. t goes a LOT farther. cause you don’t want to be near the wasps/predators.

        1. Gerald*

          I could be missing something, but the stuff that I use on wasps is a strong poison that is meant to kill them. I would never use it on a person.

          I know that someone might respond “I would be willing to hurt someone if they wanted to hurt me” but if it gets to the point that you definitely know that someone is going to hurt you then the poison is just as likely to hurt you.

          While pepper and other sprays sound good in principle, they are often problematic as the spray can blow back into your face, which makes you even more vulnerable. It’s easier with a bear, where you know that they intend harm if they get close, but even then the use of them requires that the bear be very close and there remains a good chance that some of the spray will end up on you (although it’s okay if you hit both yourself and the bear, provided that the bear runs away).

          1. Natalie*

            It’s also illegal – wasp spray is a federally regulated pesticide and you might have noticed the warning on the can “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling”. I feel fairly confident that “self defense spray” is not on the labeling anywhere. (It may also be illegal on a local level.)

        2. SavannahMiranda*

          There can be legal repercussions to using wasp spray on people, unfortunately. Whether that’s fair or not.

          The last thing you want is someone suing you for damages/medical bills when they were trying to cause bodily harm to you! Even if they couldn’t prevail, it still might not be worth it.

          If you know a police officer in the family, ask how wasp spray is looked at in your jurisdiction.

            1. Natalie*

              The OP has already said that they hesitate to use pepper spray because it’s illegal in their area. So carrying something that is a) also illegal and b) much more likely to cause actionable harm doesn’t sound like something they would be up for.

            2. SavannahMiranda*

              I know, I hear you. It’s maddening that one should have to consider liability simply when protecting oneself from harm, but it would naive not to think it through.

            3. Temperance*

              FWIW, you stand to lose a lot more. Think of all of the horrific cases where some jerk breaks into someone’s home, gets injured, and then files suit against the innocent homeowners.

              1. JSPA*

                Also think of cases where people injure or kill a family member, friend or coworker who surprises them. Or hesitates to use a potential weapon until it’s too late, because they could be mistaken. Or sets their protection off by accident. Or has it taken from them, and used on them. It really is safer to use something that’s as non-harmful as possible, yet incapacitating.

            4. blackcat*

              An acquaintance of mine has a record because he used mace on a mugger. I think “mugging by lawyer” is less risky if you are privileged in certain ways (my acquaintance is Black).

        3. poolgirl*

          There is a pepper spray you can get that will spray from any position, even if you are upside down. Some sites will let civilians order it, others only law enforcement, if that’s the case try to find someone who can order it for you. Try Galls and Quartermaster. There’s a saying I’ve always liked, it’s better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6!

          1. JSPA*

            Not a fan. A friend set one of these off in her purse. In a nice restaurant. Birthday dinner. Ruined a lot of special occasions for a whole lot of people. Gasp-until-you-puke. Asthma. Not sure if anyone had a heart attack, but as many old people as were evacuated or trapped inside in the mist, I’d not be surprised. Ditto if anyone got trampled going for the door.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Second this. My boyfriend wants to buy me a gun but I don’t want that, so he at least insists on wasp spray.

    5. Sloan Kittering*

      My dad actually bought me a device that makes a really loud noise, like sirens, in lieu of pepper spray (which is illegal where I lived at the time). I actually preferred that because I felt like it was less likely I would screw it up (spraying pepper spray into the wind where it would blow back on me, getting it taken away and used against me, or having it fail to go off correctly). And I could test it to know that it worked, which most of the pepper sprays couldn’t do as they were one time use only. I understand that it’s not a guarantee but nothing is, and it gave me at least a plan of what I would do if somebody was giving me a hard time, which made me feel more confident. And there was no way it could accidentally kill me or someone else. I really don’t know if I would be able to fire a gun at somebody anyway (which was his preferred option, but I declined) – I think I would probably freeze up for a variety of reasons.

      1. Gerald*

        There are a lot of noise-makers to scare off animals, so they should be fairly easy to find. I use one on dogs which is essentially forced air, so you could buy a keyboard cleaner which would have the effect of both making noise and blowing harmless air (which would have a shocking effect because the air is strong but nothing permanently physical).

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          This is definitely some kind of personal security device that goes on a key ring and makes a siren type noise, but yes I bet there are other options! I figure as a small woman my best bet is to disrupt the initial incident whatever it is and try to get away quickly in that moment, so an attention-getting alarm is about as good as I can hope for. (Other people have disagreed though, and said if I’m being attacked or something, it’s unlikely the siren would scare anybody off. It is sooo loud that, held close to somebody’s ear, it might have some literal offensive abilities, I’m not sure).

          Like I said, half the rationale for self defense anything is that it will help you feel more confident and less afraid, so I’m satisfied with my choice from that perspective.

        2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          Living in a mind-your-own-business city, I always wonder about the usefulness of making noise. A siren noise is going to be one of the many siren noises I’ll hear in a given day. If I hear yelling I’m not gonna go investigate. A whistle wouldn’t even register.
          I can see a big noise startling the attacker an making them realize that someone isn’t going to be an easy target or worth the trouble, I guess, though.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Yeah, I think that’s my best hope in any situation, TBH. Make it a little more difficult, maybe they think twice / give up and run off. I don’t think me whipping out amazing kung fu skills is a realistic alternative.

          2. DataGirl*

            Agreed. How often do we hear car alarms going off, even in suburban or rural neighborhoods? No one ever even looks out their windows anymore.

      2. Secretary*

        I’m sorry you’re dealing with this OP!!

        Alternative to the loud app or pepper spray. I use an app called Noonlight. It’s $3 a month and totally worth it. You hold a button down if you feel like you’re in danger, and when you let go, if you don’t put the code in within 10 seconds a live person checks on you, then gets emergency services to you.
        Because they work off your phone, they can also pinpoint your exact location (which 911 can’t do). If you walked up to your car and some guy was waiting there, imagine releasing that button and being able to say “the police are already on their way.” Also, if you were pulled into a car, as long as you had your phone the police could track you.
        I’m not a sponsor for the app or anything I just feel a lot less afraid with it.

        1. Jasnah*

          My iPhone has a similar function, click the hold button 5 times in quick succession and it sounds a loud alarm and starts a countdown to calling the local authorities (you can stop the call if you press a button during the countdown.

          Noonlight sounds a little more of a guarantee but this emergency alarm might already be on the phone you have.

        2. JSPA*

          You can also have 911 on speed dial, ready to push, and your location turned on.

          Or have spouse or friend on the phone, with all your details, ready to call 911 if the line goes silent. (I used to do this a lot.)

    6. DenverCoder9*

      Travel hairspray can also work in a pinch. (Bonus points for sea salt-based spray.) I travel a lot for work, and pepper spray isn’t something TSA smiles on if they find it, but my little can of hairspray doesn’t raise an eyebrow. Anyone who’s ever gotten it in their eyes can tell you it’ll hurt enough to be disorienting!

    7. nom*

      I know I am late to this thread, but if OP is interested in carrying something that can be used for protection, I would suggest a large, heavy flashlight. (In the US, a common brand is Maglite.)

      OP says mace/pepper spray is illegal in her area. As others in this thread have pointed out, sprays have challenges for effective use.

      A large flashlight has disadvantages : heavy, would require being close to an assailant, need to carry it in hand for it to be effective. But it’s legal, won’t accidentally “go off”, and has the distinct advantage of providing light. If yoy do have to walk in dusk or dark conditions, you have a light available to help avoid potential hazards. And sometimes light is enough to make potential assailants think twice.

      If OP does take a self defense class, then the intructor(s) might be able to give more specific advice. In any case, OP would want to get comfortable carrying, holding, and potentially swinging. When using it as a light, I recommend the “over the shoulder” position for best maneuverability.

  4. Temperance*

    Your coworker is an ass. What did she think that he was going to do, exactly?

    If other colleagues have quit without notice due to issues with their personal safety, it’s a problem.

    1. NYC Redhead*

      He could have been peeing, pooping, or doing drugs. I certainly would not laugh at someone’s fear- I’d absolutely be scared, too. But there are reasons that a person outdoors seeks privacy between cars.

      1. AKchic*

        All of this. And all of it is still dangerous.

        Doing drugs – he could have attacked her with a used needle, exposing her to infections and bloodborne diseases.
        Defecating – he could have thrown it at her, exposing her to harmful bacterium and anything he may have.
        Urinating – again, could have used the urine as a liquid projectile, or, since he was already exposed, physical assault (I’m not sure what will put me in moderation, or what might trigger someone due to a personal experience, so I am going to limit examples of what could happen).

        People also sabotage vehicles on purpose. Whether it is to steal parts for resale, or to hobble a person and separate them from others (or even as a prank, or due to a mental illness-related issue) it really doesn’t make a difference – the fact remains that the vehicle is damaged and the victim is out money to repair it, and depending on why the vehicle was damaged, could also be dealing with other issues as well.

        It is something to bring up to management. However, I would assume management is generally aware of neighborhood safety concerns, but has an “oh well” attitude or feels it’s just part of the job considering the line of work you (the general “you”) are in.

        1. ItsmeOP*

          Yeah so a lot of people do drugs and have sex in between our cars out back on the regular. In retrospect, I do agree that it is likely he was probably using as I think it’s unlikely he even knew the car belonged to a woman, but when I saw him there my first thought was bodily harm and it was extremely frightening. However, of the 3 incidences I wrote about (which are not the only ones that have happened), I actually think this was probably the smallest threat to my safety, if one at all. For the other two incidences though I was absolutely directly threatened.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Men can be targets, too. Maybe less often for rape but for muggings or whatever.

            Your workplace is being awful about this, though. My office is in an area that is far less consistently scary and my supervisor still asks us regularly if we’ve seen anything unsettling and do we still feel safe? (Nothing has ever happened, but he still asks.)

            1. ItsmeOP*

              Sorry, I mispoke. I meant more that as far as I know this person did not know who the car belonged to. But yeah my office so far has basically just ignored this issue, and some other people, including men, have also been directly threatened.

              1. Ticked On*

                OP, while i appreciate your caveats about where you have lived previously, they really don’t apply here. The way I read this letter is that you neither understand or sympathize with the people you claim to want to serve. You have lived in big cities, and I don’t want to assume, but my guess is that you have never had this much direct contact with people living this far on the margins or with such little access to adequate care. Although I understand that these scenarios have been scary to you, they do not seem to be directed at you. People where doing things you deem unsavory “near your car” – this does not mean you were targeted or in danger. Someone was having a mental breakdown and yelling and walking down the same street as you – again, doesn’t mean that you were targeted or that they were even aware of you.
                You don’t know/ like /identify with / or understand the people you are coming into contact with. That to you in scary. That does not make them scary or criminal or violent. There is a significant difference, and one you seem to be missing.

                1. Peridot*

                  I have no idea why you think this is an appropriate response to the OP. If someone followed me and screamed threats at me, I’d damn well assume I’m being threatened. The person waiting by her car may not have been a threat to her, but that only becomes clear in retrospect. She’s got a split second to assess the situation. Knowledge of the real threats that women face does not equal having no understanding of the population her job serves.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  Agreeing with you, Peridot. I worked in human services for years. It’s naive to think that no individuals in the group that a person is advocating for will hurt an employee. It happens and often. Many places have plans in place and train the employee so the employee can try to remain safe.
                  A person can advocate and still be aware of immediate surroundings and actions of individuals. These are not two mutually exclusive activities.
                  I have heard of an employee being killed by an individual who they were working with. Unfortunately, I cannot cite the reference here. I also have plenty of stories of employees being seriously injured.

                  OP, I hate to suggest this. And I would be surprised if you found it in all these comments here but I did try one thing that worked. I made my appeal based on insurance costs and liability. Once I started talking about how much money this could cost the company, I started being heard.
                  Sad, but there it is. One would hope that a company would care as much about the employees as it cares about the people served by the employees. One can only hope.

                3. I Work on a Hellmouth*

                  Hi! I’m not really sure why you wrote/think this, but I just want to say that this kind of attitude/thought process/shaming can actually directly contribute to people ignoring signs/situations that ultimately lead to them being on the receiving end of violent attacks. I train at a self-defense gym, and a large number of women AND men wind up finding/joining the gym because they didn’t listen to their inner voice saying “this does not feel right” and… something terrible happened to them.

                4. Anoncorporate*

                  You’re the one who sounds naive. Just because the OP is serving a vulnerable population doesn’t mean they can’t be dangerous, or that the nonprofit has to ignore the reality of people’s safety in the situation.

                5. Lilysparrow*

                  What is your “harmless” explanation for the person who followed her in his car, trying to get her to in it?

                  Was he just being friendly?

                  Threats are threats. Harrassment is harrassment. The mental state of the threatener doesn’t change what happened.

                  If coping with threats and harrassment is considered a routine part if the job, tgen the employer needs to address that in the interview, and give training and resources to the employees so they can handle it safely and in accordance with policy.

                6. StaceyIzMe*

                  You appear to be virtue signalling in your reply to the OP. There was another comment “upthread” that seemed to do the same thing by victim shaming (because “soft skills” somehow prevent one from being targeted). Essentially, we can’t know the minutiae of whether a specific mindset or skill set would be sufficient to deter someone from harming an employee where OP works. We’re kind of left with the location of the non-profit and its seemingly unwise disengagement with instances of violence or potential violence or harm. I don’t think that making assumptions about the relative moral value of OP’s attitudes is helpful. God knows that if all that was needed to preclude mischance in this world was the “right” attitude, many victims of crime and other unfortunate circumstances would have been spared these awful outcomes with just a little study and the practice of better emotional intelligence within their context.

                7. aebhel*

                  People who are screaming threats at someone or following them in a car are behaving in a threatening manner. I work at a library in a bad part of town, and a lot of our patrons are homeless or housing-insecure, a lot of them have mental health issues, or drug issues, or all of the above. Most of those people are harmless, but someone who screams threats at you should in fact be treated as a threat regardless of who they are.

              2. Dankar*

                I think it’s unfair to say that OP neither understands nor sympathizes with this population. You can understand and sympathize immensely, while understanding that danger, volatility and threats are present.

                My partner works with indigent populations, some with mental disorders, some addicts, and all of which who are victims of an oppressive system. He can recognize the problems with that system and their victimization and still be clear that some of those people ARE dangerous/criminal/violent. Victims can also be aggressors; those identities are not mutually exclusive and are often linked in complex ways.

                1. Ticked On*

                  Peridot I never once said that there aren’t real threats to women (and men and transpeople and…). What I said was just because she sees violence and feels like she is going to be victimized, does not mean that it is actually a violent situation, or that she will be a victim. Most importantly, many of the examples, except for the leering/threats from the car part, were not directed at her. They were happening around her, too close for her sensibilities, but not at her. There is a big difference, and it is that nuance that she seems unable to parse. Additionally, if it were me, i would look inward to figure out what about these scenarios makes me automatically assume i will be victimized or that the people i encounter are violent. My comment speaks to her intent and views, not to whether or not there are real threats out there.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  Agreed. And adding we are supposed to take OPs at their word. We are supposed to assume the OP is assessing their situation accurately. I think it’s safe to believe that our OP here has done the self-checks necessary and decided that she has real reason to feel unsafe.

                3. Jasnah*

                  Ticked On, I’m really happy that you have the strength, self-awareness, and peace of mind to see violence and feel threatened, then stop and reexamine this instinct with incredible compassion for the other person or people.

                  But there are genuine reasons why we feel frightened when we see violence. This is not an instance of “I saw a black man wearing a hoodie and I’m afraid.” This is multiple people following her, screaming at her, trying to get her in their car, directing violence and threats at her. We cannot rewrite this situation as a mentally ill person yelling in her vicinity because of an assumption we make about OP’s biases; we need to take OP at her word.

                  This is not an automatic assumption, this is a reasonable reaction to a clear and obvious threat. And frankly I don’t like how you are minimizing violence just because the people who perpetrate it have been wronged, or have been subjected to violence themselves, or otherwise deserve our sympathy. They can deserve our sympathy and our fear, based on their actions.

            2. valentine*

              OP: The environment is too chaotic. You deserve peace. Being seen as a job hopper is better than constant fear and drugs/sex in the lot. A reasonable employer will understand you leaving for safety reasons.

      2. American Ninja Worrier*

        I do think the laughter was an indication that the guy was probably doing drugs or something else sketchy that required privacy. That doesn’t mean OP’s fear is unfounded, and the co-workers is an ass for laughing. I think OP’s co-workers have become accustomed to the unsavory things about the neighborhood and sort of numb to the effects of that kind of environment.

        That doesn’t mean the situation is OK! Better lighting seems like a no-brainer, and I liked someone’s suggestion about a fence with badge access.

  5. Karen from Finance*

    Oh nooo. It makes me angry and sad that this is happenning and that you’re not being heard.

    I think the ideas you have suggested are good. Bring them up with your supervisor. Specially about changing the working hours so your husband can pick you up.

    If you don’t get support for the self defense idea, I suggest looking into it on your own, too.

    1. Psyche*

      Yes! You do not have to wait for your work to offer self-defense classes. Depending on where you are, you may even be able to find some free self defense classes at a community center.

  6. Nay*

    I live in a major capital city which has a lot of homeless who congregate 2 blocks from my work. Although I do wish that there was more I could do to help the homeless, and don’t want to stigmatize, it is clear that some of them have significant mental health issues (i.e. talking, shouting, cursing at people who aren’t even there) but these cases seem to be the exception.

    A couple weeks ago I was nearly assaulted by one of the exceptions who blocked my path and nearly knocked me into traffic, shouting at me, cursing at me, threatening me. I was able to get away, but my sister sent me some OC spray. I don’ t leave the office without it.

    1. Womanaroundtown*

      Heh, are you in Sacramento? I used to work for an emergency homeless services there and everyone in the city hated us for “attracting” homeless people. Most of whom were lovely and kind people with very interesting stories who were just looking for food and showers. Obviously, most of whom is not all of whom and I only made it a year before the issues built up and I was tired of feeling so anxious at work.

    2. atalanta0jess*

      So, here’s the thing about what you’re saying. Whether or not they have mental health issues has no correlation with whether they are unsafe. Mental health diagnosis is NOT correlated with an increased risk of being violent. It IS correlated with an increased risk of being victimized. Folks who are talking to people you can’t see are perhaps scary for you, but that doesn’t mean they are dangerous.

      1. Nay*

        Don’t lecture me on mental health, I feel completely unsafe about the schizophrenic ones who are shouting the epitaphs, so that has everything to do with me feeling unsafe. The reason I said one of the exceptions is because I don’t assume that any homeless person is going to assault me because they’re homeless.

        1. atalanta0jess*

          Here’s what I’m saying. Feeling unsafe and being unsafe are different. Lots of people FEEL unsafe around folks who are having active psychotic symptoms. And certain types of psychotic symptoms are correlated with violence, but many types are not. Just talking or yelling out loud is not.

          I am sorry that happened to you. I’m also sorry for people with schizophrenia who experience discrimination because of the perception that they are dangerous.

          1. Nay*

            Here’s what I’m saying, I’m not discriminating against anyone, but feeling unsafe and being unsafe are entirely NOT different because there’s a reason I feel unsafe! Life as a young female has taught me to be afraid of big/tall men who yell and curse because they are the ones who have physically assaulted me, sexually assaulted me, stalked me etc…

            If you think I’m discriminating against a schizophrenic by being afraid of them, that’s your incorrect assumption. I equally avoid all big/tall men who yell and curse, or at least, I clutch my OC spray a little tighter and get my thumb ready. That doesn’t hurt anyone unless they hurt me.

            1. atalanta0jess*

              I think it hurts people with schizophrenia when anyone goes around espousing the idea that they are more dangerous than your average person on the street.

              I am truly sorry that you’ve had those experiences. I really am.

              1. sunny-dee*

                The schizophrenic who used to follow me around telling me how he was going to “protect me” from the CIA and who threatened to cut my bosses head off was definitely more dangerous than the average person on the street.

                The fact that he wasn’t aware of what he was really doing, didn’t mean that he wasn’t capable of harming me.

              2. Rhoda*

                While most people with schizophrenia are probably harmless, people have been killed at random by shizophrenic strangers. Just last year ago someone was pushed in front of a light rail transit train and killed in my previous city by a woman with serious mental health problems. This woman didn’t even know her victim and there was no reason whatsoever to do this.

                1. CommanderBanana*

                  A jogger in my city was just stabbed to death by someone with schizophrenia. He was just found incompetent to stand trial. Completely random.

                2. Wander*

                  Plenty of people have been killed at random by people without schizophrenia, as well. There is NO correlation between violence and mental illness as a whole, and anecdotes aren’t data points that refute that. Asking people to choose their words more carefully to avoid stigmatizing people who are actually at a greater risk for being VICTIMS of violence rather than PERPETRATORS of violence is absolutely reasonable.

                3. Rhoda*

                  There’s a saying, “Don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out.”
                  When someone is staring directly at you while ranting and mumbling, it’s not discriminating against the mentally ill to be on guard.

