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I'm fairly new at my job, only had graduated last year and have been working since. I mostly do onsite repairs in vendor locations in the United States. During downtime, I'm basically in my home office.

During the downtime, I was assigned to visit a location for an allocated time of a week. I'm not sure how word got around the office, but a lot of people suddenly became worried about me. I was then pulled aside by a mix of some of the senior salesmen, technology, and including some random HR people. Basically I was told the place I was going to go to was known to be dangerous and to watch my back and never let anyone stand behind me. There was a lot more mentioned about how to be safe and I was given a few coupons to free tai-chi/karate lessons and some discounts at a shooting range.

I find this a bit extreme since I'm staying in the states, but people are fairly serious about it. Are any of these warnings warranted, is this common in workplace travel?

For context, the location is Michigan.

closed as too broad by gnat, mxyzplk, Monoandale, Rory Alsop, IDrinkandIKnowThings May 6 at 14:00

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Is it common to prank people in your office, especially "fairly new ones"? If so, I'd be suspect of the warnings. If not, I'd be a bit worried. Do some research of the crime around the actual street address you'll be working and staying at while there. – Headblender May 3 at 21:56
  • Who exactly gave you the coupons? The people who warned you about the place? – Salman A May 4 at 20:08
  • "I find this a bit extreme since I'm staying in the states" There are still regions within the States that are quite dangerous, especially at night. – Mast May 5 at 12:35
  • @Magisch There's no such city as "metropolitan michigan." – user1602 May 6 at 10:20
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    Past OP comments, which were since mod-deleted, positively identified Michigan and heavily alluded as to the city. "Metropolitan Michigan" is a non-standard way of saying the Metro area which means exactly one thing in Michigan. – Harper May 6 at 16:16
49

Do your own research first.

There are online maps that show crime statistics by neighborhood and location. (for example https://www.adt.com/crime , there are many others). Look at local news and police reports. If it's really as dangerous as they say, it should show up there. If not, it's a prank (which this does indeed sound like).

If it's really as dangerous as they say, you may have to make a decision. Contact HR officially in writing (and keep a copy), state your concerns including the result of your research and ask for behavioral guidelines and a written statement from them that explains why it's necessary for your role and the business to put you in personal danger.

HR hates written documents of this type since it creates a legal liability for them and can be used as strong evidence in court, should it come to that. Chances are, they rather don't sent you at all (and take a business hit, if need be) then writing a document about why the sent you in harm's way.

24

In since-deleted comments, OP specifies Michigan and alludes to a particular location. I am familiar with "dangerous Michigan locations".

First, I'm going to make a broad, inclusive statement about all Michigan cities with 600,000 or more population.

They "all" look like donuts economically, with depressed inner cities, but very robust suburbs.

People in those suburbs tend to repeat a prejudiced cliché: that the city is full of crime. They really believe it; many Suburbanites wouldn't be caught dead in them. And yes, there is a racial undertone to that cliché.

What's actually true is that the city is a madcap checkerboard of middle-class, affluent and desperately poor blocks, and this varies almost block by block. It's like 3 blocks of San Francisco, 4 blocks of Ann Arbor, 5 blocks of Flint, and 2 blocks of Love Canal.

What's also true is that the city has bottomed out and is recovering, including fixing a lot of corporate/structural problems like owning a money-losing utility that was still generating DC power for street lighting. Now, all the cool kids want to live there, at least the nicer parts of the checkerboard, and the words "gentrification" are starting to be spoken.

And so you have to scope out your destination literally block by block to determine the level of threat. Keep in mind if the business you are servicing is there, it may be in one of the good parts, at least by day.

You should also be mindful of hours/time-of-day; some places are safe only during normal business hours. 10am may be fine; 8pm not so much.


Now, as far as guns and Tai Chi, very large Michigan cities have gun control, so check with your gun lawyer and know your RoE. But far more important, guns are not an "I win" button! They require genuine skill and experience to use effectively, or at least, more effectively than the other guy. The same can be said of both Karate and Tai Chi.

