ST. MARYS — A local police officer met with area seniors to inform them about the importance of personal safety.
St. Marys Police Sgt. Jake Sutton put on a safety program for senior citizens at the Auglaize County Council on Aging Wednesday morning, where he stressed the seniors should be aware of their surroundings, take certain precautions and have an emergency plan in place.
“You have to arm yourself with both the mental and physical techniques to protect yourself against these crimes,” Sutton said. “The key to survival is awareness to your surroundings. You’ve got to know what’s going on when you’re out in public.”
He added the No. 1 place people are attacked is at the grocery store or in a mall parking lot.
“Basically, it’s how you are going to act, which is going to make you a lot safer in public,” Sutton said, noting how a person presents him or herself — such as walking with confidence and with his or her head held high, that could deter a possible assailant.
“Personal survival is basically what we do, some of the things we do, if someone does attack you,” he said. “Having a plan in your head ahead of time is very important — what you would do if somebody would steal your purse or try to take your car or something like that.”
Sutton went over multiple aspects of personal safety, first beginning with car safety. In a car, Sutton noted people should keep one car length between their car and another car, even in the event of an accident, to give themselves escape room.
He also suggested checking car mirrors, avoiding high-crime areas, keeping their gas take more than half full, keeping all the doors locked, keeping the windows down no more than three inches, avoiding long in-depth phone calls, keep their car keys in their hand before they get into their car, visually checking their car before getting in and hitting the unlock button once, so it doesn’t unlock all of the car doors.
“Don’t leave your keys in your car,” he stressed. “It’s very easy to steal your car. I would say about 99 percent of all stolen cars from St. Marys — and we had one last week — had the keys in the ignition or they have them in the center console or they have them in the glove box. Those are places that people will hide them — crooks know that, too.”
If someone is being followed, Sutton said he or she should make four rights, then four lefts and if the car is still behind them, they should call the police. They should also slow down and zig zag between lanes to call attention to themselves so that someone will call the police.
Sutton also stressed home safety. He suggested keeping all the doors and windows locked, putting effective locks on the doors, having the front and back entrance lights on at night, having keys in hand ready to get in, avoiding hiding keys on the property and if someone comes home and a door is ajar, he or she should go to a neighbor’s home and report it to the police and not enter the home.
Sutton also suggested leaving the TV and lights on when a person is not home, as well as if someone comes to their door, they should be sure and ask them questions such as if they have photo identification, if they could recite their business’s phone number twice and if they are selling something, if they have a permit from the city — without inviting that person into their home.
“Make sure you lock your screen door,” Sutton said. “It’s one more barrier they have to get through.”
Sutton also suggested a person keep his or her cell phone by their bed so that they can easily dial 9-1-1 or have a light available.
For personal safety, Sutton said people should always be alert to their surroundings, avoid going out alone, especially at night, avoiding high-risk places such as bars, avoiding situations that are unsafe, avoiding getting in elevators if they get an uneasy feeling about someone in the elevator.
“You’re allowed to say, ‘No,’ and have a verbal response ready,” Sutton said. “You don’t just say, ‘No,’ you yell, ‘No,’ because you want them to know — you’ve got to have that verbal response ready.”
He also suggested people purchase Mace or a Taser in the event of a personal attack, as well as knowing their own physical or mental limitations, having a plan of action in place and being prepared to employ their plan in the event of different situations.
“If someone attempts to harm your children or loved ones, I can tell you, everyone of you will fight back,” Sutton said. “The problem is, a lot of people if it’s just themselves, they won’t fight back. That’s one of the goals of this course is to empower you guys that you can fight back, you’re allowed to fight back for yourself.”
Sutton also gave the seniors a couple tips on how to identify a real police officer, and he also encouraged them to listen to their gut instinct.
“Just trust your instincts,” he said. “If you have that sense, that gut feeling, that it’s just not right, don’t do it. No matter what you do in your life, if you have that feeling, that instinct that you shouldn’t be somewhere or something’s scary or whatever, listen to your gut. The problem is that human beings do not listen to their instincts — If you feel it, don’t do it. Trust your instincts because it’s always on your side.”