              3. bob*

                thank you for saying “people with schizophrenia” rather than referring to people as “schizophrenics”

            2. Koala dreams*

              That sounds much more reasonable. Your earlier comment made it sound like you were only afraid of screaming people if they were ill. Thanks for explaining.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I live in NYC (obviously), and I always tell visitors from out of town:
            Your PERCEPTION of your safety is just as important as your ACTUAL safety.
            If you feel unsafe, you are absolutely entitled to do something about that. You do not need to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings or feel guilty that perhaps you are misjudging someone.
            Take care of yourself: Move subway cars; go stand by someone who looks like they don’t take shit from anybody; refuse to allow someone into the building behind you.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I am shaking my head in dismay, too. We are supposed to be aware when all might not be well. To encourage people to turn off that gut feeling may not be the best advice.
              What strikes me here is that OP has not received (that we know of) any practical advice from her cohorts to lessen her concerns.

              I have worked with people who break out laughing when I talk about safety. For myself, it verifies in my mind that OP probably has some real safety concerns going on. Additionally she works with a few people whose lack of professionalism is stunning. People who are serious about their jobs and carry themselves in a professional manner do not start laughing when a cohort wants to discuss a safety topic.

              1. Quoth the Raven*

                Absolutely.

                I once had to take an Uber for job related reasons, and at some point in the trip I started feeling unsafe (the driver was taking a route that did not make sense and through unsafe neighbourhoods, he kept constantly looking around and texting on his phone) so I sent one of my office mates the link to the trip explaining the situation (I was not in the best neighbourhood to ask to be let off, either). He immediately called me and stayed on the line with me until I got where I was going. He didn’t laugh it off or say I was exaggerating.

          3. Jasnah*

            The problem is when someone is being weird in public, we don’t always have the time and information to conclude, “Oh this person has XYZ disease, that means they talk to themselves but are otherwise harmless” or “This person is yelling to themselves but they definitely won’t hurt me.” We can only respond to the cues we receive, not the intentions that triggered them.

            As a woman and visible minority where I live, I often get targeted for attention, and I have to make a very quick assessment of my safety. I don’t always know if someone has a really good reason for yelling in public or moving suddenly and strangely. All I can do is take precautions for my own safety.

        2. some dude*

          There have been enough random acts of horrific violence committed by people with mental health issues in my city in the past couple years that I no longer assume the guy yelling at the voices in his head or acting really aggressive and agitated is harmless. I was on the train with a woman who was grumbling to herself, and she tried to kick a total stranger as he got off the train – she got up and went after a man she didn’t know, who had not interacted with her at all. If someone is super agitated, it stands to reason that their agitation could be directed at the people around them.

          1. atalanta0jess*

            Sure, good to be cautious of folks who are agitated, regardless of the cause of their agitation.

            Bad to assume that people with mental health diagnoses are dangerous.

            1. LCL*

              Was the person who walked into a social service agency that she used and stabbed the front person in the eyes not dangerous? The person who is known to rave and pick fights at a certain bus stop who finally stabbed someone yesterday dangerous? Where I am, it is known that you try to avoid the yellers and the people with the thousand yard stares, as there is a long known history of random assaults by them against anyone unfortunate enough to cross their path at the wrong time. Most of us don’t hate the disturbed, but we don’t want to be assaulted either. Statistics work both ways-I believe you that mentally ill people have a higher chance than the general population of being the victim of a violent crime. But it’s also true here that the odds of a person committing a random assault being mentally ill is much higher than in the general population.

              1. atalanta0jess*

                “But it’s also true here that the odds of a person committing a random assault being mentally ill is much higher than in the general population.”

                This is not true, at least from any of the nation wide statistics I’ve found.

            2. sunny-dee*

              But that’s hugely different. The thing everyone is pointing out here are behaviors, like yelling, cussing, and threatening or gesturing at people. The people exhibiting those behaviors appear to be mentally unwell.

              That is not the same as finding out that the quiet, pleasant, normal behaving person next to you has some mental health diagnosis and then you immediately assume that they’re going to attack you. Because not one single person on this thread has done that.

              It’s really unfair of you and some other to attack someone who is afraid of a person who is acting violent and crazy. They’re not stigmatizing or attacking someone for a diagnosis. They’re legitimately afraid of someone exhibiting aggressive behaviors.

              1. atalanta0jess*

                I’m just asking that we talk about it in that way, which the initial comment i replied to did not.

              2. Quoth the Raven*

                In the end it doesn’t really matter if their behaviour is due to mental illness, intoxication, anger, or any other reason — what matters is that their behaviour makes me feel unsafe, and I’d rather take the steps in order to feel safe again.

                1. aebhel*

                  Yep. I neither know nor care if the guy screaming in my face has mistaken me for his ex, is having a psychotic break, is drunk, high, or just an asshole. All I care about is the fact that a guy is screaming in my face. ‘Don’t find that scary because most people with mental illnesses aren’t dangerous’ is a non-sequitor. Most people with mental illnesses do not go around screaming threats in people’s faces, and people who *do* should be treated as dangerous regardless of why they’re doing it.

              3. Courageous cat*

                Yep. Sorry, my feeling of safety is priority over you being able to scream to yourself in public areas and not feel one bit discriminated against by that

        3. SavannahMiranda*

          You’re getting a weird amount of pushback. I for one am going to trust you and not try to ‘correct’ you. You alone know your situation, you have first hand familiarity with you local homeless population, you clearly are not speaking nastily or without compassion, and you and you alone went through what you went though. You are the authority on your experience and there’s nothing about that to be corrected.

          1. Nay*

            +1 thanks, idk why when I tried to approach this with sensitively that I’m getting baited into an argument.

            1. SavannahMiranda*

              It’s a bad faith and disingenuous argument of feelings before facts, and of proxy socio-political theories being prioritized over direct personal non-political experience.

            1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              It’s actually good that this exchange happened here, though, because it illustrates exactly what OP is facing from her coworkers. Something legitimately threatens her safety, people laugh at her and accuse her of being bigoted.

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        Also, if you are literally working in a service organization where you are trying to serve a community, you must find a way to not be always perceiving them as a threat. That just … can’t be your first thought when you’re meeting a new client, because they will perceive it and it limits your effectiveness. This was actually one of the things that made me realize that direct service was not the right career for me. I think the best service providers come from the community or have experiences in the issue itself (drug addiction, abuse, prisons, whatever). It’s okay to realize this isn’t the right field for you and find a different way to help – just my two cents.

        1. Sunshine*

          I think one of the dangerous things about non profit work is the dismissive attitude of OP’s co-worker, their desensitisation and the erosion of normal threat sense. The fact that OP feels threatened when some guy follows her screaming abuse and threats is normal, natural and good. It doesn’t follow that she considers all her service users a threat.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            If OP’s goal is to avoid dangerous people and stay safe, I hope she isn’t working for a nonprofit whose explicit goal is to assist communities that have been systematically under-served, is all I’m saying. There are plenty of jobs where you will never have to go into bad neighborhoods.

            1. Archaeopteryx*

              An organization still has a duty to take its employees’ safety seriously, no matter what population it serves.

        2. Jaid*

          She’s talking about the people she encounters outside, not while on the job! I think that’s quite different.

        3. StaceyIzMe*

          The clients served are those who seek out the services of the organization, which ostensibly has guidelines on acceptable conduct within its offices and also on what the other responsibilities of each party to the service agreement are. This is NOT the same thing as “I work in an organization that is located in a neighborhood that is know for crime and I’ve had several incidents that have made me concerned about my safety. And by the way, several other people who used to work for this organization left for similar reasons or concerns, or so I was told.” The two are not equal in any way, shape or form. One is about who is being served/ their needs and one is about safety in engaging in work. Conflating these is erroneous, in my view.

      3. WellRed*

        No, what she is saying is she had someone block her path, nearly knock her into the street and threaten her. Sounds frightening to me, mental health issues or not.

        1. atalanta0jess*

          yes, that part is frightening. She also implied that the folks with visible symptoms are the people to be most worried about. Like, we shouldn’t assume someone is dangerous because they are homeless, but THOSE SCHIZOPHRENICS, on the other hand!!! Dangerous!!! Which is not true, and is super stigmatizing.

          1. SavannahMiranda*

            I really don’t think Nay was globally encompassing all homeless or mentally ill homeless in her retelling of her personal experience. Let alone those dealing with schizophrenia who are not homeless.

            She experienced something dangerous. She experienced something frightening. And the way she related her experience was with a tone of compassion, despite being threatened with serious bodily harm (nearly knocked into traffic).

            It’s both disingenous and in bad faith to treat her personal experience as a venue to further attack her, let alone as a soapbox.

            She does not deserve attacks for having been attacked, or for having the temerity to retell her fear, shock, and her sorrow and compassion around that attack, or for apparently failing to do so in some idealistically perfect way that would pass the scrutiny of random internet mental health activists.

            There are no tests here. She doesn’t need to pass any exams.

            If you care deeply about the plight of those dealing with mental illness, at home or on the streets, attacking someone for telling the story of their attack is a strange and counter productive way to express that concern in an effective and compassionate way, towards anyone, whether neurotypical or not.

          2. Kj*

            Frankly, those with visible signs of aggression are the most worrying. It is not prejudiced to say someone who is yelling or cursing or making obscene gestures is potitially a threat. I work with kids with DD and we talk about what a threat looks like a lot, as being able to identify safe vs unsafe things is crucial to personal safety. Don’t ask people to be so open minded they put themselves at risk.

          3. Temperance*

            So, we shouldn’t assume people who are shouting as passersby, potentially threatening them, are dangerous? She sad literally nothing about all people with schizophrenia being dangerous. A simple google search will show you that occasionally, mentally ill / homeless folks will randomly attack people in horrific ways. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to protect yourself.

            Women are often more or less told to ignore our instincts and be “nice”. Being “nice” can get you killed. IDGAF about “stigma”.

          4. biobotb*

            She said the agitated people who are shouting aggressive, violent things at others are people she’s worried about. And that’s a totally reasonable stance.

          5. Very Australian*

            I agree with you FYI. Agitated or aggressive behaviours =/= mental illness. Speaking about these behaviours as behaviours, not as a diagnosis is important.

      4. byebiscus*

        yeah that’s why they have security force in psych wards because there’s no higher risk of them being violent…

        1. Diamond*

          That’s different. A psych ward is for people who have already been identified as a threat to themselves or others. If, say, .5% of mentally ill people are dangerous, and 1% of neurotypical people are dangerous, you would actually be in less danger from the mentally ill. However, if you collect all the dangerous mentally ill people in one place, you are in more danger from that group of people than from society in general. However, considering that many people in pysch wards may be there because they are a threat to themselves rather than others (suicidal, self-harm, eating disorder, clinical depression, etc.), you’re probably in less danger in a pysch ward than in a place that collects dangerous neurotypical people (jail, etc.).

      5. FD*

        I understand what you’re saying and why you’re saying it. Mental health stigmas are very real, and we should try to reduce them.

        The problem is that like a lot of statistics, it’s a lot more complicated than you’re making it out to be.

        One of the biggest complicating factors is the problem of substance abuse. Some studies[1] have shown that while people who have certain mental disorders (bipolar disorder and schizophrenia seem to have been the best studied) are more likely to commit violent crimes than people who do not have those disorders, this increase is mostly (but possibly not entirely–that seems to be unclear) attributed to people who also have substance abuse disorders.

        However, this is complicated because substance abuse also seems to be somewhat more common in people with bipolar disorder[2] and schizophrenia[3] than in the general population.

        So, it’s actually a pretty complex matter, and I think that reducing it to ‘no increased risk’ isn’t all that helpful. It’s not helpful to the people working on the ground (either in struggling communities or in hospitals) and who have to deal with real safety issues. And it’s not really doing any favors to people who may be at risk of hurting others to pretend that there’s no risk either.

        (What people are often referring to when citing this statistic is that people with severe mental illnesses are more likely than the general population to be victims of violent crime.[4] This is pretty well-established, however, it is often interpreted to mean that because people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime, that means that they are less likely to commit a violent crime.)

        [1] Bipolar Disorder and Violent Crime: New Evidence from Population-Based Longitudinal Studies and Systematic Review, Archives of General Psychiatry

        Schizophrenia, Substance Abuse, and Violent Crime, Journal of American Medical Association

        [2] The prevalence and significance of substance use disorders in bipolar type I and II disorder, Substance abuse treatment, prevention, and policy

        Substance abuse in bipolar disorder, Bipolar Disorders

        [3] Prevalence of Substance Abuse in Schizophrenia: Demographic and Clinical Correlates, Schizophrenia Bulletin

        Schizophrenia and psychostimulant abuse: a review and re-analysis of clinical evidence, Psychopharmacology

        [Note: These are a little old but I didn’t see many newer ones that were available to look through without memberships.]

        [4] Criminal victimization of persons with severe mental illness, Psychiatric Services

        Crime victimization in adults with severe mental illness, Archives of General Psychiatry

        1. atalanta0jess*

          Yeah, I get what you’re saying here. I didn’t approach this correctly. All I wanted to suggest was that Nay’s original phrasing was stigmatizing, despite attempts not to be. I don’t think I reduced it to no increase risk, as I did note that there are certain types of symptoms specifically correlated with violence. (Responding to stimuli is not one of them, as far as I know.)

          I just want these issues to be talked about in a way that is careful. What I read was “I know not all homeless people are mentally ill, but some of them are and they are dangerous.” I didn’t read carefully enough. Apologies, Nay, if you’re reading this.

      6. Jl*

        So, do you just look to fight with people on the internet? This is how a person feels and they dont need you to chastise them.

      7. Lilysparrow*

        I assume that all of the people who have followed me, blocked my path, called me names or epithets, screamed curses and threats at my face, lunged at me, and/or thrown blows in my direction were a threat to me.

        Some of those people may have been homeless or had mental health diagnoses. Some of them may have been drunk or high. Some may have simply been entitled misogynist douches. Or all of the above.

        I really don’t care about their blood work or their paperwork. I care about not getting attacked.

        The guy on the corner who barked like a dog? Startling, but harmless. He did that to everyone, and he kept his distance.

      8. Phoenix*

        So, most mental illnesses aren’t correlated with violet behavior, especially when they’re being treated. Untreated schizophrenia is unfortunately an exception to this rule. Although untreated people with schizophrenia are statistically much more likely to harm themselves than to harm others, they also show substantially higher rates of violence towards others compared to the general population. Here’s info from just one of many studies on this subject: “The risk of a violent crime was elevated 4.6 (3.8–5.6) times among the men and 23.2 (14.4–37.4) times among the women with schizophrenia when compared with those with no admissions to a psychiatric ward (Brennan et al. 2000).” Untreated people with schizophrenia should of course be treated with humanity, compassion, and concern. However, it’s not unreasonable to be cautious and watchful when interacting with them, and OP is not wrong to recognize that they may sometimes pose a threat.

    3. Noah*

      My impression is that, overall, lack of significant mental health issues is the exception among the homeless. I can’t speak to any specific city, though.

      1. sunny-dee*

        My grandmother worked with the homeless for years, and that was definitely her experience. Some had direct mental illnesses, many more had brain damage and behavioral issues related to years of substance abuse.

      2. Temperance*

        I’m in Philly. And yes, this is true, although I think addiction is a bigger issue here than untreated mental health issues.

  7. Punk Ass Book Jockey*

    Does your office have a security guard? If not, you might suggest hiring one. I worked in a similar neighborhood in a small city, and our security guard was from the neighborhood and knew many of the people who lived there. He’d walk me to my car at the end of the day and I noticed people would leave us alone, whereas when I was walking in on my own in the morning I’d have experiences similar to what you describe.

    1. copier queen*

      I second a security guard. If your company is the only one in the building, maybe they could pay a rent-a-cop to work during business hours, or if there are multiple companies in your building, perhaps they could share the cost, or maybe the landlord could pay for the security guard, and raise rent costs to cover it. Whatever shakes out, you are 100% entitled to your feelings and had these things happened to me, as a woman, I would be really scared. I am so sorry you are having to deal with this, and you need to do whatever it takes to stay safe – bring it to your supervisor’s attention right away.

    2. JudyInDisguise*

      I was going to suggest a security guard. I worked in a similar situation and arrived as early as possible, parked under a security camera or as close to one as possible and I requested an escort if I felt unsafe. I also carried pepper spray. I worked there for 12 years and never used it. I always used the buddy system when leaving at night. I never stayed alone or left alone after hours.

    3. BeenThere*

      Yes, the security guard idea is a good one. I worked in a sketchy neighborhood once, and our company hired a security guard. That person often walked folks to their cars. We were lucky in that the bus stop was right outside the front door, and the guard was usually standing right there anyway.

    4. Sloan Kittering*

      Plus, if your org is providing services to the community, giving a job opportunity to a local person is a great way to show that you are part of the neighborhood and that you respect the talent pool.

    5. No Longer Working*

      I agree with the security guard and addition of better lighting. But here’s something you can do immediately: Ask a coworker to walk with you to your car when you are are ready to leave. When I worked nights, a male coworker always asked if they could do that for me; we worked in an industrial area that would be deserted at night. If I had moved my car close to the entrance I passed on it, but I appreciated the offer. I bet some kind coworker would happy to escort you.

      1. Erin W*

        When I worked retail, it was company policy that at the end of the night we all congregated in the doorway, waited for the manager to do the final lock up, and then walked out to our cars together. Leaving or arriving with a group, even in pairs, if it can be worked out, would probably make a big difference in making you feel safer.

        Also, if your org won’t sponsor it, you should still try to take self-defense anyway. Where I live, the local rec center has it. Or your local law enforcement, or colleges or universities, may have something open to the public.

      2. TootsNYC*

        but, our OP needs to walk a few blocks to a bus stop, and wait there, out in the open and stationary.

        So…a security guard to walk her there and wait with her is a possibility, but that means he’s unavailable for others during that time.

        If anyone else takes the bus, there’s the opportunity of a “caravan.”
        Or, maybe a colleague could drive her to a different, more populous bus stop.

        Not sure what that does for the morning, though.

    6. ella*

      When I worked in a public library, we had problems at some point with cars in the parking lot being broken into. The police were able to do more frequent drive bys and would circle the block. A couple would even come in and walk around. If hiring a security guard isn’t an option, they may see if the police can up their presence in the area.

      1. ItsmeOP*

        Unfortunately I feel really confident for a variety of reasons that they won’t do this. I appreciate the idea though.

        1. beagle mama*

          Are there other business in the building? Perhaps there is a way to get traction to lobby the building management to pay for a security guard.

    7. LQ*

      Also strong agree. It doesn’t even have to be someone full time. Having someone from the neighborhood who can do escorts to vehicles/bus at the end of the day. (I would guess the problem is a lot bigger at the end of the day than at the start.)

      Sort of similar to this is if it is a community based nonprofit getting involved with the local …neighborhood watch or however it is framed in your community can be good and may help provide reciprocal safety. Maybe that security guard/escort isn’t just for your org but for the community and can help out with several different offices. (And that kind of role might be something that you can get grant funding for, I know a community org near the one I worked for had a team of people like that for a while that was grant funded and the watch/walking people were all local community folks.)

      1. Person of Interest*

        I was coming to say the same about neighborhood groups who may be able to provide van rides to the bus stop for folks in your building – I used to work for an org where we partnered with a local church to give rides for our volunteers to get from the nearest subway stop to the service site. But definitely bring this up to your supervisor – you have the right to feel safe.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Re: van rides to the bus stop:

          Even if it’s a walking “caravan,” that would keep everyone from being alone.

  8. Roscoe*

    Personally, I think if you feel unsafe, you should probably try to get another job, because it likely won’t get better.

    I’ve worked at many non-profits in the past, and there seems to be this attitude of “no, its not dangerous, and by implying that we are reinforcing negative stereotypes about the population we are working with”. It could be as little as laughing it off, as in your situation, or actually saying that you aren’t helping the mission.

    I think your husband picking you up is a great solution, but it probably isn’t great long term. Because if you feel unsafe, it will eventually (IMO) bleed into your work.

    Unfortunately, your organization probably won’t do anything about it, and even if they wanted to, likely couldn’t afford it.

    Unless you are SUPER passionate about the mission and absolutely are unable to leave, I would suggest to start searching.

    1. Salamander*

      I would agree. I’ve worked in some very dangerous situations over my career. I would not do so again. It does take a toll.

    2. Natalie*

      Yeah, unfortunately this has been partially my experience as well. Add in the reticence to spend any more money on “overhead” than is absolutely required (and often less than that) that some NFPs suffer from, and you have an organization that is very motivated to pretend that nothing needs to be done.

      If you decide to talk to your boss about it, IMO you should start the conversation with the actual experiences you’ve had. Fair or not, if you start with the reputation of the neighborhood, your boss might assume you’re reacting to stereotypes and have a hard time shaking that impression. And, frankly, if the place you grew up has a well known reputation as dangerous, you can always throw that out there as a bonafide. You really shouldn’t have to, but sometimes you have to manipulate whatever advantages you have.

    3. MechanicalPencil*

      Unfortunately, I think this is exactly right.

      If you can, try to employ the buddy system with a coworker to the bus stop on the times that your husband can’t pick you up. See if remote work is a possibility. And if at all possible, find a job elsewhere. If this is something you’re passionate about, keep your toe in the water by volunteering. I think your safety, both physical and mental, should come first. And the stress of the what-ifs will wear on you.

    4. Sloan Kittering*

      Plus, if everybody else has been dealing with it for years, rightly or wrongly, you’re going to be out of step insisting that it’s not livable for you and must be addressed immediately. I have seen this play out and it’s not a great situation.

