No doubt many of you have received mass-circulated e-mails claiming to have vitally important information regarding personal safety and security, especially for women.
Unfortunately, most are urban myths, filled with false information, or information not pertinent to this country. I learned this when I contacted the Metro Toronto Police. Const. Victor Kwong helped me sort out some of the information. Here are some examples:
- E-mail information: Beware of two-way mirrors in public restrooms. The test: Put your fingernail to the glass. If there’s a space between your nail and the image, the mirror is real. If your nail touches its reflection, it’s a two-way mirror. Truth: Do NOT use this as a definitive test as it’s only true on single-pane mirrors. If you’re afraid someone is watching you, leave the premises.
- In metropolitan cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver and Calgary, it’s unlikely that an unmarked police car will be following you, let alone pull you over. Although television makes it look common, it’s not easy to steal a cop car and drive around impersonating police. So, if a police car is attempting to pull you over, it’s probably legit. If you’re unsure, dial *MTP in Toronto, or *OPP outside the GTA. Call your local police station for other numbers.
- E-mail information: A single woman in a car does not have to pull over for police until she feels safe doing so. Not so. Truth: If you don’t comply, you’ll be giving the officer more reason to suspect you of wrongdoing. Again, in our country, it’s rare for an unmarked officer in an unmarked vehicle to pull someone over. But if it’s a uniformed cop, in an official vehicle, you should do as asked.
- Furthermore, there’s a pilot project happening in Toronto wherein police are aiming to supply all police vehicles with an automatic camera that will turn on as soon as the lights are activated. So there’ll be no doubts about who did what.
- Const. Kwong suggests women walk directly and confidently when alone. Park in well-lit, non-secluded areas; walk with keys in hand; lock your door if you aren’t leaving immediately. Most importantly, don’t listen to your iPod — or, make sure its volume is low enough that you can hear the ambient noise around you. If you think someone is following you, use your cellphone immediately — this will deter the supposed assailant.
- E-mail: If you’re being robbed at an ATM, punch in your PIN number backwards. Wrong. Truth: Some home-alarm companies do, however, have a two-code system wherein if someone has broken into your home, you can punch in the distress code which will alert the company without alerting the intruder.
- There’s no such thing as cellphone battery reserve.
- E-mail: dialling 112 on your cellphone is an international emergency number. Truth: Only in some parts of Europe. In North America, 911 is the emergency number and will work even if your phone is locked.