Festival Crime – How to Protect Yourself from Theft Harassment and Aggressive Behaviour

During the warm summer months, hundreds of thousands of people will converge on festivals, keen to hear their favourite music and enjoy a great summer experience. But not all is love and peace. With any large group of people, there are going to be a few problems.

We look at some of the potential risks you could face when attending a festival and how you can better protect yourself.

Theft at Festivals

While you might have to put up with mud, rain and the festival toilets they won’t really ruin your festival experience. Becoming the victim of theft, on the other hand, has the potential to devastate your weekend.

Losing your phone, money and other valuables, when some scumbag rifles through your possessions, isn’t going to leave you feeling safe at the campsite. It may put you off going to see the acts you came to the event for, fearing more of your stuff will go missing while you are away.

Statistics from 2016 show that some 16% of festival-goers became the victims of crime at an event. More recent information seems to suggest the situation is getting better and less of a risk. However, while crime at festivals isn’t as bad as it used to be, it is still something which you should consider and guard against.

How to Protect Yourself from Crime at a Festival

The best way to avoid your valuables being stolen is, of course, to not bring them to the event. If you can’t afford to lose something, the only sure-fire way is to leave it at home.

Mobiles aren’t such a popular item with the thieves as they used to be, thanks to the ability to track them down. Bringing an expensive phone is still a risk, so make sure to activate security apps or buy a cheap handset for the event. The battery is going to last longer on a basic phone and could be a better choice if you can tear yourself away from social media for a few days.

Note down the IMEI number of your handset at home, so that it can be more easily identified if it goes missing. Consider registering your phone and other valuable items, with Immobilise, the national property register, before you leave for the festival. If the worst happens and your stuff gets stolen, your entry in the property register could be used by the police to get your things back to you.

Don’t leave valuables in your tent and at night, put them in your sleeping bag. Some criminals have been known to go tent to tent during the night to go through people’s stuff when they’re sleeping. If they encounter someone who’s still awake, they play it off as a mistake and move onto the next tent.

Of course, if you are staying in a campervan your possessions should be safer. Criminals are more likely to target tents because they lack any real security. Unzipping or slicing the canvas is all that is needed to steal from a tent. A campervan, on the other hand, will likely attract more attention should someone attempt to force entry.

Though vans offer more protection, you shouldn’t become blasé towards security. Don’t leave your van with open windows and, naturally, make sure the doors are locked. Ensure you don’t leave anything which might be tempting to a thief visible through the windows.

Having an alarm fitted to your campervan will put off most would-be thieves. A sticker on the window showing that there is an alarm may be enough to avoid your vehicle becoming a target. If that fails, they won’t want to stick around when the alarm sounds.

Festivals increasingly offer lockers and facilities for you to store your valuables. Make use of these services to avoid falling victim to crime.

Bringing a large wad of cash with you to the event should be avoided. There will be cash machines on-site and more options for cashless payments every year. You could even get a pre-paid debit card for the event to make sure you limit the risks.

Increasingly, more festivals have implemented cashless systems. This way, you use an RFID wristband or dog tag to make all your purchases on the festival site. You can often purchase credit for the cashless system when buying your ticket. Then when you arrive at the event, you are given your wristband, making paying for drinks and everything else faster.

Some events have now gone completely cashless using such systems. Make sure you know what the situation is with the event you are going to so you can plan for it. While there are some potential issues with the cashless system, it does seem to make crime less likely.

If the festival still uses cash, using a cash machine at a festival could present a few problems. The queue perhaps being the least of them. There may be a fairly hefty charge with some of them and once you have withdrawn the money there is the risk of theft. Go with a friend to the machine to avoid becoming a target and earlier in the morning to avoid the queues.

Be aware of the risk of pickpockets in large crowds. Don’t keep your valuables in pockets or bags which could present an opportunity for a criminal. A money belt or bum-bag (fanny-pack) is a better choice to avoid the attention of criminals in crowds.

Harassment

Harassment, whether sexual or violent, has no place at festivals. There has been an increasing focus on dealing with and avoiding such incidents by festival organisers. They have created policies to spell out what is expected of visitors and how to deal with problems should they arise.

Anyone breaching these rules can expect to be removed from the festival. If the offence is serious enough, the police will be asked to get involved. The festival situation, while fun and seemingly carefree, isn’t exempt from the law.

While there seems to be no suggestion that you are going to be any more likely to be affected by harassment at a festival, it is never a bad idea to take some precautions to avoid putting yourself in unnecessary risk.

Part of the experience of a festival is meeting new people. But it might not be a good idea to get yourself in a situation where you are alone with people you don’t know.

In the evening, it is better to follow well-lit paths and not just to avoid tripping over guide ropes. Stay with your friends and make sure you look out for them.

Sexual Assault at Festivals

Unwanted sexual acts or activity isn’t tolerated at festivals. The Association of Independent Festivals has a campaign known as “Safer Spaces at Festivals” to reduce the chances of people getting into trouble.

The campaign consists of three main messages:

  • Hands off without consent
  • Zero tolerance
  • Don’t be a bystander

Sexual activity without consent is illegal and the members of the association have agreed to a zero-tolerance position. This will mean that allegations will be taken seriously by event organisers and the police will be involved.

It should be noted that people under the influence of drink or drugs aren’t able to give consent in the eyes of the law. This should be remembered given the more drug friendly and alcohol consuming situations often present at festivals.

They also encourage festival-goers to not ignore assaults and to report incidents to security staff. They want to create a more friendly and safe environment for everybody.

Aggressive Behaviour

With large groups of people and large amounts of alcohol, some aggressive behaviour is inevitable. We all know the sort of person that, while pleasant enough when sober, becomes an angry drunk.

The Jekyll and Hyde switch can be triggered by the most innocuous and trivial of situations. Quickly escalating to something serious before anyone has had the opportunity to say “Calm down, we’ve all had a drink”.

Of course, if you have friends like this, or, perish the thought, you are someone guilty of this, you will want to take some precautions. Slowing down your drinking, or that of your friends should reduce the chances of things getting out of hand.

Take some consideration of how your actions and high spirits may be perceived. It is all too easy to cause offence when you are just having fun.

If you see a situation heading in the wrong direction, the best course of action is to remove yourself and your friends from the confrontation. There really is no need to remain in the same location and risk violence. The festival site is large, so make use of it and change locations.

Conclusion

Attending a festival should be a happy and exhilarating experience. Having that ruined by someone stealing or attacking you will leave you with very negative memories of the summer.

While most people will have safe festival experiences, attending these type of events do present some different situations where you could become the victim of criminals.

If you take a few precautions and consider your safety beforehand, you should be able to avoid falling victim to crime. Look after your mates, don’t take any unnecessary risks and you’ll be fine.

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