    5. lcsa99*

      I agree with this completely. Get your scheduled changed immediately so your husband can drive, but don’t count on that as a permanent solution. What if he’s sick? Or has a business trip? Has to get to work early himself? Or stay late?

      I think you should advocate for self defense classes, but I think you should also immediately sign up for them yourself. If your work gives them as well, that’s fine – you’ll just have twice the training.

      The big issue I see is that you lost your confidence when you started feeling unsafe. That just makes you a big target for someone who might want to hurt you. If you get training so that you KNOW you can defend yourself if you need to, you’ll get that confidence back. Then start looking for a job where you will be safer.

    6. Bunny Girl*

      I second finding another job. You can’t completely overhaul an area in a short amount of time and eventually this will impact you in more ways than one.

      I used to work at a self storage company that had three locations. None of them were in a great area but one was in a terrible area. My first day working there by myself someone came in and threatened to kill me and broke onto the property. When I called my manager, they told me they would move me down to the other location in the “nicer area.” My first day there, someone broke into an area of the building. I quit the next day. When I went to pick up my paycheck, one of the owners begged me to stay. Oddly enough they had a lot of issues with staffing because people kept quitting without notice. WEIRD. I told him absolutely not. No job is worth risking your safety or even feeling unsafe. I told him that maybe if he warned people that his clients were complete animals that maybe they wouldn’t have so many people running off without notice.

    7. Anoncorporate*

      I agree – this is why I don’t work in social service type jobs and why I eventually stopped volunteering at the local homeless shelter in college. You either have to be someone who doesn’t get too bothered by harassment or someone who just doesn’t get harassed to work at these places.

    8. DustyJ*

      I second this. Sometimes feeling unsafe is part-and-parcel of the job itself.

      I couldn’t work in [insert service] any more, because the management attitude toward crime was “you’re hired to serve the community, the local drug dealers and drunks ARE the community, so toughen up.” And it did bleed into the work: I grew to resent and hate the people I was supposed to serve.

      1. DustyJ*

        I see someone else here already said the L-word, so I’ll admit that [Insert service] was a public library. I never want to work in a public library again.

  9. Antti*

    I might be off base, but honestly…I’m not sure it’s tenable for you to stay, unless you can maybe arrange to permanently stick with coming in and leaving earlier.

    Your organization doesn’t seem disposed to changing anything about this, and I say that because you’ve brought this up with coworkers and they haven’t taken you seriously. If you think you can bring this up to your boss (or maybe HR? I don’t know about that though) and that she’ll do something constructive about it without delay, then I would do that. But I’m not sure how much faith I’d put in that happening. Definitely try it, but otherwise I think a job search is in order. Your safety is not an acceptable expenditure to make for the sake of having a job.

  10. Snark*

    I think it’s reasonable for your employer to at least secure the physical premises, and that means a security service for the parking garage, flood lighting for the perimeter, and other common-sense security measures I’m frankly shocked they’re not taking. I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask they attempt to secure the entire neighborhood, but better security onsite seems obvious. This is a significant liability, if nothing else, and they need to improve practices in and around the physical plant.

    I suggest you document every instance you can think of, and try to get at least a few coworkers together to present your concerns to management. Your coworker is wierd for laughing at you and being shocked that you’d be concerned about a strange man crouched by your car. I guarantee there’s others that feel the way you do about this.

    1. Zev*

      Exactly. There’s no one solution that will fix the whole problem, but making at least part of the area safer (eg the parking lot) could help ease the strain and provide more safe options for the entire staff.

      Right now the only safe area is between the front door and your husband’s car, giving you only one *actual* commute option out of 3 *potential* options. Extending the safe area to encompass the parking lot would enable you to drive to/from work again, increasing your *actual* options to 2. It won’t solve the public transit problems, no, but it would still be a significant improvement, and one you can definitely push for.

    2. Loubelou*

      Something the organisation can do would be to have policies around what times people can work, guidance on travelling safely to and from work, and contact numbers for local law enforcement posted in the office (and that’s just for a start). I’m shocked that nobody at the office called the police when someone was trespassing in their car park and intimidating a member of staff.
      However, I’m also confused as to why most commenters are suggesting actions for the OP rather than recognising that it is the organisation’s job to ensure that attending work is safe for their employees. They may not be able to secure the areas beyond their control, but they can have guidelines and resources for staff. Self defence training is a great example.
      I’m hoping that one co-worker is not indicative of the culture of the office, and we don’t know that it is. Hopefully her supervisor will take her seriously and will take action to improve wellfare of all staff at the office.

  11. Amethystmoon*

    Some offices will allow a security escort to get to your vehicle if it’s a big parking lot and at night. Maybe hiring a guard or two if not already there would help.

  12. Todd*

    This may not sound like a short term solution, but may I suggest some sort of self defense class.
    These types of classes can offer not only the physical part, but also psychological benefit of confidence.

  13. Celeste*

    I think you should talk to your supervisor about it. It sounds like they have lost good people over this issue, and I feel like in time you could be the next one. That’s the kind of thing a business needs to care about.

  14. yo*

    OP, I am so sorry you are going through this. Even more sorry that coworkers aren’t taking these problems seriously. People following you and waiting for you outside of your car?! Not okay…

    I would see if you could implement some kind of buddy system – this could be formal or informal, but have 2-3 people walk together. I’m sorry the police department wasn’t helpful – a previous employer of mine put together a safety training from the local PD and everyone had good feedback. Can you have them come back but set an agenda of topics you want to cover?

    Also, I highly recommend reaching out to your employer’s insurance company or broker – a lot of agencies offer safety consulting services at a low or no cost to their clients.

    1. Just Another Manic Millie*

      I don’t see how having 2-3 people walk together would help. One of them would wind up walking to his/her car alone.

      1. TootsNYC*

        the OP takes the bus

        The bus stop is a couple of blocks away. And she has to stand there and wait, perhaps alone, stationary and visible.

        If there is someone she can make that trip with, and wait with, that would be a good idea.
        Or if she can get a colleague to take her to a different bus stop…

        But again, these are all only as useful as the specific day they are happening–what if someone is sick, etc.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I want to second the idea of a buddy system.

      It’s beneficial for more than just the practical reasons – it will also help you gauge your experiences and feelings and level-set them against what other your buddies go through.

    3. Liane*

      OP’s co-irkers say it’s over-reacting to leave a job, or even be worried, because *people are hiding in the parking lot & following employees to/from work*. They’ll probably laugh in her face, taunt her with “fraidycat!” or even tell OP not to perpetuate stereotypes about the client base.

      1. Judy Johnsen*

        But it is still better to ask. And why not have two or three together? Also, maybe carry a whistle and pepper spray. But ultimately, we need better solutions, as a society. We need mental health clinics, and affordable medicene.

  15. Just Me*

    If you live in Portland, then you need to leave your job and find another. No one in this city will do anything to help keep you safe. Your coworkers are gaslighting you. Your work situation is toxic because of the environment and your coworkers. Imagine your life as it would be if you didn’t fear for your safety every time you walked in? And that your coworkers greeted you with friendliness and trust rather than disparagement and ridicule. Do it.

    1. Anna*

      Wow. That’s an…inaccurate depiction of Portland. Not to mention, we aren’t exactly a very dangerous city, so…maybe ease up on the “no one will help you” rhetoric.

    2. fposte*

      I think this is going a little far–it doesn’t sound like anybody’s ridiculing her, they just have a different take on the risk of the area. Some of the people she expressed fear to may well live in that neighborhood and see it as home.

      1. fposte*

        To be clear, I’m not saying she’s wrong in how she feels, either. But risk is a scale, not a binary, and they’re allowed *not* to feel unsafe same as she’s allowed to feel unsafe.

        1. Busy*

          Right. But the normalization of that type of behavior is not actually reasonable. It is thoughts like that which lead to weird kinds of curricular logic. Just because someone is *used* to really unsafe environments, doesn’t mean that 1. it should be allowed to continue or 2. the person used to it shouldn’t take it seriously. I mean no one should have to live or work in an environment like that. The goal should be to stop it, not understand it into a “cultural norm”.

          1. fposte*

            But there’s no official metric of “really unsafe,” either, and there’s no place that’s inarguably safe. The OP says she has lived in high crime neighborhoods without this distress; probably some people thought those were really unsafe, too. They weren’t wrong to consider them unsafe, but the OP wasn’t wrong to live in them without distress. This is a little like the person yesterday who was saying that driving in snow is inherently unsafe, and those of us in snowy areas were noting that it’s nonetheless a level of risk that’s normal for us to take.

            That’s not the same thing as saying the poor/criminals are always with us and no social change can be made, but where our risk points are set is going to be very personal.

      1. Pop*

        It’s really not…I live in Portland and have spent time in many different areas (including those that some of my friends wouldn’t go to, despite only being a few miles away) and think that Just Me’s post is a gross exaggeration.

          1. fposte*

            There are approximately as many homeless people in Portland, OR as there are in the entire state of Maine; Portland, OR is in the bottom 2% of safety in US cities, while Portland, ME is in the bottom 18%. Portland, OR is also a much larger city that’s likelier to be the one meant when people don’t mention a state. So I think we’re guessing right :-).

              1. Equestrian Attorney*

                I actually thought of Portland Maine because we once stayed in an AirBnb there in a really sketchy area. It’s otherwise a lovely city, though.

              2. fposte*

                Just correcting the calumny on Portland, ME–it may have its problems, but crime and homelessness are actually a bigger problem in OR than ME.

        1. Kat*

          You mean “the original Portland” ;-)

          I have worked in NFP in Portland, ME and…yeah. We have a pretty sketchy area of town where, not coincidentally, a lot of the homeless/drug addiction/general assistance resources are located. There is a LOT of drug use which exacerbates violent behavior and mental illness. It was one of many reasons I stopped working there – the environment was just totally unsafe both for staff, clientele, and neighborhood folks.

          1. fposte*

            Right; pretty much every city or larger town has those. That’s part of why it seemed weird to have somebody convinced this was a Portland in the first place.

      2. Busy*

        Oh man! Look up Portland and “Skinhead City” from roughly the 80s to 90s. And it says “Skinhead City”, but basically it was a bunch of extremist gangs (one of which were skinheads) who would regularly brawl in the streets. It was pretty bad.

    3. ProperDose*

      Even though OP stated they are not in Portland… I would consider Portland to be larger than a mid-sized city….

    4. Nonprofiteer*

      FWIW I worked for a nonprofit in Portland, OR in one of the few sketchy nabes. Our employees were never attacked, but people were feeling unsafe at times. We invited the police to come and tell us the situation and give advice, and they were WONDERFUL. The undercover folks working the area gave us the down-low on what kind of violence there actually was, vs. substance abuse and behavior that makes us uncomfortable, and they offered solid advice for what to do when you feel unsafe. Like, there is a number to call for an escort to your car/bus/etc. at all times.

      This situation can be handled well, even in Portland, OR.

  16. Arctic*

    I don’t think they’d go for anything like the self-defense idea because of the optics issue. A non-profit admitting their employees are scared of the population they are helping. (Your concerns are completely valid and backed up by real examples! But optics don’t relate to reality.)
    I would definitely suggest the hours change. And, if possible, carry pepper spray.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I always have such mixed feelings about self defense classes anyway. Sure, it’s good to be reminded to be alert and proactive, but sometimes it feels like blaming the lambs for not fighting off the wolf. I would feel more confident with a security guard as the solution.

    2. Blue*

      OP could always seek out self-defense courses in her free time. Surely she could find them at a local rec center or nearby gym. If she’d like to stay in this job and thinks self-defense classes would give her some much-needed confidence in navigating her surroundings, I think it’s absolutely worth investing in that. I imagine that confidence boost would be valuable in general as she goes about her day, whether she stays in this job or not.

      1. Just Elle*

        But that’s the problem with self defense classes… they give you a false sense of confidence. OP is scared because she should be, she’s not safe. And a few hours of self defense training will simply not prepare a young woman to fight off a determined large man.

    3. Kj*

      Not always true. I worked for a nonprofit that had yearly safety training. We had safety week at work. They worked hard to create a safe culture for us. The nonprofit had other problems, but they knew we worked with a population that could be unsafe (the mentally ill) and we’re great about talking through safety with us and giving us self defense strategies.

  17. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I think the first thing you need to do is talk to your supervisor. Ask about his or her feeling of safety. Mention the self-defense class. But it’s important to raise the issue because right now you don’t know what, if anything, the organization is planning to do or able to do. You can talk about escort options to start with, like having someone walk you to your car or making sure you don’t walk out of the office alone. But ultimately, you need management to know that you feel unsafe, period; you don’t necessarily need to go in with fully formed ideas of how to fix it. And if they blow you off entirely, it’s time to start looking elsewhere.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      Yes to all of this, especially the last bit. If the supervisor takes a cavalier approach, that will say volumes about the (un)likelihood of the organization ever doing anything to address safety issues.

      Sadly, I’m not hopeful about the latter. The fact that multiple people have left (without notice, even!) over this also says volumes to me. But management needs to be looped in, regardless. If it appears they really don’t take the matter seriously, the o.p. can then decide whether this is a deal breaker or not, and act accordingly.

  18. Beth*

    OP, one thing your employer could do is hire security for their parking lot. Another is run a shuttle to the bus stop. Another is provide better lighting in the parking lot. Another is allow flexible work hours so people can implement their own safety measures. Another is promote a culture where people look out for each other (e.g. walking out to the parking lot together) instead of dismissing safety concerns out of hand.

    I want to validate that these incidents sound really scary (and I say that as a woman living in a very large city and who has experienced street harassment on a regular basis; I’d feel unsafe in your shoes too). It sounds like your employer and coworkers are generally pretty dismissive of safety concerns, but I’d encourage you to stick to your guns on this one. I understand that calling the police isn’t really an effective solution in this kind of ongoing situation, but there are absolutely things your employer could do to increase safety for their employees. If they refuse, I would personally take that as a sign that it’s time to start a job hunt and find a workplace that does take basic safety seriously.

    1. Just Elle*

      Agreed with all of this.
      They’re being completely illogical by dismissing these incredibly real threats. Just because no one has been hurt… yet… doesn’t mean you’re safe.

      To add a few suggestions:
      -There are apps where you hold a ‘button’ on your phone, and if you release it the police are called.
      -There are also keychains where if you pull the ‘ball’ side off, it emits a loud shrieking siren.
      -Pepper spray is a good option, but you HAVE to practice and be able to use it, or else you will risk precious seconds trying to use it when you could have been running
      -Self defense is a good step, but don’t let it make you cocky. The sad fact is a young woman with a few hours of self defense training is no match for a strong, determined man.

      1. Genuinely Curious*

        I have a silly question. How exactly *does* one practice with pepper spray? Do you just go to a well-ventilated empty spot and stick a cardboard bulls-eye on a tree, or something? Do they make dummy canisters that don’t burn if you mess up? Are there classes??

        I had a little thing of pepper spray for a while in college. I eventually stopped carrying it, partly because I didn’t feel the need anymore (it wasn’t a rough town), and partly because deep down, I knew I wasn’t quite sure how to use the stuff. I read the instructions of course, but I’m glad I never had to use the stuff; who knows if I’d have gotten it right on the fly?

          1. Just Elle*

            The police are required to be pepper sprayed once so that they understand what it feels like and use the right amount of caution before using it on others. Its not really something I’d advise you do to your friends for fun.

        1. Just Elle*

          Lol, you kind of made me laugh with the cardboard bulls eye on tree thing, but I do see your point.
          Its kind of like learning to use a fire extinguisher. You don’t actually have to try it, but going through the methods so that pulling it out, aiming in the right direction, etc feels comfortable to you.
          And yes, they do make dummy canisters. But there’s also no harm in just emptying out a regular canister, they’re not that expensive, and I’d argue its better because it’ll be identical to the one you actually plan to use. Its good to learn what to expect – what it feels like when you pull the trigger, how the spray is aimed (so you don’t flinch / look away when you actually need to use it), etc. You don’t need a target, its just a good idea to get comfortable actually pushing the button.

  19. Beatrice*

    Are you the only person who uses public transportation? Individually, I’d try to avoid walking to/from work alone and try to find a person or two on relatively the same schedule/route who could walk with me, and carry pepper spray. I’d ask the organization for formalize some kind of arrangement like that and recommend that employees arrive/leave in pairs or groups rather than alone. Having someone in the org’s leadership recognize it as a problem and implement a solution should pave the way for your peers to treat concerns more seriously, and it’s something they should be doing if multiple people have cited it as a reason for leaving.

  20. Zip Silver*

    Get your CHL and start carrying. Be sure to practice with it. Short of that, find a new job in a safer location.

      1. Zip Silver*

        The guy who tried to get her into his car and the guy hiding next to her car in the parking lot? Both instances where having one on hand would be helpful. The comments mentioning taking self defense classes are amusing. A 5’2″ 120lbs woman would not be able to hold her own during an attempted kidnapping against a 6’0″ 200lbs man without a weapon of some kind, be it a gun or pepper spray.

        1. Future Homesteader*

          The goal of self-defense is not to overpower, but to create an opportunity to get away. Most attackers are looking for easy targets, and putting up a fight of any kind can make a big difference.

          Also, as a 5’2″ woman, the consequences of that large man getting the gun away from me are worse than the potential benefits of carrying one (and that’s assuming I’d ever be comfortable shooting a person, which, spoiler, is highly unlikely for me).

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I’m not seeing where a concealed weapon, meaning one that people can’t tell you have, would prevent someone from following the OP or hiding next to her car. Are you suggesting that she should shoot them?

          1. Rainy*

            I believe he’s suggesting waving it around indiscriminately in the rough neighborhood in which she works.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Which as we all know is a great way to increase your personal safety, and is in no way likely to provoke other people to do things like call the police on you, or possibly whip out their own concealed weapons in the belief that you are now a dangerous person.

          2. Zip Silver*

            Yeah, basically. If the “guy waiting by her car after work in the bad neighborhood” escalates to “guy trying to rob, rape, or kidnap her”, that would be the thing to do.

          3. Jennifer*

            Probably, which is sad. I empathize with the OP and think she has ample reason to feel fearful, but some of the commenters might want to watch The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street episode of Twilight Zone.

        3. Working with professionals*

          The other part of carrying a gun for protection is to be clear in your own mind that you are willing to pull the trigger to seriously harm or kill a person. Getting a gun and hoping that threatening to use it will be enough has caused many people to be killed with their own weapons. People who prey on other people are good at reading your facial expressions and body language. If they don’t see deadly intent behind that gun, only fear and shaking, they will take it from you and use it. Have that conversation with yourself, play out that scenario in your head where you are confronted and pull your weapon – how do you really think you will respond? This is one of those decisions you really need to be honest with yourself and clear on.

          1. WellRed*

            And, to be prepared for the emotional consequences of shooting someone, even when it’s totally necessary.

            1. Tiny Soprano*

              With the added concern that particularly at close range, a bullet doesn’t stop when it enters a body. It passes through and out the other side – and may well hit another person. One of the reasons why I feel very lucky to live in a country with extremely strict firearms laws.

        4. Katie*

          Umm, practicing martial artist for 15 years of the size you describe. Trust me, everyone has a weak spot and most men are generally vulnerable in the same place. Size has very little to do with it. That said, the OP would have to practice for years to perfect the technique enough to be street ready and may require something more immediate in the short term.

        5. Snark*

          This is the kind of comment that people who value guns as a symbol and signifier but don’t actually understand or respect them much make.

          Here’s the thing: a gun is not for scaring people. It is not to overpower. It is not for a close-in physical confrontation. It is not a substitute for pepper spray. It is not a confidence booster. It is not to brandish. It does not exist to wound or to dissuade.

          It is a thing that is designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to put a small piece of fast, hot metal through one of its target’s critical organs and in so doing to kill it dead as rapidly as possible. If you draw down on a person, that is a preliminary act in killing that person.

          Unless OP is 100% ready to draw that gun and end someone’s life, it is not a solution and this suggestion is irresponsible.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            This, a thousand times this.

            If you are suggesting a gun as a resolution for a situation, what you are fundamentally saying is that having the situation end with one or more deaths is an acceptable resolution. In some cases, maybe that’s accurate… but in a whole lot of them, I don’t think it really is.

          2. Snark*

            And, also, as someone who has used guns for target shooting: guns are hard. At a controlled, predictable, safe shooting range, shooting at a paper target that’s not walking around, I am a middlin’ pistol shot at best. In the dark, startled, frightened, with a pulse of adrenaline going through my system, with someone moving fast and threateningly towards me? I might land a shot or two on target.

          3. Jasnah*

            Absolutely.

            I would also argue that in bringing a gun to a rough neighborhood where she knows dangerous people are, OP would be making the neighborhood less safe overall.
            If someone stole her gun or attacked her and took it, now there is one more violent person with a gun.

          4. aebhel*

            ^ this. Also, shooting accurately is pretty skill-intensive even in ideal situations, let alone when you’re unprepared and terrified.

      2. Rainy*

        If she works for a non-profit there’s a pretty good chance she’d be reprimanded for bringing a handgun onto the premises, as well.

        But yeah, the utility of a CCW is extremely limited in situations like these. You cannot (like, CANNOT) just whip out a handgun and start waving it around and expect that to help anything, and you will also lose your CHL if you do that on a regular basis. At the very least.

        1. ItsmeOP*

          Yeah I would be fired immediately if I came in with a handgun. I do have pepperspray though and will get some of the other suggested items like wasp spray and something that makes a loud noise.

