by Robin Boland
With school buses being cut and school start times skewed many of us working parents will be sending our kids to school on Metro or on foot in just a few weeks. If you’re within the 2-mile ‘walk zone’ of your child’s school then your child will not be riding a school bus this fall. As many of us are not afforded the luxury of beginning our workday at 10 a.m. (can you say 9:30 start times?) our older kids will be in charge of locking up & getting themselves to & from school. Add that to the near daily reports of phone snatchings and home invasions and anxiety ensues. Here are some ways of teaching our kids to protect themselves while we’re not with them, both at home & on the road.
Somewhere to start:
- Speak honestly with your child about being aware of their surroundings while using a phone or other electronic device. This includes while riding the bus or train as well as while waiting at the stop or station. The idea to convey is that being aware of your surroundings makes you appear to be less of an easy target.
- Discuss plans of action if someone is acting aggressively or making your child feel uncomfortable.
- Communicate some common sense rules about locking up around the house, including locking up bikes & not leaving expensive items near open ground floor windows.
- Attend a free, all-ages self-defense class at the Van Asselt Community Center (http://www.seattle.gov/parks/centers/vanasseltcc.htm ) or enroll in some of the martial arts or boxing classes offered at the local community centers.
Additionally the South Precinct Crime Prevention contact, Mark Solomon (firstname.lastname@example.org ), offers the following tips to share with your family:
STUDENT PERSONAL SAFETY
Violent crime in Seattle is one of the lowest for cities it’s size in the nation. And “Stranger Danger,” one of the most frightening types of reports in the news, is actually one of the rarest types of crimes. With that said, there are no guarantees that you will never become a victim of violent crime. However, there are some basic, sensible and easy to follow precautions that can lessen your chances of this type of encounter.
GENERAL SAFETY TIPS
- Follow your intuition. Pay close attention to the uncomfortable feelings that often warn us of potential danger. “Trust your Gut.” If you feel that a situation is not right, move out of the situation. Trusting your own instincts that a situation feels “wrong” can be the best personal safety tool you have. Don’t be afraid to cross the street, return to a business or ask for help based on that “funny feeling.” You may be right.
- Be aware of your surroundings. In social situations, be alert to places and situations that make you vulnerable. Know who is nearby or who may be following you.
- Walk confidently and alertly. Avoid walking alone and using shortcuts.
- Walk with others and stay on paths that are well lit where you can easily see and be seen.
- Carry your valuables safely. Don’t display items (e.g., I-pods, cash, phones), when walking to and from your destination.
BEING SAFE ON THE BUS OR LIGHT RAIL
- Maintain situational awareness on the bus, train and at transit stops.
- While waiting for public transportation, keep your back close to a wall (or pole) so that you cannot be surprised from behind.
- Don’t use or flash valuables like IPODS on the bus or train.
- If there is a problem on the bus or train, notify the driver and/or call 911.
- If someone is bothering you on the bus or train, notify the driver
- If few people are on the bus or train, sit near the driver.
- Use the transit schedules to minimize the length of time waiting for the bus or train.
- Keep your purse, shopping bag, backpack, packages, etc., in your lap, on your arm, or between your feet — not by themselves on an empty seat.
- Don’t let yourself doze off on the bus or train; it can make you an easy target.
- If you feel uneasy about getting off at your usual stop, stay on until the next stop.
- Guard transit passes like cash or other valuables (the school is not entitled to give you a new one if yours is lost or stolen).
BEING SAFE ON THE STREET
- Know your routes. Notice lighting, alleys, abandoned buildings, and street people.
- If you are being followed or you see a person or group further down the street that makes you feel uncomfortable, cross the street, walk in another direction, or ask other people walking if you may walk a short distance with them.
- Pick out places that you consider safer, places where you can either make a stand or reassure yourself that you are not being followed (i.e., lit porches, bus stops, stores, etc.).
- Walk near the curb and away from buildings, trees, and shrubbery, which can hide potential threats.
- When walking to your home or apartment, carry your house keys in your hand. Don’t stand in a doorway and fumble in your purse or pocket for your keys. Have them ready to use.
- Always dress so that your movements are not restricted.
IF YOU ARE CONFRONTED
- It may seem like a good idea to tell a robber that you have no money, but this technique may backfire. It is safer to give up a few dollars. Carry a little money separate from your other funds in an accessible place.
- If someone demands your property and displays or implies in any way that they have a weapon, don’t resist. Physical property isn’t worth getting injured or killed over.
- If someone tries to grab you, make a scene. Scream, kick, fight . . . do what you can to get away and attract attention.
Robin Boland is a contributing columnist, South Seattle Enthusiast, and often is referred to as “little bird” by her friends who have heights over 5 ft 7