Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Woman Wonders Who To Call To Feel Safe

DEAR HARRIETTE: What should I do instead of calling the cops? I am an Asian woman, and I live in an apartment in Philadelphia in an area with a fairly high crime rate. Because of my hours (I work at a grocery store), I often have to walk home alone just as it’s getting dark, and I am concerned that this puts me at risk.

That said, I am concerned about calling the police to a neighborhood that has many people of color, especially Black people. I do not think I am more at risk of being attacked by a Black person, and I would strongly prefer not to introduce the police into any situation in this community. However, if something were to happen while I’m walking back at night, which I have been raised to remember is all too possible as a young woman, what are some alternative actions I could take? -- Need Protection

DEAR NEED PROTECTION: You are right to be concerned about your safety during your evening walk home, and, sadly, you are also right that it can be tricky to engage police when there is a heightened understanding that Black people can be accused of crimes even when they are not committing them. Our police departments across the country are evaluating their procedures and redefining how they can support communities -- and it will take some time.

Two things you can do: Be proactive, and go speak to someone at your police precinct to inquire about what they would recommend to best support you. If extra patrolling happens during evening hours, that may be more helpful than a 911 call. You can also talk to your community board or neighborhood organization (if you have one) and suggest forming a neighborhood watch, where neighbors look out for one another.