          1. Erin W*

            I got a keychain somewhere with a panic button that emits a super loud noise. I’ve always been hesitant to carry it though, assuming I’m going to accidentally set it off in my pocket. If I was working in this type of environment I probably would keep it on me, though.

          2. Rainy*

            By the way, I cannot recommend enough practicing with your pepper spray. Go somewhere away from people where you won’t spray someone by accident, check the wind (so you don’t accidentally spray yourself!), and then figure out how wide or narrow the angle is, how accurate you can be at a typical someone-is-closing-with-me distance (use a telephone pole or something upright), and just get comfortable thumbing the safety lock off and spraying. Empty that canister if that’s what it takes to get comfortable. They aren’t that expensive, so you can buy a few and practice.

      3. Jl*

        Exactly! Having a weapon in a small and confined area is not a good thing. She could get overpowered and have it used against her.

    1. Dame Judi Brunch*

      Conceal carry is legal in my state but my employer does not allow us to carry. This may not be an option.
      If it is an option, safety training and practice! Using this method to defend yourself is always always always the last resort.

        1. Rainy*

          Except I’m not sure what you think OP is going to do with a CCW in the types of incidents she describes that isn’t waving it around.

          1. Dame Judi Brunch*

            You cannot wave it around. It’s there in case you are put into a life or death situation. Drawing your weapon is an absolute last resort to defend yourself.

            1. Rainy*

              I know. That’s what I’m saying–this is not an appropriate remedy for these situations, and I’m confused as to why Zip Silver would think that it is.

              1. WakeUp!*

                Ya makes no sense. The only reason a weapon would be a deterrent is if people knew she had it. Ie not concealing it (at worst, brandishing). Using a firearm would be an extremely disproportionate and ILLEGAL response to absolutely everything OP described so this suggestion is pretty useless

              2. Zip Silver*

                You’re putting words in my mouth. OP had somebody try and coerce her into his vehicle. That situation could have easily escalated into a life or death situation had the guy decided to be a bit more coercive.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  Right, but a concealed weapon doesn’t prevent him from following the OP or from making a grab attempt. Preventative solutions are infinitely better than reactive ones.

                2. Snark*

                  And unless she was willing to draw that gun and end him with it right there, drawing it would have further escalated that situation by introducing an easily grabbed deadly weapon to the mix.

                3. Cube Ninja*

                  I’m assuming from your other comments, Zip, that you’re a CHL holder and enthusiast of things that go bang.

                  I am too, although I very rarely carry as I can’t easily do so in my day job.

                  By extension, you also know that the optimal engagement distance for a handgun is 7 yards or more specifically because of reaction time. Inside that range, an average person can physically engage faster than even most well-trained individuals. In the situation you’re describing, having a firearm on hand is just as, if not more likely, to end up in the firearm being pointed at the wrong person.

                  This is without taking into account whether or not someone might be comfortable carrying a gun. I know I absolutely do not believe half my CCW class should be carrying based on their accuracy alone.

                  Snark’s comment above regarding willingness to use this option is perfectly stated.

                4. Snark*

                  My wife did her required service in the IDF when she was a teenager, and told me once about a training session where a beefcake dude was instructed to attempt to draw down on a petite, unarmed female instructor about 5 yards away. He barely cleared the holster before she had her jacket off, whipped it out, tangled it around his wrist, took him to the floor, and disarmed him.

          2. Phoenix Programmer*

            You can feel safer know you have the means to defend yourself if it escalates.

            Honestly this is just a bigger version of the pepper spray suggestions. It’s no like you can whip out the wasp spray with the car following you example either. All you can do is know that you have tools of it gets worse…

        2. Snark*

          If you are carrying and the people around you are not made aware of that as a basic courtesy, you’re doing it wrong.

          I continue to get the impression that the ethics of owning and using guns are not a thing you really understand that well.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Only if it makes her feel safer and not more anxious. My husband would love for me to carry a gun, but it would just stress me out more worrying about it. Some people are more comfortable with a gun, some people are not.

      1. Snark*

        And if you are not comfortable with a gun, and comfortable with the prospect of using that gun for what it is designed to do, then by no means should you ever consider carrying a gun. Your husband is far off base if he thinks you should do it anyway.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Hilariously I am a much better shot than him, and he grew up around them when I didn’t (he is a decent shot, I just have a freakish talent that is of no use to me). He seems to think that because I’m a great shot I’ll be fine with a gun, but handguns in particular still stress me out and I’m especially not comfortable having one around but out of sight because I will 100% forget that it is there.

    3. CheeryO*

      I’d find a new job waaaay before I even considered carrying a gun. Obviously everyone is different, but this seems kind of extreme for most people.

    4. Public Sector Manager*

      I’m not one to dismiss advice from other posters, but as someone with a conceal carry, this is terrible advice.

      First, not everyone is comfortable around guns. While I am, my wife is not. My wife would be a terrible candidate for conceal carry. The OP may not want to carry a firearm.

      Second, most offices have a workplace violence policy and universally, workplace violence policies for non-law enforcement organizations prohibit firearms in the workplace. My office has the same issues as the OP’s office and I would be fired if I brought a gun into the workplace. And keeping my firearm in my car wouldn’t do me any good when I’d need my gun while getting to my car, not while in my car. In addition to a car being an absolutely terrible place to store a firearm.

      And the third reason is the liability. Even if the OP used a gun in self-defense, the OP will be arrested and booked for murder/manslaughter. A dismissal of the case for self-defense will only come later when the prosecutor reviews the case. OP would probably lose her job because of the arrest. And then there is the civil suit from the assailant if they live and their family if they don’t. That’s why all conceal carry holders have tons of liability insurance and group legal to defend against civil lawsuits.

      So no, conceal carry is not a good solution in this situation.

      1. Faith*

        I agree with your first and second point, but not third one. “If the OP used a gun in self-defense”, I assume means she was actually attacked. In that case, I would rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

  21. RKMK*

    I don’t have concrete advice but just wanted to validate your concerns – the specific incidents you’re mentioning ARE threatening. There are types people who are more and less likely to be on the end on that kind of behaviour and that can affect people’s perceived threat levels, and lead some to be dismissive, but your gut is telling you there’s a problem and never second guess it.

    Adjusting your hours to get dropped off instead seems perfectly reasonable to me.

    #SSDGM

    1. ItsmeOP*

      OP here – not that everyone else’s comments aren’t helpful but thank you for your validation and I promise to SSDGM :)

  22. robot*

    Definitely tell your supervisor that you’d like to regularly work those earlier hours so your husband can pick you up. (You can go into the safety concerns you have if you think your supervisor would understand them, which I’m not quite clear on from your letter, but it’s also totally reasonable to just say that you’d rather be picked up than take the bus. Lots of people would prefer that!)

    And I’m sorry your coworker laughed at you. Assault and rape by strangers is much rarer than assault by people known to the victim, but someone hiding by your car is frightening, and it was not okay for them to laugh at you.

    1. ItsmeOP*

      Yeah I’m going to tell him next week. I think I was worried he would think I was overreacting but based off of everyone’s responses I feel more confident and I will tell him about some of the specific issues. I am not even sure that he cares I am working slightly off hours (he has never said anything) but I feel like he should know why considering the reasons behind it.

      I wrote this elsewhere but I think in retrospect the car issue was actually probably not a direct threat. It really scared me though and I think I just went to worst case scenario.

      1. Natalie*

        Since you’re the only person using public transportation, he’ll probably understand it on the “don’t have to take the bus” level alone. People often seem to assume that transit users are always itching to not have to use transit. So if you do get the sense that he’s being dismissive, you could pivot to “yay, driving!”.

        1. valentine*

          the car issue was actually probably not a direct threat
          It doesn’t hurt to respond as though it is.

  23. Kyle*

    My wife really wanted me to apply for a position at her organization (county government) because I’d have a “relaxed” work schedule and taking two “employee only” health plans was cheaper than just her taking one family health plan. But it was at a different building than she works at, in the absolute worse part of the city, with literal bars on the windows and a gated parking lot with security guard. The Trulia crime map was light up like a Christmas tree around the area and my wife knew somebody who worked out of that building who was carjacked a few blocks away.

    I really didn’t want the job for the location, plus it would have only been roughly a $5k increase in pay for double the commute time. I still applied and interviewed (Ubered to the building because they didn’t let visitors parking in the secured lot) but they were looking for someone with different experience which was secretly fine with me.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah, in an area where you feel unsafe I think you have to get enough extra pay to cover heavy use of a ride sharing app or car service, and that adds up. I don’t usually find that nonprofits located in such areas have a lot of extra salary money lying around either.

  24. Emmie*

    You feel unsafe. There’s no need to question your reality because your coworkers diminish it. They are not you. If it helps, sometimes people minimize issues to help them cope. Trust your instincts. If nothing changes, is this the right organization for you? Do you really want to work in a place where your safety is at risk, and no one acknowledges it?

  25. BRR*

    First, bring it up to your supervisor (maybe also HR). Use the incidents you described in your letter. I think that will help more than only saying you feel unsafe. If someone laughs, I would give them a horrified/appalled look and ask what is funny about what you said or simply reply with a “wow.” Definitely ask for what you mentioned in your letter. You’re not out of line. This is the cost of being located in a higher crime area. Ask for a self defense class to be taught or for your employer to cover the cost of you attending one. You can also say that you’re not sure what should be implemented and ask for someone who works in this field to come in for a consultation.

    Make sure to get a timeline for next steps. “We’ll look into it” is an unsatisfactory answer if that’s all you ever hear. Is there anyone you can line your schedule up with to walk to the bus stop at the same time?

    1. ItsmeOP*

      OP here – unfortunately the majority of my coworkers drive, which is actually really uncommon for our city. I don’t know of anyone else who takes public transportation from the same location as I do. I do think I’ll talk to my supervisor about this in our next 1:1 though. I think part of the reason I haven’t talked to them yet is because I sort of anticipated the “we’ll look into it” response and I’ll try to get a timeline.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Please *do* talk with them. What you describe is definitely cause for concern and I’m so sorry your coworkers are minimizing it.

      2. Beth*

        I wonder if the high number of drivers is maybe *because* the neighborhood is unsafe. Correlation isn’t necessarily causation and all, but if most people take public transit in your city, and your office is in an area where public transit (either the transit itself or the walk to it) isn’t really safe, and people in your office just so happen to drive to work instead of taking public transit…well, sometimes 1+1 does = 2.

      3. Mr Shark*

        If you can’t drive all the time, then maybe see if there’s a possibility of a car pool, so you can come in with someone consistently?

          1. Shannon*

            Yeah, if they all drive, OP can you get a car buddy to drive you to like the next stop on your public transit route that may be outside the “hot zone”?

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              Maybe this, plus a Plan B of getting a ride from your husband or a ride sharing app, would help OP feel more in control of the situation. They may not be going to your stop, but if you’re taking a bus many drivers are probably crossing the line somewhere.

          2. Mr Shark*

            Yes, that’s a good alternative if you can’t get a full-time carpool buddy. A quick ride to a different bus stop isn’t inconvenient at all if it’s on their way during their commute. Great idea.

      4. Rainy*

        I used to live in a city that had a neighbourhood named for the type of drug people did there, where you didn’t wear sandals or open toed shoes if you were passing through that part of town so you wouldn’t risk stepping on vials and needles, and also has a lot of nonprofits with offices in that area because they serve the concomitant populations, and if that is where you live and all your coworkers drive, I have a hard time believing that it’s NOT because, whether consciously or subconsciously, they are afraid to take transit to the office.

        This does not sound like a pleasant situation for you. My advice would be to yes, obviously, talk to your manager, suggest all the excellent suggestions you’ve listed above, but also start your job search. The attitude of your workplace seems to be that the strong will survive, which is kind of a terrible way to make safety plans.

      5. BRR*

        Ugh I’m sorry this has to be such an uphill battle for you and everyone’s safety. I would be ready to say “when can we check back in on this?” Or “can we check in about this in X weeks or on X date?” Also encourage any coworkers who are also concerned about safety to speak up.

        I threw in mentioning it to HR because an HR person/department might place a higher priority on employee safety than a particular manager if that manager is deficient in this area.

      6. Blue_eyes*

        If most of your coworkers drive, is it possible for one of them to drop you off at the bus stop on their way home?

        When I worked at a school in a pretty bad neighborhood I took public transit to work, but then in the afternoons (especially if it was dark out), my coworker would drive me towards her house and I would get out at a convenient subway station and take the subway the rest of the way.

        Another thing I did at that job was to carry a “muggers wallet”. Basically a second “fake” wallet with like $20 and an expired credit card and ID, maybe an old transit pass – enough stuff in it to seem like your real wallet. The idea was that if someone tried to mug me, I would give them the fake wallet and that would pacify them long enough for me to get away. I started doing that after multiple people were mugged and threatened with weapons right outside the school. I got the idea from some list of ways to stay safe – almost all the other things were useless tips to try to make yourself look bigger and scarier. As a short-ish white lady, there’s not much I can do to look “scary”.

        1. Former call centre worker*

          A friend of a friend carries an old handbag with her when she walks the dog, to put the bagged up poo in. Once she got mugged while walking the dog and, err, that must have been one disappointed mugger!

      7. Observer*

        If most of your coworkers drive, that’s a good argument for at least improving the safety of the parking lot with lights and cameras. And it does mean that you are more likely to get someone to walk with you to your car on the days that you drive.

        It doesn’t resolve all of your issues, but anything you can do it to the good, I would say.

      8. Cassandra Mortmain*

        If most of your coworkers drive, that explains a lot about the reactions you’ve gotten (which doesn’t mean they’re OK). There’s a huge gap between the discomfort level of walking to your car, even in a very high-crime area, and knowing that you will soon be in your car where you can lock the doors and drive yourself away, and walking to a bus or train stop, where you’ll continue to be a sitting duck for anyone following or harassing you. Getting harassed on the street walking to your car can be scary; getting harassed walking to a bus stop in the dark, where you will just have to stand there and wait until the bus shows up, is terrifying. And if that isn’t their experience, it’s easy to dismiss how scary it can be.

        Unfortunately, it also means they’re probably less likely to want to accommodate you. Asking about shifting your schedule is a good idea. I also think this is a valid reason to find another job.

  26. Rainy days*

    I realize this isn’t a realistic solution for everyone, but I used to have to go through an area that sounds something like the LW’s if less intense, and I started biking to/from work. It made me feel safer when I could get away from situations/certain people quickly. This wasn’t my only reason for becoming a bike commuter, but it was a huge plus.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yes, I used to live in a neighborhood with a good amount of street crime and I felt safer biking than walking. Especially because you can usually park a bike right next to your location, versus driving where you might end up walking from your car a good distance anyway. Of course, you lose a lot of bikes in a bad neighborhood too.

      1. Rainy*

        Also if it’s anything like the similarly-named area in Major City Where I Once Lived, the needles and vials are hell on bike tires.

      2. Crazy dog lady*

        Maybe she could store the bike inside like under a stairwell? We had people do that at my old job and it was actually safe enough for them not to, but it’s nice anyway. If her building is secured I think that would be a good choice.

      3. Rhoda*

        A folding bike such as a Brompton could get her from the bus stop to work.
        In my city there are bike racks on the front of the buses that many people use for mixed mode transportation.

      4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        My current neighborhood, and a place I spent time in the past, had a problem with people snapping belts or long sticks through the spokes of bikes to cause a crash. Then when the cyclist was down, they’d mug them and run, leaving the injured cyclist with no way of summoning help because their phone was stolen.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          But they let walkers go unmolested? I doubt it. We’re talking about ways to mitigate the risk. In general I felt biking was safer than walking, doesn’t mean that biking was perfectly safe.

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            Oh no, walkers would get bothered too, it’s just the areas where that happened were places where people would think twice about walking but would be OK biking.

    2. Rear Mech*

      Agree that biking rather than walking helps a lot. I don’t think that it’s a complete solution for your problem, but I will say that I, as an avid cyclist, have a really different perception of the safety of certain areas than friends who have to walk out to parking areas or transit. Bike racks are usually right by the door, and you will seen as less of a target while riding, especially if you’re on the road/bike lane/shoulder rather than a sidewalk where you have to go slowly and maneuver around obstacles

    3. Flower*

      You alredy acknowledged it might not be a realistic solution for everyone, but aside from individual physical limitations, just want to point out that some cities are worse for biking than others. Mine for example is not at all bike friendly – limited racks, though they are present, but more importantly, poorly maintained roads without useful bike lanes – in most places, the bike lane is also the bus lane is also the turning lane at intersections, and the asphalt is in horrid shape. I do know people who bike for commuting, but all of them recognize that it’s not entirely safe, even if you do avoid some of the safety concerns inherent to walking.

    4. Flower*

      You alredy acknowledged it might not be a realistic solution for everyone, but aside from individual physical limitations, just want to point out that some cities are worse for biking than others. Sometimes you’re just trading one set of safety concerns for another. Mine for example is not at all bike friendly – limited racks, though they are present, but more importantly, poorly maintained roads without useful bike lanes – in most places, the bike lane is also the bus lane is also the turning lane at intersections, and the asphalt is in horrid shape – and drivers here are notorious for failing to signal turns let alone lane changes. I do know people who bike for commuting, but all of them recognize that it’s not entirely safe.

      1. DataGirl*

        Agree with you Flower. I would never bike in our major city, too many aggressive and distracted drivers. Even where the rare bike lanes exist, they are not safe at any intersection when drivers are not trained to look for them, and actively resent them if they are seen.

  27. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    “When I mentioned the person hiding next to my car to a coworker, she literally laughed and was shocked when I said I was afraid he was going to try to rape me.”
    I can understand this callous response in terms of what you OP said about your own home city and college city, how they had bad reputations but you were familiar and therefore more comfortable. But I imagine you felt this way because you either took minimum safety precautions or were just younger and more naive. In either case, you now know that your coworkers don’t feel this way, they instead feel it’s a weakness to show concern for safety. Apparently that’s how they weed out the “weak.” People with common sense leave.
    I think it’s something you can take up with your manager. Especially using the part about your husband driving you in. You can start a conversation about officially changing your hours because you don’t feel safe.
    “I drive in with my husband because I am accosted on my walk from the bus stop. This means I need to start earlier. Is this going to work long term? I would also like to know if there are plans to make the building and its surroundings safer. I realized after my experiences with X and Y that a lot could be avoided with floodlights, key codes, whatever.”
    If your manager thinks you’re overreacting, that you should walk through the streets without a care, I’d ask about WFH or start looking. Because that is an office culture thing.

  28. CatCat*

    What about workers traveling together as a group? This may not work if literally everyone else in the office thinks it no big deal, but if even just a few others are also concerned, you could band together to escort each other.

    This will mostly work if you can schedule similar start/end times. So if people are driving, they walk to/from the parking lot at the same time. If one person is driving and another is taking the bus, the driver could pick up the bus passenger at the bus stop and then they could walk to the office together from the parking lot. Same routine in reverse on the way home. This is something management could announce and help coordinate and it may have more participation if it is coming from management.

    You could approach your boss with something like, “Boss, I am concerned about personal safety in the parking lot and around our building. I know people have quit over this issue. I have personally been stalked, harassed, and threatened coming and going from the office. I am sure [Employer] takes the safety of employees seriously. In that spirit, I have an idea that may help improve safety. [State idea for traveling in groups]. Is this something management would support and help me coordinate?” If they hesitate, keep pushing for a reason from management for not helping with this issue. This may make your boss uncomfortable if they really don’t want to help (because it sounds like there may be a cultural issue here, which I mention below), but who cares. Safety is more important than if the boss has weird feelings about this.

    Also, the coworker that laughed at you was way out of line. That plus the fact that people have quit over personal safety and nothing has been done indicates a possible cultural problem on this issue. I think your approach though is OF COURSE management will help resolve this though. Because it would be absurd for them not to.

  29. Iris*

    I used to work in a neighborhood that was a little sketchy but nowhere near that bad and only during the day. I also worked in retail when we would get off very late and the store had a policy that we would all walk out together to the employee parking lot at the end of the last shift. I thought that was nice even though the parking lot was right there and it was a decent area and I never say anything suspicious (well, other than a theft from the store during the day). I think your firm should provide a security guard to walk with people back and forth especially if people have already quit over it and there’s so many issues. But the fact that they haven’t already done that makes me think they probably won’t and I would just leave/quit asap and just have your husband pick you up until then, leave early, etc.

  30. deesse877*

    I think it’s possible, based on what the LW describes, that she’s been identified as a soft target, while co-workers have not been, so that they literally don’t see the same threats you see. I would personally fear property crime rather than sexual assault, but that’s neither here nor there. POint is, it is very likely that this seems like a “you problem” to coworkers, but it’s actually an “everyone problem” that happens to fall hardest on you. I’m not sure what would specifically work, but I would favor solutions that protect the whole building, as opposed to attempts to protect only yourself. Self-defense training seems to me like it would just make people individually responsible (and hence help hide the problem more), when what is necessary is a comprehensive institutional response.

    1. ItsmeOP*

      So I do think I have been identified as a target for sure – in general I do get stress harassed a lot, and it is something that has happened to me since I was a teenager, not just since I started working here. However, there is a huge difference between how I feel in these situations compared to most other times. I am not really sure why. Someone else said our company insurance might have some ideas, so I’m going to look into that for sure because I do agree that self defense puts the burdon on me. At this point though, I think I do need to take a class anyway even if it just makes me feel more comfortable.

