Pepper Spray, Switchblades and Safe Rides: How NYU Students Stay Safe on a Night Out

NYU students reveal how they stay safe while enjoying New York City’s nightlife.


Subway stations and other public spaces can be dangerous at night. Many students will opt for ride services such as Uber rather than public transport when traveling at night. (Via pxhere)

Tatiana Velasco, Staff Writer

With its myriad of nightclubs, late night comedy shows and 24-hour restaurants, New York City truly never sleeps. However, taking advantage of its nocturnal nature while staying safe can sometimes prove to be a challenge for students.

Whether students are seeking a sweet escape from the stresses of college life or an after-hours study spot, it is necessary to take certain precautions. NYU students use a wide range of methods to help ensure their safety at night.

CAS junior Safina Theard-Lewis said she almost always goes out with friends at night. On the rare occasion that she is alone, she makes sure her friends know where she is at all times. She disclosed further precautions she takes to ensure her safety.

“Whenever I am walking anywhere, I carry my pepper spray and a rape whistle,” Theard-Lewis said. “I have taken boxing classes per my parent’s request and this has made me feel more confident when I am walking the streets at night.”

Stern sophomore Raelyn Princeton, who generally goes out four to five times per week, revealed that she sometimes carries a weapon or two with her.

“I have pepper spray and a little switch blade that I keep by my bedside that I might throw in a bag before a particularly adventurous night out,” she said.

However, Princeton normally goes out at night “unprepared and hopeful.” If she ever feels in danger, she resorts to Uber.

Using ride services rather than walking or taking the subway is a popular approach to nighttime safety in the city among NYU students. NYU Safe Ride, available to students on the Safe NYU app, is a free ride service that operates from midnight to 7:30 a.m. Many students, like Princeton, tend to use ride share apps such as Uber or Lyft, but Theard-Lewis expressed her appreciation for Safe Ride.

“This resource is the best,” she said. “I have taken it home from Bobst a few times, and I really like it.”

According to Theard-Lewis, one disadvantage of Safe Ride is the long wait time for the shuttle to arrive at the pickup location. She recalled waiting 40 minutes after requesting a ride home from Bobst Library. Yet, she remains satisfied with the service, considering she ultimately made it home safely.

Students can also report incidents by calling Public Safety, or by using their incident report form, sexual misconduct report form and public safety comment form. The app also offers alternative resources like ferry and airport information, the Bias Response Line for reporting incidents of harassment and discrimination and advice on emergency procedures like severe weather.

CAS senior Michael Marinaccio often finds himself walking around the city late at night after evening shifts — he typically has four a week — at the restaurant where he works. He said that he has never used the Safe NYU app but appreciates the safety resources the app provides, like Mobile BlueLight, which simultaneously calls and shares students’ location with NYU Public Safety and Friend Walk, which allows students to share their location with a friend, who can trigger emergency services if necessary. 

“Even if they’re not utilized, knowing that they’re available with the tap of a button can increase confidence and sense of security when going out late at night,” Marinaccio said.

Despite taking precautions, Marinaccio, Princeton and Theard-Lewis agreed that they generally feel safe in the city at night.

“There are always people on-the-go going from place to place, so in a sense, I never feel alone going anywhere,” Theard-Lewis said. “I think that as long as you walk with purpose anywhere in New York, the odds of being bothered are slimmer.”

Email Tatiana Velasco at [email protected]