And with Karate particularly, the problem is Karate is an external martial art, where force meets force, and force is emphasized - while it can help, it depends heavily on inflicting techniques on the other person, using strength to do it, and if he's much stronger, you have a problem. Tai Chi has real potential as an internal martial art, with all the right bits to be extremely effective in survival street fighting. It can make differences in strength irrelevant. However it is extremely difficult to find a teacher who teaches Tai Chi as a martial art. Doing the arm-waving Yoga dance without having experienced e.g. "wipe hands" as an effective way to pry off a stronger attacker's grip, is just mistraining yourself. You must understand and practice the martial aspects, on mats, tossing people all over the place, with falls (another thing to learn). This takes thousands of hours and cannot be done for a work assignment.

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    "First, I'm going to make a broad, inclusive statement about all Michigan cities with 600,000 or more population." as someone from Michigan, lol. Good one. – Joe Smentz May 5 at 12:37
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    By the way, my left-handed way of referring to "what could only be one city" is actually an ironic shout-out to the way Michigan law does the same thing. If Kalamazoo found a way to spike their population over 1 million, they'd qualify for hundreds of state programs intended for that other city! – Harper May 5 at 17:52
  • @Harper I didn't downvote this, but honestly I dont think its a great answer either. It doesn't answer the general form of the OPs question at all really. – David Grinberg May 5 at 23:20
  • OP is about to go somewhere considered so dangerous everyone at the office is warning them about it, and your solution is "just stop being racist and don't worry about it!" Good one. – SquiddleXO May 8 at 4:02
14

I find this a bit extreme since I'm staying in the states, but people are fairly serious about it. Are any of these warnings warrented, is this common in workplace travel?

The United States is no exception when it comes to crime. There are dangerous areas ( i.e. areas where more crimes occur ) in the US so the warnings may be warranted.

As with any travel, it is important to research the location you are traveling to so that you are best prepared for that specific environment. That being said, karate and shooting lessons won't prevent you from being victimized. Learn about the area and use caution and common sense and you should be fine.

If you feel the area you are being sent to is too risky, you can always decline the work trip but this may have negative consequences at work for you. But at the end of the day, your life is more important than your job.

11

My work can take me all over the world. For some areas I would get a personal security detail, for others the guidance is to absolutely not go, and for others there is guidance on avoiding pickpockets or certain areas of town.

Coming from a country that does not have guns, this can raise all sorts of concerns. Many cities in the US seem very dangerous to me in this respect.

Would I still go if required? Absolutely, but I would follow guidance from my risk and threat teams.

Is the guidance you are getting real or prank? We have no way to know. You need to ask them. Do your company HR pages have guidance on security and safety? Do they list out this location as high risk?

  • 1
    I would say if you're not actively involved in dealing drugs or any other kind of gang activity, US cities are safer than many parts of the media and gossip/rumor make them out to be. I've driven through the "bad parts" of many US cities, including the most notorious areas of L.A., DC, Baltimore, Oakland, and NYC, and the biggest thing I felt was shock at the obvious income disparities, not fear. Almost everyone are just people living their lives, just with a lot less money. I have known people to be assaulted and/or mugged, but never in the "bad" areas - actually in the more affluent ones. – Todd Wilcox May 5 at 11:49
  • Seconded I used to work for a well known Arab company and they had set hazard rates for working in dangerous countries - Beirut (head office) was completely of limits btw. – Neuromancer May 5 at 21:58
  • @Todd - I'm sure you are correct. But perception in countries that do not allow guns is pretty strong that the US is in that group of countries where death risk through being in the wrong place at the wrong time is much higher than most. I know - muggings can occur anywhere, but corporate risk management is pretty precise about per district/city/country warnings. – Rory Alsop May 6 at 13:19
7

This is completely ridiculous. You'll be going to a place of business, presumably during the day, and I assume you'll have a rental car - there is nothing to fear.

Make sure you have the address you'll be going, and have directions. Don't leave anything in the car, or if you do, put it in the trunk. Make sure you lock the car.

Sure, there are areas where I wouldn't go walking after dark, but this is not that. I suspect most of what you hear is due to prejudice and stereotypes that many people in the suburbs have towards the inner cities.

