Personal Safety

Friday, December 21st 2007, 11:04 am
By: News On 6

Be able to describe someone
Crimes happen so fast and often our adrenalin is rushing, whether we're a victim or a witness. So, often we don't take time to get a good look at the suspect. A good description is one of the best things you can do to help law enforcement. To train your brain for those moments, practice describing people when you're out running your errands. If you can do it those times it doesn't matter, you'll be able to do it that one time it really counts.

Be aware of your surroundings
We get into a routine, going to our school, job, church, grocery store and nothing bad ever happens, so we get complacent. Always look in your rearview mirror when you go home and if someone is following you, go to the nearest well-lit, well-populated area for help. Don't wear headphones while jogging or biking, so you can hear if someone approaches you. When you're on the trail, make eye contact with people and speak, don't stare at the ground as you pass.

Trust your instincts
Many victims tell me, "Lori, I knew something was wrong, but, I went into my house anyway." Your gut is a great crime prevention tool. Fear tells you something is wrong, while your brain might try to rationalize it. Go with your gut. Remember, it's better to be rude to a total stranger than to become a victim.

Don't give directions to strangers
Criminals often need us to stop for only a moment before they snatch a purse, put a gun in our face or try to kidnap us. They realize the one thing they can do to get us to stop, is to ask us for directions. Do not stop and do not help (even though it goes against our nice Oklahoma attitude). They can find directions from someone who works inside a nearby business where there are plenty of people.

Lock your car doors and roll up your windows
No matter what the weather or how nice the area you're in, take these simple steps to prevent someone from jumping into your car while you're stopped. Also, never leave your car running while you run in for a coffee or to warm it up in your drive-way. Car thieves are opportunists and work fast.

Carry a whistle
A whistle is a great crime prevention tool and doesn't cost much. Buy one and wear it on your neck or keep it on your keychain and if someone gets close to you or acts suspiciously, don't hesitate to blow it. Yelling for help, screaming, making noise, are also important when you're being attacked.

If it's your property they want, give it up
Too many people fight to keep their purse or wallet or car. These things can be replaced, you cannot. Robbers are often stealing for drug money and can be desperate. Give them what they want, stay calm and get a solid description of them and their car, if they have one.

If it's you they want, have a plan
If someone is trying to kidnap you, you should know, most of those victims don't come back alive. Have a plan and rehearse it in your mind... perhaps you plan to run in the opposite direction or throw yourself on the pavement and refuse to budge, while blowing your whistle or fake a heart attack. There are many ways to resist that don't involve fighting, but, fighting may be your final option. If they do get you in the vehicle, you should find the earliest chance to jump out. If you're driving, slam into an empty parked car or telephone pole, anything that allows you to escape and gives you the element of surprise over them.

If you are attacked
Survival is the key. Do whatever it takes to live through the encounter. Sometimes that means fighting, sometimes it means doing as you're told. Only you can make that decision in that instant. Remember to treat everything, including your body as a crime scene. If you are raped, don't shower, go to the restroom, change clothes, drink, eat or smoke. Forensics can now do wonders with just a hair or fiber. Work with the system during prosecution, even though it is often a long, frustrating process.

Getting pulled over
Many cities now have unmarked police cars. Go ahead and pull over, but, keep your doors locked and crack your window only a few inches. Law requires those cars to have a number of lights in the grill and on the back of mirrors. Law also requires officers in unmarked cars to be in full uniform. If you are in a deserted area and you are unsure if it's really an officer, call 911 on your cell phone, tell them where you are and ask if an officer is at your location. If you don't have a cell phone, turn on your interior light, wave to the car behind you and proceed (without speeding) to the nearest, well-lit, well populated area and then pull over. Obey all commands an officer gives you. You don't know what they're looking for and they don't know you.

Play the what-if game with children
It's not enough to tell children, "don't talk to strangers." Their idea about strangers is different from adults. Go through different scenarios with them. For instance, what if a man needs help finding a puppy. What if a person offers you candy or money. What if someone tells you they want to take pictures of you because you'd make a good model. Make sure they know never to get into a car with someone they don't know. They should run, scream and tell a grown-up. Also, families should have a code word that only a very few people know. That way, if someone approaches them and says something like, "Your mommy was in an accident at work and she sent me to take you to visit her in the hospital," then, the child should ask for the family code word and if the person doesn't know, the child doesn't go.