      1. Observer*

        Your organization should definitely help you out here, including allowing you to modify your schedule to enable your husband to drive you. But, it’s still a good idea to take that self defense class. The two ideas are not mutually exclusive.

      2. deesse877*

        I can’t know, of course, without being there, but my guess is that the difference is that most street harassment serves a goal of immediate emotional gratification and isn’t necessarily seen as that serious by the harasser, whereas targeting someone for a mugging is ongoing and intentional. You can pick up on that distinction from body language.

        It takes a long time and a certain amount of willingness to embarrass oneself to learn how to not look like a target. Some people learn it in childhood (usually because they’ve lived with pervasive ambient violence) so comprehensively that they don’t even recognize that it is a skill set–they think it’s common sense, or personal strength of character, or whatever, and laugh at those who don’t have it. I realize you’re (rightfully) not on great terms with people who dismiss your concerns, but you might try watching them and how they carry themselves. What do they do to fill up space and not project fear? Demeanor, dress, tone of voice, class markers in personal presentation, can all play a role. Some of it could also be hypervigilance, well beyond normal caution.

        Whatever you decide to do, it’s valid to protect yourself no matter what.

      3. MoopySwarpet*

        If you can afford it (time and money), I would highly recommend training in Kenpo for 6 months or a year. It’s a martial arts, but with an emphasis on self defense. I think run of the mill self defense classes are ok, but really just an introduction to being a tiny bit safer. Training a couple times a week definitely helps with the confidence to implement procedures. My partner and I took Kenpo for about 18 months and it was a fun thing to do together (even though we were not allowed to pair for drills).

      4. No real name here*

        I think your company could consider a fenced parking lot with badge access at a minimum. That seems basic, and while that might not help on the walk from public transit, at least the parking lot would feel more safe.

        You might find a lot of value in a self defense course. Not only for the skills you learn, but it might give you confidence walking down the street, making you seem like less of a target. I hate that this is where my advice goes. I have found that perfecting my RBF and walking with purpose helps reduce street comments. (Also the aging process and/or having my children with me, but that is less in your control!)

        Having done a ton of community work in dangerous neighborhoods, I’m aghast that someone would laugh at your safety concern, especially given the neighborhood situation you describe. That is not normal. Having said that, everyone copes with the dangerous neighborhood situation differently – charitably, that might be that person’s defense mechanism.

        I hope this helps a little, please do write in with an update!

  31. Me (I think)*

    You are not crazy — this is unacceptable, and your employer is the one who needs to fix it. Start with physical security in THEIR OWN PARKING LOT. Having people hiding next to cars in the lot is a serious problem, no matter how much other employees want to laugh it off.

    Then get your boss to sign off on different working hours so your partner can pick you up at the office. If your boss is unaware that other people have quit (without notice!!) because of the security issues, you can make her aware of this. Losing employees should be a big deal for any employer.

  32. Rey*

    You do not need your work’s support to take a self-defense class. You can start that today without waiting for anyone. Sometimes this will be available through a YMCA, or sometimes as a city class taught by the police department. It is super important to listen to the tingly feelings that tell you something is wrong, so keep assessing the situation and how you are feeling about it. You might find after taking the class that you feel much more confident and prepared for your walk to and from the bus. If adjusting your schedule to arrive and leave earlier makes you feel safer, than talk to your boss to get approval for this. I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution for this issue, both because how you feel obviously differs from how your coworkers feel, and because the strangers you encounter are going to change from day-to-day and over time.

    1. TC*

      I wholeheartedly agree with this comment!! It is absolutely NOT silly to want to take a self defense class. I second finding and taking a course as soon as possible, regardless of what you decide to do about this job. My city (Portland) offers FREE courses to all people who identify as women, called WomenStrength. It is put on by the police department, taught by female volunteers, and I have taken several levels of classes from them. It’s seriously empowering. I feel so much safer walking around alone and taking public transportation. I haven’t had to use any of the physical skills yet (thankfully), but I use the emotional and mental tactics (listening to your intuition, always paying attention to your surroundings, safely removing yourself from potentially scary situations, not being afraid to ask for help, etc.) all the time.

      I highly recommend taking a self defense course right away – the time commitment it sometimes requires is absolutely, 100 percent worth it. And try to ignore the people who laugh off your fears or make you feel like your worries are silly (those people are not being empathetic!). Your fears are valid, that little voice telling you something might be wrong is incredibly important, and you deserve to feel safe. Your safety is number one!

      Also, I think it’s completely reasonable to continue to inform your work or building/office manager, etc. every single time one of these incidents occur, in detail. The parking lot issue is especially concerning! I report issues every time something scary happens, making a big stink about it, and luckily it’s resulted in a higher security presence around my office. Ultimately, I don’t care if I seem annoying to anyone – safety comes first and I shouldn’t have to worry about being followed at night or trapped in my locked office when there’s someone acting erratically outside, when security at my building is supposed to be available when I need them (oftentimes they don’t arrive in time to do anything).

      Best of luck, and keep listening to your intuition!

  33. JGray*

    First talk to your supervisor and have the issues you’ve experienced documented. If there are enough instances of issues than that could be taken to the local police department and patrols could possibly be stepped up during business hours. (I have no idea how the police do patrols, ect.) I don’t think that you need to have an officer brought in to talk to workers since it wasn’t seen as helpful last time. Also, mention to your supervisor about the flood lights and other safety things that the company could do to help the situation with people in the parking lots. The company can make simple changes that will deter most (not all) but most people and might also get a break on insurance by increasing safety measures. Your company might not want to do those but if enough issues are documented they may have to. Also, I think keep doing what you are doing with your schedule. You need to do what you need to do to be safe.

  34. MR*

    My mom worked at an inner city public school and the security guard would walk the teachers to their cars at the end of the day (yes, even in broad daylight!), and it went a long way toward helping them feel safe.

  35. The Cardinal*

    If you need to change jobs for safety reasons, then do it (I would). Based upon what you’ve described, even the limited things that your employer could do would not address this: you feel (rightly so) that you are working in an unsafe area and even lighting in the parking areas and a permanent change in schedule would not change this.

    Do not rationalize the fact that you feel unsafe and don’t let others downplay risks that could affect you.

  36. Cordoba*

    For days when the LW uses public transportation would it be feasible to call an Uber just from the office to the bus station, or even to a bus station in an adjacent better area?

    I realize this is not convenient and that it costs money, but for rare cases where LW might be doing something like walking to catch a bus at night etc it may be the best safest option.

    1. TootsNYC*

      call an Uber just from the office to the bus station, or even to a bus station in an adjacent better area?

      And since that’s expensive, maybe most nights you could get a colleague to drop you at a safer bus station, and use an Uber on nights when a colleague can’t?

      That might eliminate the walk to the bus station.

      That leaves the morning walk from the bus station.

      If not a bicycle, what about a Razor scooter on the sidewalk? It means you’re moving more quickly, so less time “exposed” to the jerks in the cars.

  37. AnonAnon*

    Get out. I don’t say that lightly. Your gut is telling you that things are wrong, and it’s not lying to you. Your brain is dripping cortisol like a leaky faucet. Over time it will begin to impact your mental and physical health. Since your co-workers don’t seem to care about your safety – and there’s probably not much they could do even if they did care – it’s time for you to find a new job.

  38. Formerly Known As*

    No job is worth risking your personal safety in this way. There are things your employer could do to boost security around the building as you and others have mentioned (better lighting, fencing, etc.), but that doesn’t solve your problem of the neighborhood between your office and the bus/train station.

    What you described as having happened to you already–frankly, it terrifies me. I don’t think I could work in an environment like that.

    This would likely be a deal breaker for me, and I’d find another job in a safer part of town.

    Please think about the balance between “I like my job” and “I was afraid that creep hiding by my car was going to rape me.” There are other jobs where you won’t feel unsafe leaving the building.

  39. Serving the Undeserved*

    I live and work in one of the outer Boroughs of NYC, and I can relate to the feeling of being unsafe when leaving work. I used Uber to and from work every day, especially when I left work at 9 pm and was alone in the office. I finally purchased a car, and due to parking issues, I would have to park a block or more to my car, which made me paranoid. I spoke to my supervisor, and he was surprised to learn I was in the building alone that late locking up by myself — since it was my choice to stay later. My supervisor made it policy that everyone must leave the building by 6 pm and if we must stay late there must be more than 2 persons with you. This lifted a lot of my anxiety, and my male co-worker who lives in the area often walks with me to my car.
    The moral of the story: SPEAK UP!

  40. Boredatwork*

    OP –

    I think you should bring up the issues with your supervisor, their reaction will tell you everything you need to know. I would suggest strongly that you hours be shifted (formally) so that your husband drives you to/from.

    If you get any push back, start job searching immediately. I agree with everyone, you are being gaslight. Take a self defense class and carry whatever, legally, you can to protect yourself.

  41. Où est la bibliothèque?*

    Your coworker sucks and is trying to gaslight you. I’m sure that if something (God forbid) ever did happen to someone in your organization, she would try to place the blame of them for not being streetwise enough.

    I worked in a nonprofit in a less-than-great neighborhood, and my office took it seriously. Partially it was that we worked with youth, and they expected us to model smart behavior for them. We didn’t get self-defense training, and they didn’t recommend pepper spray, because there’s a lot of risk it can backfire, but we got trained on a lot of “safety-first” stuff, like learning when and how to use your voice, knowing to call the police even if you’re just uncomfortable, knowing the police non-emergency line if it just looked like there was a less-than-wholesome group gathering nearby but not actually engaging, parking in the brightest section of the parking lot.

    We always, always used the buddy system at night. If it was dark, nobody ever walked to public transit alone or even to the parking lot alone. (People would actually get on your case if you tried.)

    Your concerns are real, and your safety and stress levels aren’t something to ignore.

  42. CL*

    This is such a challenge, and I’m sorry you’re dealing with it. I worked for several years in the social sector and I remember feeling like I was constantly trying to walk a tightrope between being aware of my own (white, financially secure) privilege / compassionate and being safe. In my experience, women have particularly a tough time because men generally aren’t as physically vulnerable, nor do they tend to experience the same kind of sexually charged commentary and threats. It doesn’t surprise me that there are coworkers who feel like you’re over-reacting; I remember feeling frustrated and unheard by my coworkers too – and there were a few women who most actively discounted my concerns and made it into some sort of badge of honor to not be bothered by these types of things, which honestly made me feel ashamed. It’s so complicated and I don’t have great advice for you, but I did want to empathize, and I hope you and your workplace can take steps in the right direction.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      This is so true. It’s a complex situation. You can’t always expect other women to sympathize because there’s different coping strategies for this, and some women would prefer to focus on bravery/personal agency and don’t want to hear that you’re scared. It’s a fine line to walk.

  43. Former Retail Manager*

    I don’t think your employer is going to realistically pay for a self-defense class, but there’s nothing to stop you from taking one on your own. As other commenters said, I think your request to change your work hours to allow for a ride to pick you up is entirely reasonable.

    Here are a few other options…
    1. Pepper spray
    2. Concealed carry (it’s legal where I am, but this may not be your case or it may not align with your beliefs….just throwing it out there)
    3. Is there anyone else who gets off the bus at your stop and walks in your direction? A walking buddy? Safety in numbers.
    4. Speak with the city to see if there is any way to arrange for the bus driver to drop you off closer to your office/create a new bus stop. I’d definitely cite safety concerns and your frequent use of public transit. I’d escalate the issue within city government if you have to. It takes about a minute for them to make that extra stop.

    For what it’s worth, I worked in a bad area for almost a decade, although it did improve drastically toward the latter half of the decade. To be quite honest, I became desensitized as it related to me personally, which is what it sounds like may have happened with some of your co-workers. I would never have indicated that another employee was overreacting, but stuff that concerned most people just didn’t concern me. Since leaving that job, my perspective has definitely changed. There is also an area in my city that is exactly what you describe. The main street affected is lined with nonprofits. ALL of them have secure, gated parking lots with razor wire at the top and you cannot enter their building or parking lot without being buzzed in. Some even have security guards that will force anyone loitering to relocate to an area not in front of the business.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      This is such a struggle for service agencies. I can’t imagine trying to serve a community and also having “secure, gated parking lots with razor wire at the top and you cannot enter their building or parking lot without being buzzed in” while security guards move people along. Especially if your staff is mostly white young women and the community is – different than that. So, so tough.

      1. Jennifer*

        I understand security guards, that’s just common sense, but the gates and razor wire would piss me off if I lived there. They could go screw themselves and stick their charity elsewhere.

        Many non-white women and girls who live in those communities are being assaulted and threatened as well. Where’s their security escort and gate? I agree it’s a tough situation and can be a bad look for that reason.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          I believe the razor wire was instituted because a chain link fence alone was not sufficient to prevent the local homeless/transient population from jumping the fence and burglarizing employee vehicles. The area that I referenced is also an industrial area. There really aren’t any nearby residential areas. It’s a mixture of older industrial businesses, homeless shelters, and nonprofits who service predominantly homeless/transient folks. I didn’t work in this area nor have I ever worked for a nonprofit. I see the issues on both sides, but for me, safety will always win, optics be damned. If there weren’t documented incidents that required the safety measures, I don’t believe they would exist. As a kid, I remember that the area wasn’t like that. Everything was pretty open and the homeless didn’t bother anyone. That has unfortunately changed and the nonprofits have had to adjust.

          1. Jennifer*

            That’s understandable. Safety is important. If I had to live there, it probably would give me a negative viewpoint of that organization. May not be fair, but it would be my perception.

          2. Sloan Kittering*

            That makes sense, since the business was not there in order to provide services to the community. In that case, yes safety of employees and company property would be paramount, since the location was probably a cost savings measure anyway.

      2. ItsmeOP*

        Our staff is actually extremely diverse (unlike any nonprofit I have worked for previously). Not sure if that adds to the issue or not. I do agree that they will not gate the parking lot at the very least because of optics.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          That is great! Although diverse can be different than local. In my nonprofit career I’ve been slowly coming around to how critical *local* really is to community service.

  44. Jennifer*

    First off, OP, I want to say that I’m sorry you feel unsafe and that your coworker was rude to laugh at you instead of listening to your concerns.

    I have a bit of a different perspective on this than everyone else because of my own experiences. You have had some terrifying experiences. Those would have scared me too. Is it possible you are painting the entire neighborhood with the same broad brush because of those incidents? This kind of thing is going to go along with working in these kinds of communities, but there are a lot of great people in those areas who need support as well. If working in these kinds of neighborhoods is too scary for you, maybe looking for a different job is the best option.

    In the meantime, start leaving work when everyone else does so you don’t have to walk to the bus alone, and maybe make arrangements so you arrive around the same time as others as well. Carry pepper spray and put your keys between your fingers. Walk with confidence, even if you have to fake it. I hope you are able to find a role that you’re better suited for soon. Best wishes.

  45. Amanda*

    I used to work in a very bad neighborhood and had some similar issues, including having a man follow me through our unlit parking lot once. If you want to stay in your job, you should definitely bring up your concerns with your manager! They may have some ideas you haven’t thought of before or could give you peace of mind to work those flex hours so your husband could pick you up. I was surprised how responsive mine was and she was so glad I brought that up to her rather than just quitting. We were able to add additional lighting and have a security guard walk me to my car at night. Good luck!

  46. LD'S Mom*

    One thing I’ve read is to sound the alarm button on your car keys if you see someone suspicious. I don’t know if there’s anyone around to hear it or act on it but the noise may startle someone into running away. Not ideal, but an easy enough thing to do. And I would definitely look into some sort of self defense training, even if you have to do it on your own. That’s something that can be beneficial anytime you feel threatened, not just at work.

  47. AngryTreeSpirit*

    Hi, I have loved in bad neighborhoods a lot of my life so I can tell you that the vast majority of the bad stuff that happens there does not happen to folks like you. The chances of you being harmed are quite small. What you should do is increase your confidence and boldness – be someone who does not get fucked with. Don’t wait for the org to teach you self defense. Take a class yourself. Carry a bright flashlight, make sure your car is lit up before you get to it, if it has that feature. But seriously, the best thing you can do for yourself is be your own protector. It will help you in so many ways. Try being less afraid. It makes you grow in amazing ways. Xoxo

    1. Jennifer*

      Yes, the bad stuff that happens to those of us unfortunate enough to actually have to live there. What everyone forgets.

    2. ItsmeOP*

      I wouldnt say I consider myself to be someone who is afraid in general of walking alone etc. … but I’m assuming you can see from my post that I have been actively threatened. These are real things that have happened, I did not imagine them. It’s easy to say to be less afraid but pretty hard to not be afraid when it’s late and someone is screaming threats of violence at you. I will try to take a self defense class myself though, its just a little frustrating to have to pay for that myself.

      1. OhNo*

        For what it’s worth, some martial arts or women’s organizations offer free or discounted self-defense workshops for just this reason. The quality can vary widely depending on the organization putting it on, but it might be worth doing some research to see if any places in your area offer that option.

        If you can convince your workplace to offer it, though, that would be a better option. If nothing else, hosting such an event would put the management team on notice about what they need to do to promote safety.

        1. Calacademic*

          Yes this — my kung fu studio has a weekly community self-defense class that is free (donation accepted). I’d see if you can find something free in your city.

      2. DataGirl*

        It was way back in the 90’s, but I used to teach a self defense class through the YWCA that was free. It’s worth checking if they have anything. It was more about safety strategies than actual fighting but there was good stuff I still remember, like how most people are afraid to be ‘gross’ but it can be really effective. No one wants to stick their finger in someone’s eye, or bite a rapists ‘bits’ but it will sure as heck disrupt whatever is happening, hopefully for long enough to get away.

        Also, I posted this above but it didn’t go through possibly because of links. Check out kubatons, brass knuckle purses, and heavy/ bulky rings as easy, legal ‘weapons’.

    3. Observer*

      What exactly does “folks like you” mean anyway? She’s a female walking alone – that’s a pretty classic demographic to be targeted. And given that she has had some experiences that are classic threatening behaviors, claiming that it’s just her being paranoid is really not fair, to say the least.

      1. Jennifer*

        White women are less likely to be targeted than women of color. We spend a lot of time telling women how to stay safe when they are in bad neighborhoods but less time helping to protect the women and girls that actually live there.

        1. Observer*

          Firstly, I see nothing about the ethnicity or race of the OP. Secondly, to the extent that white women are less targeted, it’s about the neighborhoods they live and work in. Which means that a woman in a high crime neighborhood is no more or less likely to be assaulted, mugged or otherwise harmed because of her ethnicity.

          The lack of safety for women who are stuck living in high crime neighborhoods is not relevant to the OP’s question. Nor does it reduce the issue that she is now facing.

          1. Jennifer*

            “Secondly, to the extent that white women are less targeted, it’s about the neighborhoods they live and work in. Which means that a woman in a high crime neighborhood is no more or less likely to be assaulted, mugged or otherwise harmed because of her ethnicity.” Not true but this isn’t the correct forum to discuss that.

            I never said that the issues she’s now facing aren’t serious. I’ve said multiple times that they are terrifying.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        I think Jennifer and AngryTreeSpirit are assuming the OP is white. Also, “try being less afraid” is not actually helpful.

          1. Baby Fishmouth*

            Right? The OP is told to “be less afraid” but if anything actually happened, they’d blame her for walking alone in a bad neighbourhood. Terrible double-standard.

      1. ItsmeOP*

        Are you saying the situations I described are not actually threatening?

        If you have personally experienced someone following you and screaming that they are going to kill and rape you, or slowing driving next to you trying to get you into their car and did not feel like you were being threatened, how nice for you. I am not making up that this is a high crime area and these things have happened to me, as well as more incidences that I didn’t include in my letter.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Sorry, on this forum questions about feeling unsafe at or around work have come up and someone always has to pop up to be like BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS OTHER THING???!!!ZOMG in the comment section, completely ignoring that we are talking about a very specific situation and not the strawman of “bad neighborhoods” writ large.

          1. Jennifer*

            I think the OP has very valid and serious concerns.

            My issue is when the subject of bad neighborhoods comes up there’s always a lot of fearmongering and racially coded language from the COMMENTERS, not the OP. People overreacting and calling the police on people just minding their business or pulling guns and actually shooting people who meant them no harm actually happens in these neighborhoods. I think it’s important to push back on comments like that.

            Again, that doesn’t take away from the OP’s very real concerns.

            1. WakeUp!*

              Yes, exactly this, my apologies to the OP if she thought I was referring to her. When people pile on about “bad neighborhoods” it just reinforces stereotypes and leads to no concrete advice at all.

              1. Jennifer*

                Exactly. I have had stuff like this happen to me, I think most women, and quite a few men, have, so I empathize with the OP.

            2. Anoncorporate*

              Bad neighborhoods are due to lack of law enforcement. They exist, but I appreciate they’re not bad because of the residents themselves, but due to the people who take advantage of the lack of law enforcement to do shady things. But…this is all different from the stuff the OP is describing – she is describing literal threats of violence directed at her.

              1. Jennifer*

                Again, my comments were directed at some of the other commenters, NOT the OP. I think your comments about law enforcement are off-base, but this isn’t the place to discuss it.

      2. Respect*

        I hate when people like you erase women’s experiences (even if they are white). – signed a Mexican female who gets catcalled by the tweakers next door daily

      3. Nellie*

        I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I talk about ‘bad’ vs ‘good’ I mean unsafe vs safe, high crime rate vs low crime rate.