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    Good answer re "I suspect most of what you hear is due to prejudice and stereotypes that many people in the suburbs have towards the inner cities." It's not possible to fully understand how people perceive the dangerousness of US cities without considering the racial, ethnic, and class stereotypes that go along with this. – aem May 4 at 16:26
  • This is not ridiculous. There are very dangerous places in the US and in many dense cities you won't have a rental car. A coworker woke up in the hospital when he was visiting the headquarters and was sucker punched when walking a few blocks to the hotel after work (not late at night). Another coworker had to pepper spray an attacker near the office. I've seen someone brandishing a machete a block from the office. On the bus to work, the guy next to me pulled out a knife and threatened another person. There are neighborhoods where people have a 1/4 chance of being a crime victim per year – stephenbez May 7 at 20:37
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There are tons of sites you can look up online to determine if a metro area is crime heavy. Some sections are and some sections are not. The number of violent crimes per year along your service route are what you should consider.

If you want to risk your life for cash; that's your prerogative, but I wouldn't advise it. Simply because you and your coworkers don't have the right perspective for dealing with criminals.

In a violent crime scenario where you are the target, your Gun or Ju Jitsu training are not effective. Criminals will always put you in a scenario in which you will be unable to defend yourself. They are more aware than anyone that a citizen may be armed, and criminals are more prepared than anyone to use deadly force.

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    criminals are more prepared than anyone to use deadly force. - A source backing up this claim would greatly improve this answer. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 3 at 17:26
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings police and citizens are constrained by the law in the use of deadly force. Criminals have no such restrictions, and in violent crimes involving a firearm at the very least use the threat of deadly force to coarse citizens. This isn't even a gun control debate, it's simply true. – Skater-Boi May 3 at 17:45
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    The OP is busy dancing around not saying it's Detroit. Detroit is huge, and the metropolitan area is even bigger (it's comparable in size to Luxembourg). Metropolitan crime rate is useless to the OP; they'll need a considerably finer-grained map. – Mark May 3 at 20:42
  • @Mark: which are easily available online. No problem – Hilmar May 4 at 12:05
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    @persona-non-grata Violent criminals are obviously prepared to use violence, but I would be careful extrapolating that to all criminals. Just because someone is used to breaking laws does not mean that they are necessarily a violent person. – forest May 5 at 3:56
3

Suburban US people believing downtown areas are inherently dangerous is a common thing. But take it with a grain of salt.

Before you take these well-intentioned warnings too seriously, follow up with the people warning you asking for facts. Ask them, "what part of the city are you talking about?" or "who do you know who was attacked, and how did they deal with it?" The people with real knowledge can then give you helpful information. Others may mumble and say "friend of a friend." They will have less useful information. Some of it may be pure BS.

You should, of course, keep an eye on your surroundings in any place where you are a newcomer. If the place you visit suffers from extreme poverty, dress and conduct yourself so you don't stand out too much. Leave your fancy wristwatch and custom-tailored suit at home. You're there to do your job, that's all.

If homeless people are around, it can't hurt to buy a couple of extra coffees and donuts and offer them to people on the street when you take a break. Any sort of personal contact -- anything that shows you're human -- helps you fit in.

Some kinds of workers take serious, ongoing, training in how to use weapons or hand-to-hand combat to defend themselves. If you are a police officer or soldier, you know about this. If you're not, don't try this anywhere you're a newcomer.

  • I grew up in, have lived and worked in an inner city my entire life. I have absolutely never seen someone fit in by giving a homeless person a donut. – AGirlHasNoName May 7 at 0:16
0

That you might have to go someplace dangerous for your job isn't entirely unheard of though whether it's common depends on what you do and where your customers are. They could also be overreacting, especially if they're making assumptions about your ability to stay safe based on your size, gender, visible disability, etc.

There was a lot more mentioned about how to be safe and I was given a few coupons to free tai-chi/karate lessons and some discounts at a shooting range.

This part isn't normal when coming from "some random HR people". It's one thing to get random safety tips or even bad advice from someone who's just trying to be helpful but it's odd that people in HR would suggest a minimal amount of karate or gun practice with half a moment's notice given their position of protecting the company.

If your company is going to send people to work in dangerous areas, it should be taking official steps to keep their employees safe:

  • Official safety training that includes how to stay safe in dangerous areas, situational awareness, and risk assessment.

  • Sending employees to high risk areas in pairs and/or provide security.

-6

Presumably, you get to turn in travel expenses for this trip. Hire two body guards for the day and turn the cost into your boss. Then we'll see how funny your new friends think they are.

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