When something strikes you as odd, then trust your gut feelings, take precautions and be safe.
I had planned to write this blog long before the horrific events in Newtown, CT. Twenty children and six adults died because one person wanted to make a name for himself before committing suicide. I won't bother to say his name because he's lower than a piece of gum on the bottom of my shoe. To say his name would dignify his death, while his 6- and 7- year old victims fade into obscurity. My heart goes out to the families of the children, but also for the adults who gave their lives protecting their innocent charges.
Take a few extra seconds in your day to hug your dear ones and tell them you love them. Life is too short.
This blog is a reminder to take your safety seriously. Taking a walk, or randomly walking around the mall parking lot trying to find your car, or simply being too distracted while carrying your shopping bags and juggling your car keys because you realized you'll be late to pick up your kiddo from school provides opportunity.
This is the perfect time of year for thief to strike.
The walking paths that I use have become deserted as the weather turns gloomy and chilly. Many of those bikers, runners and walkers have returned to the gym instead of enjoying the outdoors. I might be walking alone, but I'm not lonely on my walks. There are a few regulars that I greet, depending on my timing--I do tend to vary it, not by intention, but because I'll get involved starting laundry, want to wait for the sun to come up more, or whatever.
On a walk this last week, it was gloomy and windy. I did see one of the regulars, but I also saw a man who didn't look quite right. He was carrying a paper bag on this walking trail. I have no idea what was in the bag, and he didn't have a dog so it couldn't have been to scoop poop.
It just struck me as odd.
Let me just say that at this point, this man may be perfectly innocent and simply taking a walk. I don't know. And actually, I don't care. The point is that something about him sent off warning signals--Signals that I intended to listen to.
LISTEN--I don't listen to music while I walk, but if you do, I strongly suggest you only use one ear bud. And don't have your music so loud that you can't hear anything around you. You should be able to hear someone walking behind you. Sometimes without the added distraction it's hard to hear because you're walking into a headwind and someone can walk up behind you.
OBSERVATION--constantly be aware of your surroundings, whether on a woodland trail or in a crowded parking lot. There are plenty of places to hide in urban settings just like on the wooded trail. I can tell you the 'scary' places on my walk where I'm just a little extra careful. I'm always looking around, enjoying the scenery, but also seeing who is around. Sometimes I'll use a walker ahead of me to challenge myself into walking quicker to catch up.
--make eye contact with EVERYONE. Okay, I usually wear sunglasses, even on gloomy days--glare, you know--but I do make a point of saying "Hi." to everyone on the trail, whether or not they respond depends on how loud they have their iPod. Eye contact is another way of establishing a knowledge base about a person. No thief/attacker wants to be remembered. And don't just make eye contact, observe facial features, height, weight, and other interesting characteristics. This might be the writer in me, but it's good practice. If something does happen, what are you going to tell the police? "Uh, I don't know. He wore a blue shirt?" Like that's helpful.
In a local home invasion a few months ago, the teenage victim could tell the police that her kidnapper (thief made grandma and granddaughter go to the ATM to take out money from their accounts) had a tattoo on his neck--his name. Like a moron, he had his name tattooed visibly so that God and everyone could read it. He was arrested within a day or two.
Tattoos are becoming so common place that it's easy for the thieves to forget they even have them.
PLAN--Do you have a plan? Do you carry a weapon? Do you have a charged cell phone? What will you do if you are attacked? Figure it out before something happens.
I have a phone and I carry pepper spray. Both are usually in my pockets, easily accessible. When my gut feelings kicked in about the man, I held my pepper spray with my finger on the trigger until I was far enough ahead of him to feel comfortable. I also paid attention behind me. There are numerous places on my trail that I can look back and see if he was coming my way or he went another way. He went down the other branch. When I came back along the trail, there is a blind corner where the two trails meet. I grabbed my pepper spray again. I saw him heading down the other path, but I kept holding my spray until I was in a more populated area.
Paranoia, maybe, but I'd rather be safe than dead.
Cell phones are a nice thing to have, but depending where you are the coverage can suck. Don't rely on your phone. And if you need to call the police, can you describe your location? Think about it. Not every town has the equipment to track a cell phone GPS, you have to tell the 911 operator where you are. We installed a free app on our phones called Life360. It's a GPS tracking device. We know at all times where our daughter is, rather her phone. Remember, these are tools to use, but don't depend on them. Also remember that if you are on a trail, it will take police longer to reach you if you are attacked or injured.
Another local case in point: A young couple (early college age) were walking around a local park on a summer night. It was late (11 PM ish). They were found the next morning by a jogger, shot to death--mafia style. One of the murderers had the temerity to call one of the parent's with her child's cell phone. This murderer was also interviewed by news reporters, stating how he couldn't believe something like this would happen and he worried for his children. Later, the victim's items were found in this man's possessions.
This is what is happening all around the world: a blatant disregard of life, a total lack of a moral compass. This young couple had all to live for and they died because they were at the wrong time and wrong place, murdered by two amoral murderers.
I almost called them animals, but most animals simply kill to defend or eat, NOT for the fun of it, well, a cat might, but that's another topic. And don't send me hate mail. I love kitties. I had a kitty for 22 years, but they do tend to play with their food.
To many people this blog might sound like paranoia, but I believe in being prepared.
But I bet if you ever asked someone who is always prepared if they've been a victim of a crime, physically, they will probably say no.
There's reason for that.