When we go urban exploring, it can be amazing and difficult at the same time, with many of us wondering what we can do wrong or what we can do right. One of the first things many wonders is just how you can get arrested while making urbex journeys. Traveling through locked locations, finding places no one has seen, and doing things few would don’t always mean you are safe.
There are six ways that you can be arrested while urban exploring, breaking into properties, trespassing on government property, and running away being three of the most likely ways that you can get arrested. Most police will not treat trespassing as a severe offense when done but running away or trying to challenge the police may lead to much more severe charges.
There are still many other ways that you can be arrested, but they are more likely to get you a slap on the wrist than jail time. Knowing how to handle every situation and not doing the wrong thing while urban exploring is the difference between doing it only once and doing it almost every day of your life.
Here’s how to get arrested while urban exploring and everything you need to know not to get arrested.
Can you get arrested while urban exploring?
Many times the more dangerous kind of urban explorer will believe that they are untouchable while urban exploring. Falsely believing there is a vague law that will protect them or go against the wishes of private property owners and not have to care about the consequences.
You can be arrested while urban exploring, and the jail time can range from only a one-night stay to well over a few years. Sometimes urban explorers that believe they are above the basic laws will do more than just urban explore a property, usually leading to several charges being brought against them.
This is where the golden rule applies, take nothing, and leave only footprints when urban exploring. Doing so is more than just a general code that we all follow; it is the legitimate rule to keep yourself safe from any legal charges that can be brought against you.
One danger that you should never overcome is being comfortable while urban exploring, one of the thrills is going where you are not allowed, which means, by definition, you are doing something that is against the law.
1 Breaking into abandoned properties
This is what we all love doing, and it is the one thing that can get you arrested almost immediately. Often, owners who are willing to post security guards at the locations or keep an eye on the property themselves will be more than willing to call the police. If this does happen, it means that you are officially doing something illegal.
You may often think that a building or home is entirely abandoned, but owners will have signs up that say that it is private property and that access is forbidden. According to the law, even if you are just going onto the property to take a few pictures, you will be entering the property illegally.
If you are caught by the police while doing this, they can arrest you for trespassing, and the owner of the property can even press charges. Always be careful when urban exploring even the most abandoned property, it may very well be guarded by more than just locked doors and danger signs.
Feel free to check out our article: “Can You Take Stuff From Abandoned Buildings?“
2 Damaging Property that you are exploring
One of the golden rules that you know about urban exploration is not to damage property, not even to find a way to enter the place. This is because it makes your crime of entering a building without permission more than just trespassing. It becomes an act of vandalism, which is something that can serve to have you fined several thousand dollars or to have you arrested.
You will often find that previous urban explorers or just vandals have already made a way to get into the building. If you have already entered a building, you will still need to be careful, it may look tempting to break a window for the thrill, but this is not something you should follow. Damaging the property or any of the items that are already in it will lead you to be fined much more than you think possible.
Many urban explorers learn this the hard way, with some exploring old malls and thinking that a few of the things in there can be broken. If you are lucky, you may learn later from the owner or security guard that the piece of wall or glass that you broke was one of a kind. After all, this is the reason we go urban exploring, to find things that are one of a kind, that few if no other people on earth even remember exists.
3 Graffiti on walls
There is urban exploration, graffiti made by anyone from gangs to upcoming artists; they are always present for us to remember our way. Defacing property is part of the vandalism field of illegal things to do and will easily get you arrested if you have even a full can of paint on you.
Owners hate graffiti because it defaces their property, and the police hate graffiti because it usually sparks some form of violence. You may not be a part of any gang, but you will quickly learn that once you start spraying something somewhere, it will be quickly followed by the less than desired crowd of people in the world.
This is why graffiti is treated so badly. If anything, it may permanently damage a wall and cost more to fix than it is worth. If the urge to do graffiti ever overcomes you while you are urban exploring, just think, would you want your own house to have graffiti by people you’ve never met before?
4 Trespassing on restricted properties
This is one of three things that will get you arrested without any questions being asked. The police will simply arrive and arrest you, making your night a lot longer than it had any need to be. You will find places with clear signs that say access is not prohibited but restricted in the civilian sector. This means it is not just you will be there; you can find other people who are meant to be there.
It may mean that the building is being torn apart or scheduled to be blown up, which means there are machines and explosives in the abandoned building at that time. This means that if you are caught exploring the building for one last time, it can easily be misunderstood that you are looking for explosive materials or trying to steal something.
