There’s no magic formula to prevent being a crime victim. If that were the case, no one would ever be targeted by criminals. It’s probably even more difficult for individuals to stop themselves from being the victims of bias crimes. Short of plastic surgery, it’s not exactly easy for people to disguise their ethnic identity. And many people, of course, have no desire to change what they look like. Does that mean minority groups have no choice but to end up hate crime victims if they happen to cross paths with a white supremacist? Not exactly. Minorities can take a number of steps to reduce the likelihood that they will wind up the next victim of a bias crime.
Don’t Talk to Strangers
The same advice that your parents gave when you were a child applies to you in adulthood: Don’t talk to strangers. High-profile hate crime victims such as Vincent Chin and Matthew Shepard died after interacting with people they didn’t know. This isn’t to say that you can never have exchanges with strangers, but don’t go anywhere alone with a stranger or get into an argument with strangers if they begin to insult you. Strangers killed Shepard for being gay after he accepted a ride with them. Chin had an argument with two strangers at a bar who reportedly lobbed racist insults at him. When Chin left the bar, the duo tracked him down and beat him until he lost consciousness. The two unemployed auto workers allegedly resented him because they believed he was Japanese and blamed Chin—who was actually Chinese—for their joblessness.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Don’t walk with headphones on or while talking on your cell phone if you can help it. Pay attention to your surroundings and the people in them. The more alert you are the greater the chance you’ll be aware of someone following you. Try to remain in public, well-lit spaces whenever possible. When walking to your car, have your keys ready and your cell phone accessible. Program emergency contact numbers into your phone, so you can call the authorities by dialing one digit. Make sure no one’s lurking around your car before you enter the vehicle.
It’s not always possible to walk in a group but take advantage of the opportunity whenever it arises. The group can walk to one person’s car and that person can then drive the others to their cars, ensuring that no one will be left alone. When driving someone home, do not leave until you see the person walk inside.
Spend Your Time in Diverse Areas
A hate crime can take place anywhere, but if you spend most of your time in a community with a diverse mix of residents, you’re less likely to attract a bigot’s attention. Aim to live, work and attend school in places where there are other people of your ethnic or religious background. If you reside in an area where few to no people look like you, there’s a greater chance you’ll be perceived as an outsider and treated with hostility. Some communities even have reputations for targeting certain groups. While it’s your right to travel to any community you choose, it’s wise to avoid areas known for white supremacist or right-wing activity. In diverse areas residents routinely see people from all walks of life, making them less likely to lash out at those who appear “different.”
Secure Your Property
Take the same precautions you’d use to repel burglars as you would to protect your property from hate-filled criminals. Install motion sensor outdoor lighting in your home, community center, place of worship or business. Install surveillance cameras and employ security guards to protect these places as well. If the police in your area are receptive, meet with them to express your concerns about belonging to a minority group in your community. Ask their advice on the steps you can take to prevent becoming a target. If a hate crime occurs in your area, consider forming or participating in a Neighborhood Watch program.
Partner With Other Groups
Form alliances with organizations in your community. If you belong to an association that advocates for the rights of a certain racial or religious group, ask the leaders to reach out to other groups in the area. If it’s known that your minority group has allies in your town, bigots will think twice before lashing out against members of your group--be it defacing property or committing violent bias crimes.