Be alert and have safety in mind the next time you go for a run

By: Mike Nottoli, Rocklin Police Department
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Although it did not happen in our community, the recent attack of 17 year old Chelsea King in the San Diego area emphasizes the importance of exercising common sense when it comes to your own personal safety. On Feb. 25, King went out jogging alone in a park and was allegedly attacked and murdered by a convicted sex offender named John Albert Gardner III. This is a tragic case of a young woman who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and became a victim. I am very familiar with the area where the attack occurred because my sister-in-law lives in that community and I spend time there each year. It is a very nice area much like our own where you would “not expect” something like this to happen. Here’s the problem we are all faced with. Sexual predators and other dangerous criminals are out there looking for easy opportunities to prey upon innocent unsuspecting victims who sometimes find themselves in vulnerable places and situations. Let me be very clear in what I am saying. I am not blaming Chelsea King and others like her for being “responsible” for these types of attacks. On the contrary. The evil persons who commit these acts are solely responsible and should be dealt with appropriately. Rocklin is a great city with a low crime rate and an outstanding police department that takes pride in keeping its citizens safe. However, that does not mean that we can be complacent. There are dangerous predators in every community who are capable of committing these types of crimes. If they don’t live in your community, they can certainly travel to your community to commit a crime. Every man, woman and child needs to be aware of their safety and should take proactive steps to reduce their vulnerability. With the official start of spring only a few days away and summer approaching, you will most likely be spending more time exercising and recreating in outdoor areas. Whether you’re a marathon runner or just going for a casual walk in the park, it pays to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Here are some things to consider when you are outdoors: The first and most important element of self defense is to learn to recognize, anticipate and avoid potential hazards, dangerous people and dangerous places. Select a safe area for your walk or run. This is especially important when you are vacationing or traveling in an unknown area. Take the time to ask someone who knows the area well before you venture out. Exercise with a known companion. The old saying that there is "safety in numbers" is usually true. Try to exercise where there are a lot of other people around. Although a run through a secluded forest or a scenic trail might be beautiful, it may not be safe. Avoid walking or running during the hours of darkness. Avoid taking shortcuts through alleys, behind businesses, school buildings, etc., or running near trees, bushes, large rocks, or other landscaping or terrain that can provide concealment for criminals. Avoid talking on cell phones, using headphones, ear buds, or wearing hoods or heavy caps that can impair your ability to hear or see what is going on around you. Wear bright-colored clothing to improve your visibility. Obey all pedestrian traffic laws and watch out for bicyclists that may be using the same trails or pathways. Vary your route and exercise time so someone watching you will not be able to establish a pattern. Consider carrying pepper spray, a high decibel sound alarm, or other legal self defense device. Whatever you carry must be readily available. If it is buried in a purse, backpack, fanny pack, etc., it will take a long time to deploy. Walk or run with good posture. Make eye contact with those around you and let them know you are aware of their presence. If you see someone who looks suspicious, avoid the person and leave the area as soon as possible. Report the individual to the nearest law enforcement agency. If they do not target you, they may be waiting for another potential victim. If you are being approached by someone or you are entering an area where another person is present, remember these six awareness rules: Hands - Pay attention to the person’s hands. If they are concealing them, they may be holding a weapon. Weapons - Look for obvious weapons carried or concealed by the person. Associates/Accomplices - There may be more than one person involved in the situation. Also be aware of who and where your closest help might be. Escape Routes - Be thinking about how to escape and where you can go to seek help quickly. Footing, Terrain, Environment - If an attack is about to occur, what kind of footing will you have, and how might your environment influence how you respond? Cover and Concealment - In a critical situation when the person has a gun, try to seek cover that will stop a bullet, or seek a place of concealment. If you perceive you are being targeted and you have the time and distance to do so, try to get to the nearest residence, open business, group of people, etc. However, don’t allow yourself to be grabbed from behind if you are trying to escape. It is easier to fight off an attacker if you turn and face him/her. When you are face-to-face or talking with someone who may be dangerous, remember the following: 1. Distance – Try to stay at least 1 ½ to 2 arm’s length away from the individual 2. Balance – Assume a balanced stance with your strong leg back, weak leg forward, feet about shoulder width apart, knees unlocked, weight evenly distributed over both feet and shifted slightly toward the balls of the feet. 3. Awareness – Be aware of the totality of the situation and act accordingly If an attack occurs, you should be mentally and physically prepared to respond. It is much easier to respond to an attack if you are in reasonable physical condition and you have prepared your mind and body. Being prepared means seeking out and learning some type of self defense / martial arts skills before you need to use them. It is very difficult, for example, to spontaneously manufacture a successful technique if you are suddenly grabbed, choked, punched, knocked down, confronted by a person with a gun or knife, etc. If, however, you have spent time training the mind and the body to deal with such attacks, you will have a much better chance of successfully defending yourself. There are many martial arts and self defense schools in the Rocklin area that offer excellent training. I encourage you to visit these schools and to learn new skills. If you decide not to seek out physical self-defense skills, you can still practice all of the aforementioned mental prevention and awareness concepts on a daily basis. Mike Nottoli is the crime prevention and volunteer coordinator for the Rocklin Police Department.