    4. CheeryO*

      I know you mean well, but it doesn’t matter if OP will actually be harmed or not – she has reason to be afraid, and that’s enough to look for a new job or push harder for some additional safety measures at this one.

      Also, there are a lot of levels to “bad stuff.” We have a large homeless population near my office, and my car has been broken into, others have had broken bottles thrown at them over the fence, etc. – it’s not life and death stuff, but it still makes me uneasy, especially after dark, especially knowing that we don’t have very good security (no cameras, poor lighting, etc.).

      1. Jennifer*

        I agree, she definitely has reason to be afraid. I just think people need to be careful about painting all “bad” neighborhoods and the people that live in them with the same broad brush.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          I don’t think that’s what OP is doing. She’s talking about one specific place and one specific parking lot and actual examples of things that have happened to her – not just “I’m afraid because I feel like it’s a bad neighborhood.”

            1. Liane*

              Perhaps emailing Alison with specific examples of such comments, from this or other posts, would be more helpful at ending this?

              1. CommanderBanana*

                Jennifer, your comments are fair, but engaging in derailing comments is just keeping the derail going. Alison’s specifically requested that commenters engage with the actual problems the OPs are writing in with.

    5. Maya Elena*

      There may be something to having more confident body language together with appropriate precautions.

      It makes complete sense that people who live in the neighborhood are at greater risk of harm than someone who spends 20 minutes a day walking to and from the bus stop.

      It also takes a small fraction of people being terrible to make the neighborhood bad, and presumably the non-terrible 99% of residents would be the first to agree.

    6. Indie*

      “Be less afraid” Why, would she do that exactly?! Fear is actually one of the most potent and primal weapons at our disposal if you know how to use it. OP has razor sharp instincts that I don’t think too many people are able to appreciate.

  48. Sarah M*

    I don’t have any advice right now because my mouth is still hanging open from “my co-worker laughed” when OP described her fear of being raped by the man hiding next to her car. I’m actually seeing red right now.

  49. OhBehave*

    None of your concerns are silly. You’ve experienced real safety issues, not worrying about the possibilities of issues. Adjusting your work times sounds like a fine idea.
    You MUST speak with your supervisor. They must know people have quit due to safety concerns. Meanwhile, when you leave, push the alarm button on your car remote if you have one. That will alert creepers that everyone knows you are there.
    Take the self-defense course understanding that you may very well have to use those skills.
    Non or for profit have to concern themselves with employee safety. If they do not take you seriously, start looking for a new job.
    Your coworker is a jerk!

  50. Anna*

    I work for a nonprofit that makes deliveries around our metro area. This involves going into neighborhoods that aren’t the safest and interacting with people who don’t necessarily have your interests in mind. There are things you can do to help.. Maybe have a coworker walk you out to your car? Or self-defense classes, if that would make you feel better.

    Statistically, you are unlikely to be harmed, if that makes you feel better. Especially if you are white.

    However, there are only so many things that can be done and at the end of the day, your current job might hold a higher risk than one in another location. And if that isn’t something you can come to peace with, it might not be the best fit for you.

  51. Womanaroundtown*

    Do you work in non-profit direct services? Or for an agency that works closely with clients who are comprised from the population in the neighborhood? This sounds SO familiar to me, as almost all my jobs have been in the non-profit sector focused around homelessness and mental health and are thus usually located in an area convenient for our clients.

    I loved my jobs, but I lasted one year at the job where I was followed home, threatened on at least a weekly basis, and then assaulted (very minorly and in front of a crowd of people) about two months before my contract was up for renewal. At my second job, we had three major violent incidents in a row (all involving clients, not staff) that cemented my decision to leave that company.

    Staff took these issues on very different grounds. For the most part, people seemed to think that we signed up for the job and therefore we knew what was happening and it was our job to “stay alert.” For the record, that is NOT okay. Employers have a duty to make sure employees are safe on work property, which includes the parking lot.

    I have two suggestions: one, raise the issue of security staff and don’t stop raising it. If you DO work in direct services, it’s unfathomable to me that there wouldn’t be security already- so unfathomable that it feels like it’s leaning into negligence category (don’t quote me! I am a lawyer, but I work in mental health law, so this is not an area I know much about). This needs to be remedied ASAP, and do some research to see what protections you’re owed. Two, change those hours for sure. Anything to protect yourself. Because here’s the truth: eventually you’re either going to quit or get hurt over this. And I am absolutely not trying to scare you, only push how important this is, but one of the reasons I quit my second job in direct services (well, applied to law school so that I could quit) was that one of the staff members at another location was raped and brutally by a client who waited by her car. Do NOT take these things lightly. It’s important not to jump at shadows, but you have to protect yourself. A lot of people in public service (myself included) might brush off certain feelings of unease because the truth is that most people are not violent and aren’t going to hurt you. But you don’t need most people for one to be a problem.

  52. irene adler*

    In some areas, one can request their local police dept do extra patrolling in specific areas. Might even let them know what times of day you’d prefer. Not a perfect solution as there’s no guarantee they can do this every day. If you can couple this with adjusting your hours to meet your husband, and have the company provide a daily security escort for you, it might make you feel some security.

    I think you should go directly to your boss and HR. And if they take your concerns lightly, leave. Why isn’t the parking area well -lit? That should remedied regardless of other measures taken. You have no idea what else is going on, under cover of darkness.

  53. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    Here are my practical suggestions:

    -Self Defense classes. A lot of them will not only teach you the physical moves of self defense but also how to hold yourself to make a less choice target. Personally I find this fascinating, that studies (don’t have the time or inclination to find them) that suggest that ‘presence’ vs. physical stature is the main indicator for victim selection. This could also be the reason, as suggested by someone else, why your coworkers aren’t seeing the same problem as you.

    -Contact the local police station and ask what resources they have.
    -Many of them offer free seminars to discuss crime and how to avoid. Ours is called ‘Street Smarts’. They were happy to host my field personnel
    -Ask what other resources they have available. Perhaps start a block watch for the other businesses in the area or that type of thing

    -Ask your employer to put up cameras, signs, and lights in the parking lot.

    -Make friends in the neighborhood. Talk to people you see regularly. Stop in and buy a coffee/lunch/paper whatever from the businesses. Get to know them and let them get to know you. People who are engaged and part of a particular group are generally not seen as prime targets. If you’re walking down the street and saying hi and exchanging a few ‘How’s the weather George?” with people that are part of the scene, it’s less likely that you will be seen as a soft target.

    1. LQ*

      I think this last point is really important. I worked in community development and I absolutely felt safer in “my” neighborhood than in others that technically had less crime because I knew the business owners, I knew the locals, I was a known element in the neighborhood. It also meant that the few times I did feel unsafe I had resources to turn to right there.

    2. Beckie*

      I agree strongly on this last point! Are there any cafes or delis or coffee shops in that walk between your office and the bus stop? Even if your only option is a liquor store, going in there once or twice a week to buy a candy bar is a good way to become part of the neighborhood.

      1. LQ*

        I’m going to say that a liquor store can be a very good option. The one in the neighborhood I worked in had off duty cops who lived in the neighborhood who would both come by and hang out because they were friends with the owner, and who would on some nights work there as security off duty. If I wanted a safe place the liquor store would have been very high on my list. There was a 50/50 chance that there would be a cop known to the community in there. Not all liquor stores have this, but a lot of them in high crime areas will have some security presence. (Some other places in this community may be like this, it was the same at gas stations here as well. Knowing which ones will have a security presence of some kind is useful.)

    3. Inca*

      I think there is a lot that could be done, but I think they would definitely work better if the company would consider and implement them.
      So becoming acquainted to the people in the neighborhood works, but it would work even better if the org as a whole also knows and have it become a structural thing, where also workers of that org are just not touched, you know? (Like Red Cross or Salvation Army.)
      Have lights and cameras out on the parking lot for sure, and also a decent policy about what to do if something happens.
      There could perhaps be more offices staffed on the ground floor near the entrance and overseeing the parking lot.
      Very important: the organisation should make sure there is a culture where you can ask for help and people look out for each other on the parking lot, offer each other rides to the bus stop, walk each other to their cars or whatever. Include transportation options.

      Then training, not just for the OP but for the whole, on all of this. On looking out for each other in a positive helpful fashion rather than minimizing concerns, on doing positive outreach with the community so there are ways to send up the smoke signals with ‘leave our people alone’, about the street smarts, and then, only then, offer something about self defense (and have people who want it train more.) But within a context of the bigger picture of an organisation that wants to be a safe place within a rocky world, not just “you’re out on your own so better learn how to do it yourself.”

      I think a lot can be done, and almost all of it pretty much within the reach of any org, and without the downsides that barbed wire, increased police patrol or armed guards would bring. But the organisation needs to be behind it.
      If it’s a lone effort I think a few recommendations will still help but I’d say it’s also probably wiser to look for another job because it would feel lonely.

  54. Oh hell no.*

    Agreed with all of the “get out” responses. No job is worth your sense of safety. And your coworker is an ass for laughing off your feelings. They are very much valid.

    I will ask though, when you went to the place for an interview, did you have any concerns about the neighborhood?

  55. Going anon*

    Years ago, we had a regular problem patron in the library where I worked. To me he seemed creepy, but harmless. Most libraries have a lot of problem patrons and it’s very easy to get used to them.

    At a certain point, one of my newer employees asked if she could change her shifts. She was new and therefore was working some of the less desirable hours so at first I was not inclined to honor her request.

    Then she explained that this particular patron had started waiting for her out by the staff door, knew which car was hers, etc. Short term, we switched her hours, arranged for escorts to her car. Patron followed up by sending her notes indicating he was upset she was fighting “their special friendship.”

    We had a hard time getting the university cops to take it seriously, but eventually we got to a detective who asked us to see if anyone else had experienced anything negative with this man. Women filled the conference room and each of them described years and years of disturbing encounters with this man. It was eye-opening. I think most women are trained from a very young age to learn to get along.

    It took a while but the man was eventually banned form all of our campuses.

    OP: I would start by going to your manager. Ignore the co-workers who are dismissive. If you feel it would help, maybe see if there are any other co-workers with concerns and then approach your manager as a group. I am not sure it’s your job to come up with ideas to secure your workplace, although obviously I would look at all the suggestions here for your personal protection.

    1. Rhoda*

      I suppose one reason many women just put up with it is because someone like LW’s coworker laughed at them and dismissed their fears. It may have been for a different incident in a different place, but they’ve internalized that sneering voice.

      1. Rainy*

        I once hit the alarm button on campus when a man who pretty obviously didn’t have legitimate business there began following me screaming and threatening to rape and kill me, and when the Mounties showed up (actual Mounties, yes, long story), the male officers took notes, thanked me, radioed, asked if I was okay–and the second they were looking around the buildings in that area to see if he was still there, the female officer came over and called me a p*ssy b*tch and said he was probably just some undergrad trying to turn in a paper.

        Turned out he’d assaulted three people on campus that day already, and they were able to grab him because of my call. But it’s hard, even a decade later, when I feel like something is off, not to picture that hateful woman calling me names because I’d been threatened by a dangerous weirdo.

        1. Rhoda*

          Ugh, that’s awful. I hate it that some women try to deal with this reality by making it a matter of being “tough” and looking down on other women who have a genuine reason to be afraid.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Yes, or they’ve been told that it’s somehow wrong to trust that gut feeling – sometimes I feel like the victim-blaming sentiments shared here are just “it’s not that big of a deal! be nice!” updated for 2019.

    2. UghThatGuyAgain*

      Yes, I was wondering when the librarians/library workers would start replying. A lot of us, particularly public librarians, have worked in situations similar to what OP describes.

      I agree with the person who commented above about getting to know the community and particularly the businesses around your work. If you are being followed, where can you safely go? Having a plan in advance can help you make good moves when you’re caught out and afraid.

      I think if anything is going to tank this job for you it won’t be the neighborhood, it will be the culture of indifference at your workplace. Other commenters have given examples of good safety culture at their workplaces, and here is mine:

      I’ve felt safest when employees had safety training system wide, security was visible and well-trained, staffers at every level were empowered to act on threats and backed by management, and anything with even a whiff of stalking was taken extremely seriously. That is all admin level stuff. Peer staff also worked together so that people got safely to their cars, pages weren’t emptying remote book drops alone in the dark, etc.

      OP, if your boss and coworkers are unconcerned about your experiences (which sound terrifying!) that is a serious workplace problem and poor management/peer culture.

      1. UghThatGuyAgain*

        To be clear, most libraries have very few security issues! But welcoming everyone means giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, and there’s a certain level of risk with that. Good workplaces mitigate it, bad ones ignore it.

  56. Observer*

    So, first of all some of your coworkers are idiots. Someone hiding near your car *IS* a classic danger sign.

    There are two things that could help, at least with the parking lot. Firstly, as you said, flood lights. It’s no loner that expensive, so it’s easier to do. The other thing is cameras. With highly visible signs indicating that the cameras are in use. This is a good idea for the organization anyway, given the nature of the area (high crime and high drug use generally mean that your chances of getting broken into go up, even if you have an alarm system.)

    Also, if at all possible, walk in pairs to your cars etc. I know that it’s not always feasible. But if there are any other people who share your concerns, they might be willing to walk with you – it’s a win for both of you.

  57. FaintlyMacabre*

    Some cities offer free self defense classes to women. In any case, I would recommend taking self defense classes, less as a short term solution and more as a long term benefit to you.

  58. Boston_Anon*

    Hi OP – I’m really sorry that you are going through this. I don’t want to make assumptions, but it sounds as if you may be referring to ‘Methadone Mile’ in Boston, a particularly tough place to work and walk through. If not, the advice still remains the same. Have you gauged whether or not there is a sensible member on staff who shares some of these same concerns? If so it might be worth working together to approach your management about increasing security, having a staff self defense class, more lighting in the parking lot etc. A like minded co-worker may also be willing to walk with you to your car, public transit etc. for added power in numbers.

    Carrying pepper spray greatly boosted my self confidence and sense of security when traveling through unsafe areas. The only states that have added levels of restrictions that may require liscensure, restricted amounts your able carry etc. are NY, MA, WI, MI, CA and Washington D.C., so if you live in one of these states it may take a little extra work to obtain. That being said, many animal maces such as bear mace do not have the same restrictions as regular mace.

    While your coworkers may not be sympathetic, it may be worth also reaching out to your cities equivalent of a ‘neighborhood services’ office. They are generally well equipped with resources to help the residents/employees of specific neighborhoods, and will track all complaints in a way that is generally anonymous (for you), but public enough that it will make it difficult for your coworkers to bury their heads in the sand.

    Again, I am so sorry for what you are going through and hope things get better OP!

    1. ItsmeOP*

      You guessed it.

      It doesn’t seem like anyone else has a similar commute, but I do have pepper spray. Since its illegal I don’t want to use it unless someone is actually coming right at me though. We do have a neighborhood association but according to my coworkers our organization is often blamed for being welcoming to people needing our services who others don’t want in the area.

      In case anyone misunderstands me though, I am not just generally afraid of anyone I see in this area. I understand that most people regardless of whether or not they have substance use disorders etc are not dangerous, which is why I wasn’t worried about taking this job in the first place. However, now that there have been several direct threats my way, I have been afraid and will speak to my supervisor next week. (Boston_Anon that was not directed at you, more in reference to other comments).

      1. City living*

        I have some advice for you but I don’t know how to word it so it doesn’t sound like “blame the victim.” It is not meant to be that way. Predators pick particular people to harass. My friend and I both park in an equally not great area when we go out to dinner and I have no problem walking to the restaurant and she gets harassed. I now walk her to her car. We are both similar levels of attractiveness and dress equally conservatively so it is not that type of an issue.

        The only way I can describe it is she appears nervous and I give off a “don’t F with me” vibe. Some of that can be learned by reading Gavin De Becker’s Gift of Fear. I make I contact with people. I acknowledge them. She might put her head down and try to hurry past a homeless man. I’ll look him in the eye and say hello but keep walking. I act like I belong there. She acts like she is hoping to get down the road without getting killed.

        Some people can develop this vibe and some people can’t. If you ever work in law enforcement, the first step on the use of force continuum is presence. It comes before verbal interactions. It is just a way of standing and a way of looking. It might help that I’m tall and she is short.

        To the poster that laughed at self defense training, he’s wrong. I was a corrections officer when I was 120 pounds. It is all about pain compliance. A little person can take down a big person if you know how to do it. Watch videos of people doing krav maga. I’m not saying to learn it by watching it but just to see that it is possible.

        How did you handle the person trying to get you in the car? Did you just keep walking? Did you tell them to f’ off?

        1. Temperance*

          For what it’s worth, though, it doesn’t always work. I put out a “don’t talk to me” vibe and actively ignore men on the street. I’m short and look younger than I am. I don’t acknowledge people because that just invites commentary. I act like I belong places, but I also pretend not to see anyone who might want to mess with me in any way.

        2. No Mas Pantalones*

          My first weekend in the college dorms (1993–where’s my cane?), we had a mandatory “orientation” on how women can lessen our chances of being assaulted. Males and females were required to go. There was no section telling men to not attack women. Crap advice like “tuck your hair into your shirt so they can’t tell you’re female” and “don’t ever walk alone” and “try not to appear confrontational.” They basically told us: “So, try not to get raped, mkay? Just try to be invisible.” The whole thing pissed me off.

          From then on, I forced myself to look up, make eye contact, project a calm confidence that would probably now be considered an aggressive form Resting Bitch Face (which I have anyway). Eye contact makes people uncomfortable. That works to my advantage. Eye contact says “I can identify you, mfer.”

        3. Indie*

          This advice works sometimes in the moment, but the problem is it’s a bit like the zookeeper who looks at an escaped lion, then at her colleague and decides ‘I don’t have to run fast, I just have to run faster than you’.
          Aggressive people intent on harrassment will target someone, and if OP works to make herself seem like a tougher target than others, well then that depends if there is a coworker available who will send off enough vulnerable signals to become a more convenient lightning rod.
          But what happens when that particular tethered goat is taken down, or quits though? The aggressors move up to the next target, however tough, until they are stopped because they are in self destruct mode. This is why focusing on victim behaviour is always so short sighted.

      2. Kenneth*

        In the mean time, look for other personal weapon options that are legal and available. Walking into a gun store or near the firearms section of a large sporting good store should provide a good selection of personal defense options. Note I’m not saying to buy a firearm. Your work likely wouldn’t allow you to carry one into the building, and Massachusetts is “may issue”, so getting a concealed carry permit is not guaranteed.

        But from my experience in the Kansas City area, gun shops tend to have quite a few legal options you otherwise may not normally consider. Depending on the store in question as well, you may be able to talk to someone about personal defense options by relaying your immediate concerns. You could also consider discussing your concerns with an area police officer to determine what legal options may be appropriate.

        The key thing, though, is situational awareness. So long as you’re aware of your surroundings, you’re a lot less likely to be targeted, and more likely to anticipate issues. Those meaning to do harm look for people who are not paying attention to their surroundings, since they’re more likely to be caught off guard. That’s not a guarantee you won’t be targeted, but it gives you a slight advantage you otherwise wouldn’t have.

        1. valentine*

          You’re assuming ItsmeOP is willing to fight, much less with a weapon. I think she wants to avoid that and jail, which carrying any weapon can lead to.

          1. Kenneth*

            And you’re assuming an attacker is willing to fight someone with a weapon, even a woman with a weapon. Merely brandishing a weapon while displaying some kind of posture that you’re serious about using it can be enough in a LOT of cases to get a person to back down. Since it changes the odds and shows the attacker that things aren’t nearly in their favor as they first thought.

            Further whether she’s willing to fight or not, there may come a time where she may not have any choice in the matter. And it’s better to have a weapon and not need it, than need one but not have it. Since if you can’t escape a potential attacker, you NEED to fight back as best as you’re able, and any weapon will increase your chances of escaping. Since, again, merely brandishing the weapon is enough in a lot of instances to escape without fighting. And it gives you the option of fighting if you must.

            Plus I said to find options that are LEGAL. So long as she doesn’t select an illegal option, she’s fine under the law. Self defense law actually favors women more than men in many ways, giving her the ability to use even excessive levels of force against a potential attacker and still walk away without any charges.

      3. Etak*

        I also worked along Boston’s Methadone Mile for a few years (also at a nonprofit!), and ……it was an experience. Luckily my boss drove in and lived in a place that was convenient for us to carpool together (I don’t drive, but I pay for dunks!) and she totally got the safety concerns. Because of that, my biggest concern was always the needles littered everywhere. I don’t have any super practical suggestions, but I want you know I really feel for you and your concerns are very real!

      4. bost_anon2*

        Hi OP, I have had similar experiences in that neighborhood and understand the fear for your personal safety. I’m also a smaller young woman.

        Have you considered relying on the free BU Shuttle or checking in with security services associated with BMC? Depending on where you work in the area, you might be close enough to hop on the shuttle. While it’s technically for BU affiliates, the drivers never ask for ID to board. It picks up on Albany St., stops at Mass Ave and Kenmore and then down Comm Ave, and runs as late as 10+ pm because some students have evening classes. You wouldn’t look out of place as researchers, staff, and “nontraditional” (read: older) students use it at all hours. You can download an app to track locations in real time so maybe you could time it so you leave your office and arrive at the stop just as the shuttle gets there.

