By Senior Officer Larry Jacobs
Crime Prevention Division, SSPD

No one ever thinks they will be the victim of a crime, but supplying the police with an accurate description of an assailant could mean the return of your property and the arrest of the criminal.

It’s not unusual for the victim to be so stunned or so frightened that they don’t notice what the attacker looks like. The next time you’re walking down the street or heading into the grocery store, glance at a person walking towards you, then look away.

Without looking at them again, can you describe their clothes? Now turn-around and see how accurate you were. What did you miss? Practice describing the people you see every day, and as you get better, add more details. What shape are their face, nose, and eyes? What color is their hair? Do they have any tattoos?

Learning to notice and describe people will help you give a good description of an assailant if you’re ever the victim, or witness of a crime.

Here are some other suggestions for ways to protect yourself.

Know your destination and route.

Plan ahead so that when you walk you are very visible to other people. This means that if you must walk alone; choose open, well-lit, and well-traveled areas.

Avoid taking shortcuts through deserted areas such as parks, playgrounds and vacant lots.

Avoid dark corners, alleys and entrances to buildings. Crooks don’t like to strike where eyewitnesses can provide the police with a detailed account.

The buddy system works best. It makes a person less likely to be targeted by a would-be criminal. If something does happen, you have a better chance of getting help.

Leave your purse at home, if possible. If you must carry one, carry the smallest one you have, hold it firmly, close to your body. Purse-snatchers prefer to grab from behind. Or, instead of a purse, get a “fanny pack.”

If you walk or jog at night, consider getting a dog that can accompany you. Criminal offenders often say that a dog is one of the most effective crime deterrents.

If you work late hours, arrange to leave at the same time as a co-worker. Try to avoid parking far away from your work site. Be aware of your surroundings at all times by making eye contact with passers-by and glancing occasionally behind you. This type of “body language” will make you less attractive to a prospective mugger.

If you sense that you are being followed, change directions or cross the street. If the person persists, run to the nearest place where you’ll find people.

If someone asks directions, maintain a safe distance.

Do not allow any strangers to follow you to your doorstep. Go to a public place where you can call the police whenever you feel threatened.

When fleeing from danger, alert others as well as the person posing a threat. Yell “Fire…Fire…Fire!” or activate a personal alarm device.