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Editor's Note: This article was updated 11/3 to reflect that self-defense keychains cannot be legally carried on campus

Being a first-year on campus, I’ve already been exposed to a lot of crime — from a bomb threat that happened earlier last week on campus, to someone lighting a car on fire off campus a while back. All of these different crimes have happened in the span of half a semester. So it’s important to stay safe and prepared when walking on and off campus, especially now since it’s getting dark earlier. Here are some safety tips all students can use to make sure they’re staying safe when outside after sunset. 

Carry around pepper spray

It’s important to have protection in case someone tries to attack you, and pepper spray is a good thing to carry around with your keys. If you can’t get pepper spray or want more safety devices to carry around, there are various self-defense keychains you can find on Amazon for cheap.

Update: Though students may want to carry self-defense keychains on campus, possession of one on campus constitutes a misdemeanor violation of an NC General Statute relating to weapons on educational property. Pepper spray, however, is a legal option for on-campus self defense.

Don’t be distracted

It’s easy to look at our phones for a long period of time while walking around, but if you’re walking around at night alone, you want to always be aware of your surroundings and who’s around you. If you want to walk with headphones in, I recommend keeping your music or podcast at a low volume, or just not have headphones in at all so you can more easily be aware of what’s happening around you.

Share your location with someone

This tip is probably the most important one. Technology is an amazing resource, and we should use it to our advantage, which is why I highly suggest sharing your location with friends, family or anyone you trust. Personally, I have a group chat with all of my suitemates, and we all share our location with each other just in case one of us needs help or is in trouble. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your location, I would at least tell someone where you’re going and what time you should be back, so if something happens, they know where you are and can send help.

If you’re off campus and you feel like someone is following you, something I would suggest is to call someone and talk on the phone with them. This can make you feel more safe and secure, and you can even act like they’re coming to pick you up so the person who is following you can back off. 

Find someone to walk with

Having someone with you while you’re out walking at night is always the best thing you can do. Don’t be afraid to ask around to see if someone can walk with you to a place if it’s dark out. If you can’t find anyone, NC State also has services that will help you get home safely at night. This includes safety escorts for when the bus services aren’t operating, ride-along programs and more.

Look for blue light emergency lights

If you feel unsafe or you’re in trouble, make sure you look for these lights all across campus to call for help. Here’s a map of all the blue lights on campus; try and plan your walk home with a couple of these en route. 

Always walk in a lit path or somewhere you know well

If you have to be out late at night, make sure you’re at least walking in a familiar area with lots of lights so you don’t end up getting lost in the dark. Our campus is fairly well lit, so this shouldn’t be a problem but if you find yourself off campus, just try and get home quickly. Also, if you know you need to walk somewhere with lots of traffic, like Hillsborough Street, make sure you wear bright clothes and avoid using headphones. 

There are more safety tips, but these were just the ones I find most important. So as the weather continues getting colder and daylight grows shorter, many more of us are going to be walking alone in the dark. So make sure as you’re out when it’s dark you’re being safe. It’s important to be safe, no matter where you are or who you’re with, especially if you’re alone. 

If you feel you are in danger, University Police can be reached at 919-515-3000. Raleigh Police can be reached at 919-996-3855. If you are in serious danger, call 911.