        I recognize this is a really specific temporary solution to this particular situation and won’t be helpful for readers in other neighborhoods/cities. Still, I want to share it in the off chance it helps you plan for the near future should your husband be unable to pick you up. I hope you can also get increased security or training at your employer because this is a very reasonable safety concern.

        1. Boston2*

          OP, I agree with using the BUMC public safety resources. You can use the shuttles regardless of your affiliation. They also offer evening escorts to other buildings, lots, and transportation stops upon request, but that will depend on where you are and your affiliation.

          At the very least, they may be able to give you more specific advice.

      5. CommanderBanana*

        OP, you could also get a personal alarm – someone gifted me one this year (thought I yet to actually leave the house with it). They’re keychain-sized devices that you pull a pin out of to emit a really, really loud siren. This is probably safer to use than pepper spray and they’re not illegal. The siren won’t shut off until the pin is reinserted.

      6. Boston_Anon*

        Hi OP – Never let anyone make you feel bad for valuing your own safety, and demanding better! Now that I know that I wasn’t totally off base in guessing where you work, I have a few additional tips. I’m not sure if you’ve ever used Boston’s 311 app, but if any of your buildings property is on or adjunct to city owned property, you can put in requests via the app to address getting more street lights added/fixed. They are completely anonymous, but the request is made public and the city is required to address every issue. In some cases they may determine that they can’t do anything (mostly petty complaints that are really neighbor to neighbor issues), but public works seem to have better responses to complaints. In addition to that I haven’t attended personally, but I know that Boston Krav Maga offers free self defense classes for women. If your employer isn’t willing to host a self defense class, this could be a good alternative. Again, wishing you the best of luck and safety and crossing my fingers that the area sees some real change soon.

    2. AnonForThis*

      I’m also in Boston and that location came to mind as well. People in Boston will definitely take umbrage to OP calling it a mid-sized city though :)

    3. AnonForThis*

      I would also say that in a couple of weeks we’ll have daylight savings time and your commute will get brighter, which might help. That’ll give you some additional time to figure things out.

      1. ItsmeOP*

        Thank you Boston commentors! I did not know about Boston Krav Maga or the shuttle so I’ll look into both. And yes, I am very much looking forward to daylight savings, though the car thing happened in the morning.

        Also I do love living here but Boston will always be a mid-sized city to me!

  59. nnn*

    Even if you don’t have any specific solutions in mind, I still think this should be mentioned to your supervisor just so they know that not everything is okay.

    At an organizational level, I wonder if some neighbourhood outreach might help? You mention that many people in the neighbourhood may need your services at some point, so if the people of the neighbourhood can get to recognize you and associate you with the helpful services you provide. The specifics of how to carry this off would depend greatly on the specifics of the services you provide, and how/whether the harassers overlap with your target clientele, but it could be something to think about.

  60. lindsay*

    This is so unfortunate because it’s paramount that an organization provide a safe working environment. I agree with others that the least they can do is let you shift your hours so you can get a ride. I also think if this isn’t an isolated incident, which from others quitting it sounds like it’s not, they should hire a security guard who would walk people to their cars. You can take a self-defense class on your own if you think that would be helpful, and certainly carry pepper spray if it’s legal and you feel safe doing so.

  61. Wing Leader*

    I used to work near an unsafe neighborhood. It wasn’t so bad during the day, but at night we weren’t allowed to go outside without at least one other person with us.

    Is there someone who also rides the bus that you could walk in and 0ut with? (I’m assuming not, but that’s the first tip I have).

    Another you can do is call the police (not 911, but just the station), tell them what’s happened, and ask them what they recommend you do. We did that, and that’s how we got the tip to never go out alone. They also told us that we could call and officer to come and walk us out if we needed to.

    Beyond that, could you ask your boss about shifting your hours just a little so that you can have your husband take you in and pick you up? Others have said that a husband is not a real bodyguard, but that’s okay. The point is just to not be alone.

    Now, here are my tips for when you do have to walk alone/or your boss won’t change your hours.

    1. This is going to sound dumb, but I’m completely serious. Walk confidently and act unafraid (even if you are afraid). Attackers look for people who seem intimidated and nervous. If someone appears confident and unaffected, it makes them think twice.

    2. Have pepper spray? If not, get some, and have it ready during your walks.

    3. Squeeze your hand into a fist, and hold your keys so that each one pops out between your fingers. This can make a capable weapon if you should ever need it.

    4. Find some local self-defense classes (especially ones for women) and learn how to defend yourself if something should ever happen. Many years ago, my self-defense teacher was attacked by a man in a parking lot, and she stopped him by breaking his knee. True story.

    5. Set up a code word/phrase between you and your husband that means to call the police, now. So, if you choose “blue bananas” for example, all you have to do is text him that or call him and say it and he will know to call emergency.

    Some of this might seem extreme, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. And your coworker who laughed at you is a jerk, by the way.

    Now, here’s a few quick pre-self defense class tips for you:

    1. It only takes 4 pounds of pressure to pull of someone’s ear. If you need to fight someone off, try to grab there.

    2. If you need to hit someone, use your elbow, not your fist. The elbow is the strongest point on the human body.

    3. If you need to scream for help, do not yell “Help!” Instead, yell “Fire!” as loud as you can. Most people ignore help, but fire makes people come running.

    4. Learn about the seven pressure points on the human body.

    5. This is going to sound totally weird and gross, but I promise you it works. If someone has a hold of you, see if you can make yourself throw up/urinate. Most of the time, it grosses people out enough (even attackers) that they will let go.

    6. If someone appears to be trying to rob you, take your wallet and throw it as far away from you as you can. Chances are, they will chase the wallet and leave you alone. It’s better to lose your money than your life.

    1. fposte*

      In general, self-defense experts don’t recommend the keys-between-the-fingers thing–it’s only deployable when they’re within inches of you, and it’s likely to hurt you enough that you’ll open up your hand. So you’ve wasted a hand.

      1. Wing Leader*

        My self-defense teacher always recommends it. But I don’t know, I guess there are pros and cons to everything.

        1. fposte*

          It’s been passed around a lot over the years, and I think it has merit in getting people thinking actively rather than passively and in making us feel more confident in the moment. But I think as long as we’re doing that we might as well consider what’s most helpful.

          There are also a few guides to specific ways to hold keys that might be more effective; most of us who are resorting to our keys aren’t likely to be good punchers, so we have to assume there’s not going to be much force behind anything we do, so we want to maximize the effect.

  62. beepboopin*

    I used to wait tables in downtown New Orleans and our cheapest parking option was a half mile away. Walking from my car in daylight hours was fine but after dark was a no go. Luckily everyone was in the same boat and understanding so we had an unofficial buddy system going. I would walk with someone to their car (or vis versa) and they would drive me to mine. I’m not sure if this could help in your situation but strength in numbers. I also always carried my keys out between my fingers and had pepper spray on the key chain. I was lucky and never had a problem but some colleagues were not so lucky. At least our management was understanding of the situation and would encourage us to leave the restaurant in groups. I hope you can find a safe solution.

  63. De Minimis*

    I’d look for another job. My last job was in a downtown area where you routinely had mentally ill people attacking random people, aggressive panhandlers, and street crime. My current job is located in a nice office park with plenty of walkable green space, and it’s been so much better for me to not have to be on guard any time I left the office.

    Failing that, I do think the idea of adjusting your schedule so you have a ride waiting for you can definitely help. In my last job most of the stress was in walking to/from my work to public transit.

    Since the OP works for a nonprofit, it’s unlikely they are able or willing to spend money to help improve security, so leaving may be the best option.

    1. fposte*

      Even if they did install floodlights it would still leave the OP (and other non-drivers) with a vulnerable walk off the property. I hate to say it, but I think you’re right about considering a new job.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Honestly, I agree. It stinks, but this is the kind of thing that I don’t think the company is going to be able to successfully resolve.

        1. fposte*

          And I think this is a problem a lot of service fields struggle with, because populations most acutely in need are often in the riskiest areas, but I don’t know that anybody’s come up with a good solution for protecting workers in those areas. If anybody does know of solutions (or risk mitigations, anyway) that places have offered that go beyond the workplace’s property, it would be really interesting to hear them. The ones I’m thinking of would be most manageable in big employers like hospitals, where you could organize group walks to the bus stop at the end of shifts, but maybe there are developments I haven’t thought of.

        2. Sloan Kittering*

          To me it’s also, every job has certain pros and cons, and workers get to weigh which ones they’re willing to put up with. Some jobs have 24 hour shifts or on-call weekends; some jobs have long slack periods; if OP is working at a nonprofit whose mission is specific to this community, then being located in that specific community is an essential element of the job. And in some fields, every job of the type is going to have that risk (urban libraries seem to run afoul of this, but I was thinking homeless shelters, food pantries, clinics for people in recovery from addiction, psych wards etc). It’s good to decide what you are or aren’t willing to deal with and no shame if OP doesn’t want a job that has this kind of risk factor. She may want to look at another element of service (fundraising?) or another type of nonprofit. But she’s probably not going to be successful at convincing this org to change their approach to being in the community, if that’s an essential part of their model.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Should say, that is an actual IF though. If the nonprofit just happens to be located where buildings are cheap, my answer is different.

  64. Mk2*

    Although I think it is great for non profits to work near where they are needed, they also need to make sure staff are safe. I would talk to your boss and as others commented change your hours. I would also see if they can add lights to the garage area and have buddies walk to and from the garage or bus stop. If you and Joe both take the bus then you both work from 8:30-4:30 and leave and come in together so you have a buddy to walk with.

    If they mandate you work late they should offer a car service to take you home. I know non profits are tight with budgets (I have worked at many) but they can add it in a budget line. I have worked in countries where I was not allowed to walk to and from work and others where I had to have a car drive me home if I worked after dark. I liked walking so it was a tad annoying (for me) but I know many people who really liked it and it was important for security. They can explain it to donors and add a little in budget lines or make it similar to an Uber pool driving situation to save on costs.

    Do you share office space with anyone and could you all pull your resources and get a security guard for a certain number of hours? Maybe see what other employers in the area do for their staff or talk to people and come up with some solutions. Good luck!

  65. drpuma*

    When my MIL worked at a housing nonprofit in a comparable-sounding neighborhood, her residents were the ones to walk her to the train station or let her know when to wait a few minutes before going outside. Your coworkers sound awful. Can any of the people you serve, or staff at other non-profits in the area, serve as allies?

    Also, you may want to consider varying your routine – coming in earlier some days, taking transit occasionally but not always, etc. It sounds like you are somewhat already doing this, but I wonder if being less predictable would make you feel like less of a target?

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      This, 100%.

      The people who live in the neighborhood will not pull punches about what is going on in their neighborhood and where. They’ll say, “This is ridiculous I’m trying to raise my child and those men are standing on the corner dealing smack at all hours of the day and night!” while someone who just works in the neighborhood will say “Oh it’s so delightful that this neighborhood is so socially engaged, with people talking to their neighbors and looking out for each other even after dark!”

  66. Lady Phoenix*

    Firstly, your coworkers are assholes and I would suspect they would claim you “asked for it” if something happened. Eff them.

    Second, talk to your superviser. Deacribe the incidents involved and how they make you feel unsafe.

    Third, request some of the following options:
    1) Working from hime
    2) Hiring security and installing cameras
    3) Ask that shifts have at least 2 people together so they can walk to their cars together

    If the spervisor laughs at you or says nothing is wrong, quit now. None of this is worth you becoming a potential Jane Doe.

    If supervisor says they want to talk about options, then maybe stay.

  67. Gecko*

    It’s odd that your coworkers think you’re overreacting. To me you have a very normal response to everything you’ve described. I also work in a bad neighborhood but my company provides parking and a very large gate surrounding the complex. It wasn’t always that way though. Long before I started (pre-gate) more than one employee was mugged on their way to/from work or would leave the office to find their car had been stolen. The company installed several safety measures in response to employee complaints. Do you have any coworkers who feel as you do? I do think you should talk to management, but you might feel you have more leverage if you were speaking as part of a group. Your company might not be able to provide secure parking but maybe they could provide a security guard or shuttle during commuting time. You should definitely talk to management and see what they’re willing to do. I hope your situation improves!

  68. atalanta0jess*

    This is so crappy, I’m sorry OP. I work for organizations like this, and have worked in rough neighborhoods, although not that bad, and none of them would have been ok with folks using drugs and having sex in our parking lot. That’s really not reasonable, even if they are the exact folks you are serving. Other folks have covered concrete suggestions really well, but I just want to underscore that IME this is NOT normal for a social service agency, and that you are totally reasonable to want your safety considered.

    The other sort of training you might request is MOAB. It seems to be commonly used in settings like that.

  69. Lisa*

    Don’t ignore your instinct. You are being targeted.

    From this point on you need to do what you can to ensure your safety, which means requesting a security officer immediately for escorts to and from your vehicle at all times, arriving/departing with a coworker, or finding a new job. Period. You don’t have to be an expert at self-defense or risk your personal safety to work in service to others. I’ve also worked in neighborhoods with crime issues and have never had to sacrifice my sense of safety to do my job. Again, you’ve given tangible examples that should not be ignored. It’s one thing to have someone who may be mentally ill acting out towards you, but keeping a reasonable distance. It’s a whole other ball game to have someone hiding near your car or approaching you directly. This is not the time to be polite. Demand security or find another job, otherwise, you run a real risk of someone escalating their behavior in ways that may permanently hurt you.

  70. Lady Phoenix*

    Actually you know what?

    Quit. Leave. Your coworkers are jackasses ad working with them when they laugh at your feelings and safety is not worth being the in the Late Night News.

  71. ProperDose*

    I’m SO sad to read about your co-worker’s response. That’s terrible! I also live in a mid-sized city and work in the office downtown. It’s about a 5 minute walk to the parking garage. It’s not in the worst part of the city, but still! I was chatting with my co-workers and we all agreed about safety in the winter when it gets darker earlier. Someone suggested a group self defense class. I thought that was a good idea! A good skill to have in general. BUT, that’s just a suggestion – not a solution. There still should be some kind of proposal to make sure everyone is safe in what could be a sketchy neighborhood

  72. Rachel*

    Not sure if this has been mentioned already but I highly recommenes the book The Gift of Fear. Listen to your gut!! Your life depends on it.

  73. Miranda*

    I am a social worker and unfortunately this is the reality of working in social services. Obviously our offices are typically in the same neighborhoods wher our clients live. I work in a head start preschool located in one such neighborhood and I don’t stop for gas there. Of course, working at a school, I have only daytime hours. I empathize with you though.

  74. NewJobWendy*

    Since you mentioned wanted to take self-defense classes, I highly recommend IMPACT Self Defense:
    http://www.impactselfdefense.org/

    Unfortunately the locations are very limited but if you could convince your work place to bring a training team on site, you might be able to bring IMPACT to you. I have personal experience with IMPACT Boston and cannot recommend them enough.

  75. MaureenC*

    I know in a lot of neighborhoods the residents don’t trust the police; also, a lot of people who need social services don’t see a police car and think “Oh, safety.” If that seems to be a factor, and if people in your organization are reluctant about working with the police, you can also suggest partnering with neighborhood organizations and asking them for safety advice.

    1. MaureenC*

      Ugh, duh! Some of your coworkers may also distrust the police For Reasons. Some of the readers on this board probably distrust the police. So, yeah, alternative safety resources are good.

  76. SocialWorker*

    I’m a social worker in a major city and much of my work has been in neighborhoods others would consider unsafe. There are probably limitations in what your organization can do for security but it is worth discussing it with your supervisor. The solution of having your husband pick you up is not very practical unless it is directly on the way and leaves a sour taste in my mouth as well. Ultimately, if you do not feel safe working in this neighborhood, you probably should not be working there because it is eventually going to affect your work and your perspective on the clients. My guess is that is what is happening with your coworkers-either they are jaded and it is impacting their work or they are very comfortable and genuinely don’t understand where you are coming from. Everyone has limits and you may have found yours.

    1. your vegan coworker*

      Yes, I was thinking that, without more info, we can’t know whether this newbie is unduly afraid or the coworkers are unduly calm. Because of segregation, having previously lived in bigger cities doesn’t at all guarantee comfort in low-income neighborhoods. There’s also the question of race and implicit bias. If OP is white and feeling afraid that the Black man who happens to be near by her car is going to sexually assault her, something other than objective danger may be scaring her. It seems like she feels unsafe walking to and from the public transit stop in broad daylight. Given that random assaults on people walking to the bus stop are rare even in the worst neighborhoods, this does tend to suggest that she may be feeling more fear than is warranted and that this will also affect her work with clients. On the other hand, as you say, it’s also possible that coworkers are so jaded that they no longer perceive real threats as dangers. But it does seem like there’s maybe a mismatch between OP’s emotional skill set and the inherent challenges of working in this neighborhood.

  77. Rumbakalao*

    I know you mentioned elsewhere that you’re concerned about looking like a job-hopper, but it’s worth thinking about if you’d rather risk that or risk bodily/mental harm feeling unsafe twice a day every weekday. It seems to me that your employer isn’t going to do anything meaningful to change anything, considering people have quit on the spot over this and that prompted no acknowledgment at all. The fact that a coworker laughed at your fear shows that you both are surrounded by coworkers severely lacking in empathy and in an environment where this has been long since normalized. I’m doubtful that carrying keys or mace or wasp spray is going to get rid of the fear you feel each time you commute. If I were in your shoes and something were to seriously happen, I would be kicking myself for not listening to my instincts and leaving sooner. Here’s what I’d suggest:

    Start looking now, and take up your partner on the offer of driving you to/from work as often as you can. If employers think you’re a job hopper and reject you immediately then so be it. The rest you can give more context to if/when it comes up in the interview process. If you can swing it, add yourself to the list of people who saw the writing on the wall and quit now.

  78. CommanderBanana*

    OP, your organization may pay more attention if they knew they could be facing a serious personal injury or wrongful lawsuit for unsafe premises, especially if you have raised (and I hope you are documenting) what’s happening in the parking area. I worked for personal injury attorneys and have seen case briefs for a lot of unsafe premises briefs that in many cases, were sadly what you have described – and ended with someone getting assaulted or killed in a parking lot.

    Your organization needs to take this more seriously.

  79. Natalie*

    “I have not spoken to my supervisor about this” – Please speak to them. It’s their job to troubleshoot this situation with you.

  80. Flash Bristow*

    If you think a self defence class would help, all! Other ideas include leaving the office in pairs or having security escort you to transport.

    If it’s serious enough that the police have been in, it’s not like you’re making a mountain out of a molehill, so definitely raise it. Maybe not everyone wants to be seen as unnerved by the environment but I bet there are others who will be grateful for you raising it.

  81. Alexis*

    I recommend speaking with your management team and letting them know past incidents have led you to believe there are safety hazards on/around their property (e.g. the guy waiting for you in the parking lot). Maybe get a team of folks together to approach management together to put some new measures into place.

    A few suggestions:
    – Installing signage about private property/trespassing
    – Installing flood lights in dark areas and over entrances, including concave mirrors so you can see who’s around the corner
    – Hiring a security firm to make patrols in and around the parking lots, entrances, etc. Guards can also escort employees to/from their cars or keep an eye out for people approaching the site
    – Working with employees on safety planning (e.g. arranging car pools or making it possible for coworkers to connect on public transportation so they travel in groups)
    – Installing fencing around the property
    – Installing CCTV over entrances to building/parking lot (including signage indicating there is surveillance)
    – Working with local police to beef up patrols in the area
    – Making any necessary property repairs (e.g. fixing broken concrete on sidewalks/curbs, resurfacing the parking lot, painting trim on the building, washing windows, etc.) to alert folks that the building is monitored and cared for

    These are some fairly inexpensive solutions that can harden the security profile of the building. Some of these may require them working with property management (if they don’t own the building), but putting safety precautions into place can help make people feel safer and send a message to those intending employees harm.

  82. That Girl From Quinn's House*

    I too have worked in nonprofits in unsafe neighborhoods, so I feel your pain. A huge part of the problem is that a lot of nonprofits feel that labeling a neighborhood as “unsafe” is stigmatizing to the community, and ignores the very real problems that go on in that community. In some places, we were not allowed to call the police because it “made our facility look bad” and was “racist.”

    My favorite out-of-touch incident was when I was working at an outdoor recreation facility. The area was a wide, flat open space surrounded by a fence. One of the returning staff asked me what the emergency plan was in the event of a shooting, because the previous summer, there had been a gang shooting in the street while the outdoor space was full of children. She was also concerned because an employee had been shot dead leaving the building about a year before. I said I thought that having a plan to get the children to shelter in the event of a shooting was important and that I would ask.

    I went in and asked management. They laughed at me and said that employee was being “melodramatic” and “racially insensitive” and that the shootings had only happened twice!

    There was gunfire where children were playing and management did not see it as a problem.

    This was one of many red flags and I ended up leaving.

    1. Miranda*

      Yes, at the NP I work at, during my first day training the HR person told us we sometimes have emergency drills for hurricanes, fires, drive-bys… She said it very nonchalantly and I actually wondered if I had misheard! Anyway, I have gotten used to the neighborhoods from my time working in social service. But I tend to work in the educational realm so we keep more like 7-3 type hours and generally have pretty safe buildings/ parking lots since there are also children there. I would definitely have issues though if I was concerned for my safety in a very real way. Also, people who live in unsafe neighborhoods probably are quite aware of it!

