Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer
Pitt police are continuing to investigate an off-campus incident in which a man “persisted” in attempting to “drape” a blanket around a student’s shoulders. There are countless rumors surrounding this event, and Pitt police have acknowledged “parallel, but undocumented and unsubstantiated” incidents that have been discussed on social media.
Though Pitt police have released a picture of who’s become known as “blanket man,” concrete details about the incident remain sparse. Understandably, the unsettling and somewhat mysterious nature of this incident has put the community on edge. Though we can only hope “blanket man” is located sooner rather than later, we can offer tips on how to stay safe while navigating Oakland at night.
Use the SafeRider system
This complementary transportation for Pitt and Chatham students offers pickups for non-emergencies in the evening and early morning hours. This is an easy and safe way to get around after dark, and can be used to travel to just about anywhere on or near campus.
Get an escort from Hillman Library
The Walking Escort Pilot Program, introduced in 2019, provides students with a security guard to escort them from Hillman Library to most dorms. Similar to the SafeRider system, this is a great option for when it’s uncomfortable or unsafe to walk home alone.
Walk with others
Yet another way to make late-night travel safer, walking with a buddy can keep you both safe when a SafeRider or escort isn’t convenient, available or preferable.
Be alert when walking
It might be tempting after a long night of working or studying, but it’s best to avoid looking at your phone for long periods of time or listening to music while walking. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings, both with and without “blanket man” on the loose.
Share your location with others
This can be as simple as texting your roommates when you’re heading home and where you’re leaving from. Turning on location sharing through your phone is an even better way for others to make sure you make it home safe and sound.
Have you keys out when approaching your front door
Not having to fumble around your pockets or bag for keys can save valuable time in the event of an emergency. As Pittsburgh nights return to their characteristic chilliness, it’s also nice to get back into your heated apartment or dorm ASAP.
Carry a whistle and pepper spray
It’s a shame that personal defense items are even necessary, but it’s not a bad idea to carry these while walking around Oakland. A whistle or personal alarm can alert others if you’re in danger, and something like pepper spray or a taser can be good self-defense options.
Take a personal defense course
Self-Defense Awareness Familiarization Exchange — its acronym, SAFE, rolls off the tongue a little easier — teaches students self-defense tactics through working with the Pitt police. These are scheduled throughout the academic year.
The University has also previously offered a one-credit self defense course, though that seems to be defunct at the moment.