Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
A new social media-driven safety campaign targets Brooklyn’s millennials.
Katie Osborn is used to watching her back. The twenty-three year-old was regularly trailed to the subway by a leering man who waited around the corner from the Long Island City, Queens, bike shop where she worked. He catcalled her and shouted lewd remarks. “Eventually, I had friends pick me up to drive me to the subway,” she says.
Osborn lives in Brooklyn’s South Slope neighborhood. “I’ve walked around this area at all times of the night,” she says. She feels safe there. And when she rides her motorcycle to bars—“I go out a decent amount,” she says—she plans ahead, knowing where she’ll park it if she gets too inebriated to drive home.
But she doesn’t have a plan for exactly what she’d do if that aggressive guy—or someone like him—cornered her. “I’d like to learn some quick self-defense moves,” she adds. “Like a short video or something I could scroll through. Like a mini instruction course.”
That desire for a quick, digitally driven safety lesson underpins a new month-long safety campaign targeted at millennials.
The #OutSmartBK social media campaign—devised by bar owners in Williamsburg, Brooklyn—delivers safety tips on a visual, sharable platform. It focuses on bike safety, dating safety, and general tips for being out and about.
Take, for instance, a blurry picture of a hand reminding people to fish keys out of pockets or bags before arriving home. (It’s paired with a cheesy but memorable poem: “When you’re getting home late, no need to linger at the gate.”)
Another shot depicts tote bags gaping open to reveal their contents, with a reminder to “Zip yer shit!”
Theft is the most common crime in Brooklyn’s 90th Precinct, which includes Williamsburg. Between July 7 and July 12, there were 16 incidents of grand larceny, and 21 of petit larceny, according to the NYPD. Though many types of crimes have decreased in NYC over the past few decades, theft is actually on the rise in locations such as Williamsburg, where it has boomeranged since a low 17 years ago. (In 1990, there were 300 cases of grand larceny; in 2014, that number had more than doubled.)
The chatty tone of the posts is designed to appeal to millennials who don’t tend to show up to safety demonstrations at community board meetings, 90th Precinct commanding officer Inspector Mark DiPaolo told DNAInfo.
The campaign, which concludes August 3, also includes workshops, including a self-defense training advertised with a still from the cult classic The Karate Kid.
The initiative hasn’t gone viral—the Instagram account has only 247 followers—but Osborn understands the appeal and thinks that the platform could resonate with her peers. “I check Instagram in the morning, mid-afternoon, and late at night,” she says. “I’m always on it.”Top image: Simone Mescolini / Shutterstock.com.