  83. TooTiredToThink*

    What is the police presence like in that neighborhood? When I worked in an area that was really bad the police would conveniently drive by our parking lot on a regular basis close to closing time (we were retail so more likely to be robbed than other things). They were happy to do it (and a few chided us for not calling) and by it being random people never knew when they might show up.

    1. ItsmeOP*

      The relationship between the police and this neighborhood is not a good one, and I wouldn’t be comfortable constantly calling them. It would put a lot of other people at risk for arrest etc.

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            She may face consequences and sanction at work if she calls the police. One of my bosses did that when an unstable male customer stalked her home, shouting out her name, work address, job title, and home as he followed her.

            She was frightened, called the police, and got in trouble with her boss for “making the workplace look unsafe” and “creating drama.”

            1. Alexis*

              There may be some repercussions at the company-level if someone retaliates against the OP for making a good-faith 911 call. I know it may feel difficult, especially potentially facing backlash at work or within the community, but in this case, it’s my opinion that personal safety trumps these issues.

              However, if it’s likely that the OP’s company will hold it against them for reporting a very real threat to the police, they need to provide assistance in some other way (e.g. physical security).

      1. Dankar*

        Unfortunately, that was what I expected when you replied above that there were various reasons not to expect an increased police presence.

        There’s also the issue that some precincts consider setting up nonprofits serving these populations to be “making their own bed” so to speak, and are unwilling to assist.

  84. Marcy Marketer*

    Wow it sucks that your coworkers don’t take safety seriously! What you’re describing is very scary.

    Other offices I’ve interviewed at in rough neighborhoods have done:
    —fenced parking lots with security guards and badge access
    —car services, shuttles, or escorts to bring people to bus stops
    —groups that walk to the bus stop together

    One company I worked at did not have anything to help people get to public transport (they did have a fenced in parking lot though) so I used to drive my coworker and wait with her until the train came.

  85. Rose*

    1) Definitely document your specific concerns in an email to your supervisor and CC the HR manager. BC yourself to your private email account and save any replies or note that your email was ignored (which I doubt it will be.)

    2) In that same email, specifically ask for flexible hours so you can be picked up by car.

    3) In the email, I’d also suggest the flood lighting and any other ideas.

    4) In addition, suggest the company hire a security expert to assess the building and its location. I realize the company is probably on a tight budget, but it’s the employees’ lives we are talking about here.

    5) Take a self defense class. Pay for it yourself if you have to.

    In the unlikely circumstance your managers don’t see the problem and completely ignore your concerns m, start looking for a new job. You don’t want to work for people who bury their heads in the sand when reality confronts them.

  86. Fiddlesticks*

    “Everyone is also in agreement that continuously calling the police is unlikely to lead to a safer neighborhood for a variety of reasons.”

    I’m probably ignorant or naive about this – but why would calling the police after employees have been repeatedly threatened be detrimental to a safer neighborhood??

    1. Crivens!*

      Because at least in the US, the police have a nasty habit of murdering and/or unjustly imprisoning people of color, trans people, and other members of oppressed groups.

      1. ItsmeOP*

        Yes – and there are a lot of sex workers around who are very easy targets. I don’t believe it would be the right thing to do but if I was actually attacked I would of course call.

    2. Maya Elena*

      The police probably can’t do much about a threat or a general sense of unease or suspicious behaviors that aren’t actual crimes. For things like being followed, he perpetrator is likely to disappear by the time the police arrive. Calling them every time will create a “boy who cried wolf” situation.

      1. ItsmeOP*

        Yes. Apparently the police officer who came to my office before I started working here did recommend us calling a lot because he said it could increase their funding, but I personally do not believe that arresting more people in the area will magically solve the overall problem of substance use disorder etc.

        1. valentine*

          You don’t have to address that overall problem (unless it’s your literal job). If the police can do anything to increase your safety, you can call on them to do so.

      2. Fiddlesticks*

        But it seems like at least the police could increase foot patrols or drive-bys in the neighborhood, just to give more of a sense of presence and reduce the likelihood that people will be blatantly doing illegal things in public. They will do this in my city if police reports are filed.

        I agree with the comment that people of color, transpeople, sex workers, etc, are easy targets of law enforcement abuse, but personally I don’t think this fact would prevent me from calling the police if I were followed, threatened or attacked near my workplace. These are two separate subjects, neither with easy answers…

    3. SavannahMiranda*

      If you have time perhaps look up ideas around what’s called Community Policing. It’s designed to be a counterpoint to the us-v/s-them paradigm that seems to take over embattled police departments.

      By deescalating the paradigm on the police side, it helps to deescalate it on the community side.

      Even setting aside questions of unjust deaths and overt police brutality, everyday interactions with police can be fraught, unproductive, result in no one being protected, and in potentially innocent people being caught up in something beyond anyone’s control.

      The best description I ever heard was that calling the cops can feel like calling in a tiger or a pack of lions, predators that were going to mess somebody up, but it would be almost random as to who.

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        Yeah; this was the deal with my recommendation. Where I worked – it was the high risk neighborhood but community policing was a thing there as well.

  87. Paloma Pigeon*

    If someone suffers some sort of physical attack in a parking lot of an office building, is the company liable for any sort of insurance claim? Does it fall under worker’s comp? If it’s a nonprofit, perhaps the OP could start asking questions about the D&O insurance. That might get some attention in a different way, and from a different set of eyeballs, like HR and/or insurance broker and/or board member, and it might move the needle.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      They could certainly file a personal injury lawsuit (or their families could file a wrongful death lawsuit). I’ve seen several large personal injury lawsuits filed against office buildings and hotels where people were attached/raped in parking lots and parking garages. Usually it was known that these were security risks or previous assaults had happened, the hotel or business didn’t do anything, and it happened again.

      The one I’m thinking of in particular was actually in Boston at the Stamford Marriott. A man had been lurking in the parking garage for hours before raping a woman at gunpoint in her car in front of her children. A guest had already called police to report that a man was following her around the garage and a second woman reported a theft from her car.

      Turns out he had been loitering in and around the hotel for days and the security staff had apparently either not noticed or failed to do anything, didn’t patrol the garage, and the hotel had no security director or internal security policies, which is a huge liability. She was awarded 4 million, if I recall.

      The point is, if your employer knows that this particular parking lot is a security risk, if you’ve reported it, if you haven’t been taken seriously and they’ve made no efforts to improve security in the lot that they are responsible for, they are definitely vulnerable to a lawsuit. They can’t do anything about making your walk to the bus stop safer, but they do have an obligation to protect in their own facility.

  88. Curious Cat*

    I know that others have suggested security guard (which I would suggest, too), but my office hires a shuttle service (a small bus, only about 15 seats), that can take employees to & from the nearest metro stop. While we have the shuttle mostly for those with disabilities and when the weather is horrendous, I could see it having a real advantage here, too, if it means a safe way to get you to public transportation. We also split the cost of the service with one other company next to us so their employees can use it, too.

    I believe the shuttle runs for us every day from 7 am – 9 am, and 5 pm – 7 pm. May be worth checking into.

  89. Nephron*

    Your coworkers might also be viewing things differently due to familiarity. Near where I work is a dedicated homeless encampment, I walk by it constantly. I have never had an issue with that population for years now. A block from my work a kid did knock me to the ground to try to mug, but it was not a homeless kid.

    I have had what I viewed as confusing conversations with people about how unsafe the area is because they will talk about the homeless encampment. I agree the area is unsafe, but telling me about the mattress the homeless people set up, or their tent city will not get my agreement and likely lead to a lecture about socioeconomic issues and actual crime rates among the homeless. This is not to say the guy by your car was not trying to hurt you, but your coworkers may file the people in the parking lot as nuisances who at most open unlocked cars and steal change. Your coworkers may not be as indifferent to your safety issues as they appear, they might just be use to people making nuisance complaints about Steve the local homeless guy who would not hurt a fly and filtered your issues out by mistake.

  90. JessicaTate*

    For immediate fixes, I second the simplest ideas that will ensure you’re not alone at the end of the day. 1) Talking to boss about adjusting your schedule so that your husband can pick you up. 2) If there is anyone else there who has similar trepidation — maybe focus on new people, before they get scared off and quit? — start a buddy system of walking together to the bus/car/whatever.

    I’ve worked in non-profits that tend to be located in dodgier neighborhoods. In our cases, if you were out at normal commuting hours, you were probably fine. But we definitely had a system if you were working late — or just in the winter when it was dark by 4:00 — no one left for the public transit walk without getting a buddy / making sure everyone still in the office was set for safely getting where they needed to go. Incidents were rare, but there’s a strength in numbers, even if we were just ignoring the catcalling driver together.

  91. Stuff*

    My husband used to to work in a really dodgy neighborhood that had shootings quite often. He sat by a window. I was sooooo glad when he left that job. I agree with the advice to talk to your boss about changing your hours. You should NOT be walking through the neighborhood at all. If you are walking to your car ask if someone can accompany you. Really though I’d probably be looking for a new job.

  92. Argh!*

    The first thing to do is talk to your supervisor. Your supervisor knows better than we do what the risks and solutions are for your situation.

    Either way, though, you don’t have to wait for your supervisor to approve self-defense training. You can sign up for it yourself, and there may be some free seminars or courses that you can attend. You can also use a flashlight to check out the area if you’re in the parking lot at night.

    I’ve worked in dicey neighborhoods, and self-defense training really helped me relax. I knew that I had some tools and skills if something happened. It also helped me be a little more self-confident in daily life, too.

  93. Goya de la Mancha*

    This is probably really dumb, but is a stipend for uber/lyft a viable option?
    I mean it can come with it’s own security issues, but you would at least have door to door transportation if they won’t switch your hours to work with your husbands?

    1. fposte*

      Oh, this is a really interesting idea. Even if the OP’s workplace isn’t game for it, it’s something other places struggling with this might consider.

    2. nonegiven*

      I wouldn’t ask the manager to change hours, I’d inform them I’m changing my hours until my concerns were addressed.

  94. amysee*

    It’s one thing to be hesitant to call the police because of very real concerns about racial profiling, unlawful/excessive use of force, needless escalation of situations that could better be served by social workers etc. It’s another thing entirely to ignore real threats to clients and employees in some sort of attempt at performative wokeness, or just plain ignorance.

    It is not privilege to want to live and work in a safe neighborhood. All of us deserve to feel safe in our daily lives; structural inequality and neglect have made a lack of safety the norm in many places. Minimizing real threats doesn’t make anyone an ally, however. I can guarantee that people who live in neighborhoods with a lot of crime would like their neighborhoods to be safer. And a lot (most, probably) of the folks doing or selling drugs or committing other crimes would like not to be doing those things also! But for many they are the best options on a list of poor alternatives.

    Agencies that work in neighborhoods with a lot of crime can do a lot of good by authentically partnering with the people in their communities to identify and solve problems. I know, I know, tight budgets, crazy workloads, etc., but how do you know your neighbors don’t want you to call the police unless you actually ask them? Agencies may find, for example, that neighbors are happy for them to install lighting, cameras or other security features, which frequently have positive impacts on the surrounding area. I’ve seen it happen.

    I think the OP should absolutely raise her specific concerns with her boss and push for her organization to change its thinking/culture around safety, while doing whatever she needs to do to feel safe- from continuing to work an alternate schedule so her husband can drive her to quitting. Ultimately we all have to take care of ourselves. But her agency will really be missing an opportunity to be a greater asset to its community if they don’t take this seriously.

  95. DJ*

    I know the Police talk wasn’t helpful but worth contacting the Police Dept to see if they have or can recommend crime prevention staff who can look at the situation and make recommendations.
    A security guard and flood lights in the car park. Allowing flexible start and finish times so at least some staff can take advantage of having others pick them up or drop them off. Have an allowance for staff who drive who would be willing to drop staff off at the busstop. Or a shuttle bus which the security officer could drive to drop staff off at a safe bus stop.
    See if you can find others at work who are concerned so you can put your heads together for ideas. Also collate stories. Then a couple of you can approach management with some solutions in mind.

  96. ellemmess*

    I highly recommend reading Gavin de Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear.” (Yes, the same Gavin de Becker who Jeff Bezos hired to investigate the National Enquirer leaked photos/blackmail stuff.)

    One caveat is that there is language in the section on domestic violence that has often, and rightly, been criticized as victim-blaming. That being said, I think his general premise – that there are all sorts of signals that you are in or may be in a dangerous situation and that you should learn to read those signals, and that the reason the little voice inside your head is telling you that something is wrong is because SOMETHING IS WRONG – is important, and the advice he gives might be helpful to you.

  97. ideasoflight*

    This is a super complex question, because it’s a matter of balancing competing but equally valid concerns, and there are some pretty appalling comments here, honestly. Yes, LW’s safety matters! But this is also an organization that is located in and serving a specific community, and treating that community as a Guaranteed Threat poses a risk of alienated the very people they’re trying to serve. I really wish this hadn’t been given the “ask the readers” treatment.

    I’ve lived/worked in communities not unlike this, and there’s a level of mental threat assessment you need to be able to do in terms of like, this person is behaving in a scary/erratic way, but are they doing it in a way that’s likely to be directed at me? The answer is no, like, WAY more often than you’d think! And while the specific incidents LW mentions are things that I get being scared by, I also don’t get the sense from how they write about it that they’re comfortable doing that kind of assessment. And that’s ok! Everyone has their own thresholds for this stuff! But this might not be a good community for LW to work in if theirs is low. While I think the employer should be taking steps to help their team feel safe, and there’s probably more they could be doing (like better parking lot lighting), where the balance between “employee safety” and “engaging with people who live in a sometimes-unsafe community” ultimately lies can sometimes be a place that not everyone is going to be comfortable with, and I think LW needs to think about where their personal bar for safety needs sits in relation to this.

    1. fposte*

      And just plain stress level, really. Again I think of the snow discussion–it doesn’t matter if you have co-workers that are okay driving in deep snow; if it’s a source of major and regular stress for you, that’s bad for you.

    2. BethRA*

      Thank you for this reply. I wanted to say something similar, but was struggling with how to respond in a way that wouldn’t come off as completely dismissive of the OP’s concerns.

      OP, reading your responses here, I think you do understand the issues ideasoflight raises. And I”m wondering if your organization can provide training that will help you and other new staff develop those threat-assessment skills, as well as give you training in de-escalation techniques and self defense. Approaching this as “how can we make this safer for everyone, including the community we serve” might get a better response.

      (that said, laughing at your concerns was a jerk move and pretty unhelpful from any angle)

      1. fposte*

        I don’t even know if they laughed as a dismissal of her concerns–it sounds like it was just their immediate response to the information that a man had turned up next to her car. If they’re used to parking-lot poopers, for instance, that would probably be where their mind went first.

        1. BethRA*

          Re-read the post, and you’re probably right about the laugh – but I didn’t get the sense that they were in any way helpful once OP told them she was scared by the incident, either.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I agree. And there can be a lot of things going on behind that–other people may have a clearer sense of the actual risks, or they may be inured to them and thus underweight them, or there may be a swagger about toughness that’s evolved, or some combination of the three.

            But if the org is regularly losing people because they feel unsafe, they’re waaay behind the curve in dealing with it, and getting some cultural messaging out to all employees about that would be part of getting up to speed. That’s true even if the crime rate there is no different than anywhere else in the city–this is still a significant perception that’s affecting their retention, and they’re being foolish not to take action on this.

            1. ideasoflight*

              Yeah, they do need to be handling it differently. Knowing how to assess your relative safety in a struggling area is a skill, and it takes practice and a baseline of knowledge/experience that not everyone has! The org should take steps to help its staff adjust to the community, especially if it’s leading to retention issues. I love BethRA’s framing of “how can we make this safer for everyone, including the community we serve”. But ultimately, some of this is just going to be an innate part of working for this organization in this location, and different people will have different thresholds for dealing with it. I like the snow example – like, for some people, driving in deep snow is never going to be a thing they feel safe doing even with all the practice in the world, and that’s totally OK, but that probably means they shouldn’t work somewhere where they’re required to come in regardless of the weather.

    3. Samwise*

      Every one of OP’s examples is a clear threat to their physical safety and directed right at the OP. We’re not talking about guy screaming as he walks down the street. It’s a guy FOLLOWING them and screaming at them. It’s not a guy near the parking lot who’s a different race from me and that makes me scared; it’s a guy hiding by my car. It’s not some bozo driving down the street yelling out the window; it’s a guy driving slowly next to me and verbally harassing me.

      That last one happened to me; I was on a bicycle on a busy commercial street in a middle class suburb and everyone around appeared to be the same race and same socioeconomic bracket. Guy followed me awhile and made disgusting “suggestions” out the car window. Drove away — around the block, and came up and did it again. And again. And again. Broad daylight. Lots of people around. It was terrifying. It happened over forty years ago and it *still* makes me feel queasy.

      I don’t see how mental threat assessment helps in any way in the situations the OP describes. Every last one of them sounds to me like a real threat that the OP is right to take seriously, and that OP’s co-workers are wrong to dismiss (sure, I can understand why they might feel dismissive, but they’re *wrong*)

      1. ideasoflight*

        You can feel like you’re being followed and screamed at when someone is just… walking in the same direction as you and screaming. Someone can be hanging out in a parking lot for a million reasons that aren’t about you. Like… yes, you should be cautious in these situations, but that’s different from assuming the worst case scenario about them. Especially when we’re socially conditioned to hate and fear certain groups of people, it’s so easy to feel like it’s necessary to expect the worst, but… it really isn’t, and those are important instincts to interrogate because they aren’t always accurate? They’re the product of our biases and our experiences, and it matters whether we’re responding based on the former or the latter.

        1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

          1) If someone is walking and screaming, you need to get away. Not give benefit of the doubt.
          2) I don’t think the situations being described indicate any preconditioning towards certain groups of people.
          3) It is absolutely important to look at everything with a critical eye and assume that the worst case scenario may be possible when you are in potentially vulnerable situations.

          1. ideasoflight*

            I think a lot of what I’m landing on the more I think about this is the difference between being cautious and being scared? Between feeling wary and feeling fearful? And I think you have to have a very well-developed “cautious” zone that’s pretty hard to flip into “scared” when you’re working in and with a community like this. Like, yeah, I’m gonna get away from the person walking and screaming, but I’m also not gonna assume they’re doing it _at me_ – that’s what I meant by benefit of the doubt. The worst case scenario is always possible, and it’s super important to be aware of your surroundings in a situation like this, what people are doing, what it could turn into. But it’s information about your surroundings – caution. LW sounds scared – upset, rattled, etc. And there’s nothing wrong with that reaction, necessarily – there’s any number of reasons someone might be that aren’t just bias – but if you’re someone who blows straight past caution into that kind of gut-level emotional response, then this kind of a role might not be a good fit, and that’s OK. But it’s not fair to the people this OP’s job serves to approach them from a place of fear.

        2. Dankar*

          OP clarified in a comment above that the person was screaming directly at her and threatening rape. I agree with where you’re coming from, but in this case I think she’s on the mark about it being a dangerous situation.

        3. Anoncorporate*

          The OP literally says the person following her were screaming threats AT HER. Being followed by a car is still being followed.

      2. fposte*

        I don’t think it’s that simple. Lots of things raise risk (which is another way to say “presents a clear threat to physical safety”–driving, after all, presents a clear threat to physical safety, but there we all are doing it). The question is by how much, and how we know, and whether it’s too much to be acceptable for us. I think, unfortunately, that being followed down the street and being yelled at aren’t freakishly unusual experiences, especially in a neighborhood with people on the margins; same, IME, with some short-term car stalking. Do they raise my risk when they happen to me? Probably, because somebody with little concern for social and legal boundaries is behaving aggressively. Do they have a *high* correlation with violence? I don’t think they do, because they’re so hideously common compared to stranger-on-stranger violence. So I don’t take them as acceptable or pretend they don’t happen, but I have been okay living in areas where they were pretty common. Would I now? Maybe not, since I’m a lot more physically fragile and slow-moving, and I might be also just more thrown by them emotionally than I used to be. Both those decisions are okay to make.

    4. your vegan coworker*

      Yes, I too wish this weren’t an “ask the readers” question, because it occurred to me that implicit biases of various kinds might have heightened OP’s anxieties about the neighborhood and, if so, lots of recommendations to carry pepper spray and be prepared to gouge people’s eyes out won’t help matters!

  98. I work in "the Walmart of Heroin"*

    At first I thought, is this my coworker? I work in the area the NYT recently described as “the Walmart of Heroin”. There’s open air drug dealing and an epidemic of homelessness. Thankfully, I haven’t had too many issues with physical safety…. but the area is unsafe to my mental health. I used to always go for walks during my lunch. Here, going for a walk, even around the block, makes me return *more* stressed, not less. Not to mention there’s no places to get lunch, coffee, etc. I often don’t leave the building at all, which really bums me out.

    As much as I like the work, I’ll probably leave as soon as it’s acceptable. It’s just not worth it to me. My employer never seems to acknowledge the stress of working here, which doesn’t help–but honestly, there’s not much they could do.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I read that article – heartbreaking. It was horrible. I could not handle working in an area like that, and I actually work in a literal shelter.

      1. I work in "the Walmart of Heroin"*

        Thanks for your reply. I’ve worked in a homeless shelter before too… and you’re right, this is worse. Thanks again. <3