How many times have you walked to your vehicle when leaving a store or a business, or a school, without paying attention to your surroundings? What about when you are outside running, biking or doing some other exercise? We have spoken on situational awareness at different events in the past, and we want to share some of the things we have discussed in those meetings.

One of the most important things to remember is where you park so you can go directly to your vehicle. Many people wander around the parking lot looking for their vehicle, taking their attention away from the people around them. Many people have an alarm button on their key remote they can activate to help locate their vehicle if they forget where they are parked. One good practice is to approach your vehicle from an angle that allows you to see if someone is hiding in your vehicle. As soon as you enter your vehicle, you should lock the doors.

While you are walking to your vehicle, try to stay off of your cell phone. This will lessen the chances of being attacked. Cell phones are very distracting, and many people have been assaulted in open areas while they were on their phones. This is not to say that is why they were targeted, but if they had been checking their surroundings, they might have noticed someone or something out of place. It is a good idea to have your cell phone out and ready to call 911.

It is a good idea to park or to exercise in well-lit areas and visible to the public’s eye. This will lessen the chances of being a victim. Most attackers prefer a dark area out of the public’s view. You can also carry a whistle, (noise device), OC spray, or even a TASER. None of these items require a license and can be very effective. Try to travel in pairs, especially when you are in a remote area. This gives you the advantage of numbers. Most criminals do not like to be outnumbered.

Nothing is 100 percent full proof when it comes to being protected from crime. We can, however, help lessen our chances of becoming crime victims by paying attention to our surroundings. The need for this discussion is sad, but, that is the world we live in. Let’s do our part in Ellis County to “Harden the Target” so criminals will go elsewhere. Remain aware, and stay safe!