EDITOR’S NOTE: We asked Wess Winn, community services officer and crime prevention coordinator with the Waxahachie Police Department to write a weekly column in an effort to answer many of the law enforcement-related questions posed by our readers. Here’s this week’s column:

How many times have you walked to your vehicle when leaving a store, school, etc. without paying attention to what is going on around you?  

What about when you are outside running, biking or doing some other exercise?  

I have spoken on situational awareness at different events in the past few weeks, and I want to share some of the things I have discussed in these meetings.

One of the most important things is to remember where you park so you can go directly to your vehicle. Many people wander around the parking lot looking for their vehicle, which takes their attention off the people around them.  

Most people have an alarm button on their key remote which they can activate to help locate their vehicle if they forget where they parked.  

It is also good practice to approach your vehicle from an angle that allows you to see if someone is hiding anywhere around your vehicle.  As soon as you enter your vehicle, lock the doors.  

When you are walking to your vehicle you need to stay off your cell phone until you are driving away in your vehicle (with the doors locked).  

This will lessen your chances of being carjacked. 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 may have seen something or someone out of place. It is also a good idea to have your cell phone out and ready to call 911.   

It is a good idea to park or exercise in well lit areas that are visible to the public eye. This will lessen the chances of being a victim because most attackers prefer a dark area out of public 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.

One of the best ideas is to travel in pairs, especially when you are in a more remote area. This gives you the numbers advantage and most criminals do not like to be out numbered.  

As I have said in the past, nothing is 100 percent fool-proof when it comes to being protected from crime, but we can help lessen our chances by paying attention to what is going on around us.  It is sad we even have to discuss these things but that is the world we live in.  

If we do our part here in Waxahachie to “Harden the Target” criminals will go elsewhere.             

Wess Winn holds a master peace officer certification. If you have a Police Beat question for Officer Wess Winn, he may be reached by e-mail at wwinn@waxahachiepd.org or call 469-309-4410. Look for your questions to be answered here in the Waxahachie Daily Light every Sunday or listen to officer Winn’s show on KBEC Radio AM 1390 at 9 a.m. every Monday.