Further, there may be restricted access to a building when there are other dangers currently there; it may be because of asbestos or because the owner has decided to remodel the place. This means that you are supposed to be even more careful and should probably stay away. Maybe not because you will get arrested but because almost no mask on the open market can effectively work against asbestos.
5 Stay away from all things military
It should be obvious, but do not trespass on anything owned by the military; no matter how amazing a hanger may look, it is not worth it. Military buildings do not operate on the same rules and laws that civilians or even large government buildings do. There are dangerous weapons or even secrets that need to be protected in these locations.
Further, when someone is called when you trespass on these locations, it will not be the police that shows up. Instead, it may be the personnel of the nearest military base or the military police. These are not the police; they will be a lot more aggressive. They will often shoot first, and then just say sorry afterward and then still charge you and have you arrested.
Nothing owned by the military should ever be trespassed on. The military will react a lot more aggressively than any police unit will. You should be more than careful when considering it and then not do it at all. If it has been a long-abandoned location, you should still not do it.
6 Trying to run away from police
This is the one thing that will guarantee that you will be arrested, even the military grounds you may be able to get a severe warning and be let go. But if you see the police turning up and you decide to run away from them, you will not have a good time at all; instead, you will be arrested and most likely thrown in jail.
There are several reasons for this. You admit that you know you were not supposed to be there by running away. The second thing that will cause your arrest is that you are resisting arrest by running away, which means that the police can already charge you with something quite severe. If the police catch you, it is always best to just say sorry and have them escort you away.
Because that is what will happen more often than not, the police will not get too angry if you trespass and will simply ask you to never do it again in that location. This not only means you can explore other places later but that you can now always calmly not be arrested for doing something stupid.
Don’t be smart with the Police either; they may be friendly, but talking back or provoking them will mean that you are handled a lot rougher and are more likely to get arrested. If you stay calm and explain what you were doing, then you will not be arrested.
What is the most common response from police when dealing with urban explorers?
The most common response is usually slight annoyance that they had to come and deal with you while urban exploring. Depending on the building’s size, it will be only one car or several police vehicles that show up to show you the way out of the building.
There are several videos on YouTube where you can see how experienced urban explorers are calmly escorted out of a building. Sometimes even being allowed to continue filming as they go out, this is because they stayed calm, and they followed along with what the police asked them to do.
The police will respond to your mood. If you are hostile towards them, acting like they are the enemy, then they will react the same way. Instead, all you need to do is remember that they are armed officers who are simply doing their job. Staying calm and listening to what they are asking you to do will ensure you are not arrested.
Why are some urban explorers regularly arrested?
Despite the rules of handling police encounters being clear, many urban explorers say they have been arrested a lot. These are usually the urbex people who set bad examples for others, preferring to confront the police when they appear or sometimes running away as soon as they sense trouble.
This means that the police will act with anger towards them, usually causing them to be arrested because they are aware that they may run away if provoked. Sometimes these are also the urban explorers that are much more likely to go onto properties that are known to be extremely dangerous or restricted.
This means that not only are these explorers in locations that are more likely to get them into trouble, but they also confront the police instead of accepting that they are somewhere they are not allowed to be. It’s always good to remember unless you are a perfect parkour runner, you will not be able even to have a chance of getting away from the police. Even then, they will eventually catch up to you.
Why are some places safe?
The more urban and abandoned location is, the more likely the police will be keeping an eye on it, which is why you have to be more careful at these locations. That being said, even in the heart of a city, there are places where the police may never show up if you go in to explore them.
This is because the owners have abandoned the location and the only reason the police ever show up is to chase people away for their safety. Usually, because the building is on the verge of collapsing or because someone else got hurt while exploring the location. In these cases, the police will not arrest you; instead, they will tell you not to go in again and then send you home.
However, in more rural areas, urban exploration becomes a lot more fun but also a lot creepier. Many urban explorers will agree an abandoned mall in the suburbs has nothing on an abandoned house in the woods, which is one of the most exhilarating yet scary things that you can do while urban exploring. These locations are usually safe to explore in the sense of being arrested because there is truly no one who would know you are there.
Urban exploration is something you do at your own risk and involves many illegal activities, having you go places where you know you are not allowed to go. Choosing where you explore is the difference between being arrested for trespassing in a place and being arrested for going where only the military is allowed.
Just be sure you aren’t overwhelmed by the sheer amount of amazing things you can see in places where no one has been because everyone is arrested before they can get in!