Tuesday 27 June 2017

Comment: Have I been wrong all along? Why the new garda campaign #MindYourStuff is missing the point

Model Thalia Heffernan is advising people to mind their personal property as part of An Garda Síochána’s new ‘Streetwise’ campaign. Also pictured is Sergeant Kelvin Courtney of the Garda’s National Crime Prevention Unit.
Model Thalia Heffernan is advising people to mind their personal property as part of An Garda Síochána’s new ‘Streetwise’ campaign. Also pictured is Sergeant Kelvin Courtney of the Garda’s National Crime Prevention Unit.
Model Thalia Heffernan is advising people to mind their personal property as part of An Garda Síochána’s new ‘Streetwise’ campaign. Also pictured is Sergeant Kelvin Courtney of the Garda’s National Crime Prevention Unit.
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

Am I missing something here?

Irish model Thalia Heffernan has teamed up with Gardaí for a new personal safety campaign. 

The campaign aims to advise young people to "mind your stuff" when they go out socialising.

The press release from An Garda Síochana reads; "The campaign is advising 18 to 39 year-olds who are going out to mind their personal property and possessions, such as a bag, wallet, phone or set of keys."

It has been successful so far, having featured on several news outlets and for those who want to tweet about it, the campaign is running with the hashtag #MindYourStuff.

I think I might be missing something here. Is your bag, wallet, phone or set of keys really a priority on a night out?

I don't think I've ever heard an Irish mammy roar, "Mind your stuff!" behind a group of friends as they headed out for the night.

The yells we heard from the living room as a gaggle of us herded out the door as young 'uns were generally along the lines of, "Call me if you need anything", "Be careful" or "Mind yourself!".

Model Thalia Heffernan is advising people to mind their personal property as part of An Garda Síochána’s new ‘Streetwise’ campaign. Also pictured is Sergeant Kelvin Courtney of the Garda’s National Crime Prevention Unit.
Model Thalia Heffernan is advising people to mind their personal property as part of An Garda Síochána’s new ‘Streetwise’ campaign. Also pictured is Sergeant Kelvin Courtney of the Garda’s National Crime Prevention Unit.

In fact, when the press release first popped into my inbox, I misread the name of the campaign as just that - #MindYourself.

Model Thalia, who was previously assaulted and had her bag stolen during a mugging in Dublin, shared her words of advice: "Everybody likes to go out and have fun, but it’s also really important to mind yourself and your stuff when socialising. Avoid walking alone and take care of your property, particularly mobile phones and purses or wallets."

I would disagree with placing emphasis on "take care of your property".

If somebody stood in front of me, demanded my phone or purse and if I sensed any potential danger, I would hand them everything I own in the hope that they would take it and run.

My phone wasn't bought from a bargain basket, but I would happily lie to the loss of a smartphone in the hope of halting an incident that could escalate into violence.

It sounds like Thalia agrees too. Speaking about her experience the young model said she fought back when the group tried to take her bag from her, but she wouldn't take the risk again.

"I should have given them the bag in hindsight, but I did put up a bit of a fight," she said.

So, why is this new campaign focusing on 'minding your stuff'?

Instead, we should be minding ourselves. Here is one of my own tips - I don't wear or bring anything of monetary or sentimental value on nights out in town. That way you will never feel the need to fight back if you are unlucky enough to find yourself in a sticky situation.

They can take my cheap clutch from Penneys, my set of €5 bangles, my Rimmel makeup and my worn makeup brush. I will be gutted if they take my Mac lipstick, but so be it. Sure look it, they can even take my phone. These things can all be replaced.

Thalia said she was "terrified at everything" after the mugging incident.

"Any kind of noise and I’d go into a panic... someone would bump into me and I would just freak out. Immediately afterwards I was pretty badly affected.

"As time has gone by, you lose that initial sense of panic and normality sinks in again."

No cheap clutch, makeup or costume jewellery is worth that terror and fear.

Sure, be streetwise with your belongings. And don't walk around with your phone up to your ear, oblivious to everything going on around you.

But your belongings aren't everything. Two words of advice? Mind yourself.

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