Keep safety in mind while out walking

Photo by Thibaut Monot via stock.xchng

This is the latest in a series of articles that will regularly appear on from Kenosha Police Department Crime Prevention Unit Officers Jeff Wamboldt and Ron Francis:

“Horrifying” was how Patty described the assault.

On a cold dark January night, Patty put on her warmest winter coat, slapped on a set of earmuffs, and left the restaurant where she worked. Walking home alone, she took the same route she had taken for years. She only lived six blocks from the restaurant and felt safe. It was a nice neighborhood – the street lights all worked and a few homes still displayed Christmas decorations.

Once outside, Patty made a cellphone call to her best friend as she crossed the street. Further up the sidewalk, Patty passed by a tall row of hedges. Absorbed in her phone conversation, she did not notice the pair of hands reaching out from behind the shrubbery. Unknown to Patty, a man from the restaurant had been watching her for months and determined she was an easy mark. She was always on her cellphone and did not pay attention to her surroundings. The ponytail she wore, which he used as a handle, made nabbing her that much easier.

Fortunately, this true story has a happy ending. Patty did not give up without a fight. While trying to prevent from being raped, Patty’s winter coat unzipped and she was able to struggle free, leaving the suspect with only her coat.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland can be fun as long as you keep one thing in mind at all times – YOUR SAFETY! Here are some tips:

  • There is safety in numbers. Walk with another person, a pet dog, or, at the very least, tell another person of your route. Randomly change your route when possible to avoid being predictable.
  • Take your cellphone. Program an emergency contact person’s telephone number under ICE (In Case of Emergency). Emergency personnel will look for this listing in your contacts and call it first.
  • Walk facing traffic. Vehicles coming toward you are more visible, allowing you to move out of the way if need be.
  • At night, wear light colored and reflective clothing. Bring a flashlight. Stay away from alleys and unsafe looking areas – trust your instincts.
  • If you insist on listening to music while walking, use only one headphone so you can still hear what is going on around you.
  • Carry identification and medical information pertaining to health conditions.
  • Prepare for the weather. Wear warm clothing. Take small steps when walking on ice and avoid carrying bags and other items. Wear sunglasses during bright sunlight to avoid hazards associated with glare.

Being a victim is not a crime and Patty was not at fault; however, by taking a few precautionary measures she may have avoided the “horrifying” experience altogether. Though talking on a cellphone while walking can be a great safety tool because notification can be made immediately if help is needed, don’t become so absorbed in the conversation that you fail to be aware of your surroundings. Furthermore, since most sidewalks are approximately four feet wide, Patty could have walked on the half nearest the roadway, away from the hedge. Patty’s peripheral vision may have allowed her to see the suspect’s hands protrude from the shrubbery or perhaps, because she was a hard target, he would not have made the attempt in the first place.

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