Academy News

Defense Tactics Night Puts Safety in the Spotlight

Students learned various self-defense techniques and precautionary measures for staying safe in San Francisco 

By Kyle Roe

On Wednesday, Sept. 19, students took a break from hitting the books to learn how to hit back, at the Department of Campus Safety and Lab Resources’ second Defensive Tactics Night of 2018. Students consumed light snacks while listening to San Francisco police officers, past and present, talk about self-defense techniques and prevention.

According to Vice President of Campus Safety and Lab Resources Michael Petricca, the event’s purpose is to provide “helpful tips on how to stay safe in San Francisco. Some tips about walking around the dormitories in San Francisco. Just some common-sense things to keep you safe while you’re getting your degree here.”

The event was hosted by Petricca and Kevin Barton, a retired San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officer who spoke for most of the evening. Two other SFPD officers, Howard Chu and Sandy Yuen, were also present to provide additional tips and insight.

“The most important part of our trainings and our seminars is to raise awareness,” Barton explained. “Raise the consciousness of the students, so they’re familiar with their environment. That they take precautions to keep themselves from being victims.”

Though the night was mostly focused on listening to the SFPD representatives, students were asked to join in on a few demonstrations of combative defensive techniques. Students pantomimed putting their peers into headlocks, scraping their ankles with their feet, and stomping on their toes, with encouragement to hit the ground with a loud, cathartic thump.

“You all have a very, very personal responsibility to take care of yourselves, especially all of you folks that are not from San Francisco and are away from your families, some for the first time,” Barton said. “They need to know that you are safe, and you need to let them know that you are doing what you can to remain safe in the city.”

Students were reminded to call Academy of Art University’s Campus Safety escorts if they are ever concerned about getting home safely. “If you find yourself in a situation in San Francisco, we’ll come and get you,” Petricca said. “We’ve gone to San Jose to pick up kids. We’ve gone to Oakland.” The line, which is open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. and later, can be reached at (415)618-3896.

The officers in attendance urged students to “trust their gut” when walking through San Francisco, and to not engage with “unsavory characters.” Officer Yuen reminded students that if someone on the street approaches them with a gun “and he wants your item, give it to him. But if he wants you to get in a vehicle… you don’t want to get in a vehicle. He can take you to a park, take you under a freeway ramp where he’s going to kill you anyway.” Staying on a public street increases the likelihood of someone seeing or hearing you, making the interaction much riskier for the person holding the gun.

“If an incident occurs, like Kevin said, yell, scream, do anything to attract attention. The last thing they want is attention,” Yuen said. “Most likely, they’re going to leave you. They’re going to run off.”

Throughout the talk, Barton emphasized that “prevention is the key.” Whether it’s going out with a group, having a destination in mind, familiarizing yourself with the area, or paying attention to your surroundings. This includes limiting time on your phone while walking, which can be taken as a sign that you’re unacquainted with the area to a potential assailant.

Overall, the presenters seemed grateful to be there and encouraged students to ask questions and discuss what they learned. “We enjoy this because it gives us a chance to meet students and become more of a part of the fabric of the university,” Barton said. “We really appreciate the opportunity to come here and be part of this great university.”

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