Officers from the Zachary Police Department held a personal safety program Nov. 3 at the Zachary Branch Library for adults and teens.
About 15 people attended the program led by Officers Tandem Wilbur and Chaz Perkins and Reserve Officer Buddy Tidwell, who were joined by Sgt. Alan Kleinpeter and Officer Emily Nichols.
The group shared information on how to raise awareness and minimize the risk of becoming the victim of an attack.
Topics covered included cellphone safety, going out and dating, social media, Internet dating, and work and shopping safety.
The officers shared useful tips anyone can use in the event of a violent attack or kidnapping, such as utilizing the “Find My Phone” app.
They advised to always keep a cellphone charged when leaving home, using the lock screen feature, predialing 911 and memorizing important numbers, such as those belonging to parents, friends or other relatives.
Perkins suggested that cellphone users should use the lock screen function but should share the personal pin with a trusted family member. “Otherwise, an abductor can get into your phone and turn off safety features,” Tidwell said. “Also, if you accidentally dial 911, don’t hang up, instead let the dispatch know it was an accident and that you’re OK.” Wilbur said the first thing a caller should always give in a 911 call situation is his or her location. “That way, help can be dispatched immediately. Also, it’s perfectly fine to call and ask a police officer to stay on the phone with you while you exit a building, work or a place at night or when you feel your safety is in jeopardy.”
When going out with a group of people or someone who is not known well, set time limits, let others know of your whereabouts, have a trusted friend accompany you to an unfamiliar place or outing, photograph license plates, and compose an emergency code or phrase with a contact person that isn’t obvious or suspicious, the officers said.
Also, get full names and ages of people in a group if they are unknown.
On the topic of social media, the officers warned against posting detailed and personal information.
“If you post that you’ll be going on vacation with your entire family from this date to that date, you’ve just let everyone know that your home will be vacant,” explained Wilbur. “That is not advisable.”
Perkins advised against posting information such as: “I’m at work alone tonight.”
“If you work someplace where there is a register full of cash, you’ve just invited someone to come rob you,” said Perkins.
Other Internet safety tips shared were: Don’t accept a stranger’s friendship request, don’t provide your email address or phone number to someone you don’t know or post private information.
The officers also warned of Internet dating sites. “People are not always who they claim to be,” said Wilbur.
One way to verify a person is who he or she claims to be is to ask them to write something on a piece of paper and photograph themselves holding that piece of paper.
Personal safety measures one can take when shopping or working late, are: Park in well-lit and populated areas and spaces; be aware of who and what is around you; and take note of any suspicious people or behaviors.
“Always make eye contact or take a photo of a person acting suspiciously. It might make them mad, but it will also deter them,” Perkins said.
The officers said to always have car keys ready when exiting somewhere at night and alone, use the panic button on a key fob if needed, ask a security guard to escort you to your car, and exit with a group of people.
“The safest way to avoid an attack is by being aware of your surroundings and keeping a safe distance, both of which require preventative measures,” said Wilbur.
Other tips shared were: Don’t wear tight or restrictive clothing or high heels when you know you will be walking a far distance; don’t cover your head with a hoodie, since it can restrict peripheral vision; and using headphones can restrict hearing.
“Don’t sacrifice your safety by being lazy. If it means circling a parking lot a few times or waiting for a well-lit space as opposed to a dark one, do what you have to do to ensure your own safety,” Wilbur said.
The officers took questions from the group and said they are available to teach defensive maneuver classes.
Tidwell also shared numbers to local law enforcement agencies, including Zachary Police, (225) 654-9393; East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Zachary-Plains Substation, (225) 389-5037; East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Pride-Baywood Substation, (225) 389-8985; and Baker Police, (225) 775-6000.
In an emergency, always dial 911, they said.