Security Forces, MPD present personal safety briefing

by Kimberly L. Wright
Air University Public Affairs

11/5/2010 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Representatives from 42nd Security Forces and the Montgomery Police Department reinforced a safety-minded approach to preventing crime during a briefing at the Air University Headquarters Spouse and Support Group luncheon Tuesday.

Master Sgt. Rico Harvey of Police Services tested the knowledge of those present about base-specific information such as the rules most often cited by security forces -- failure to use a seatbelt and driving while talking on a handheld cell phone.

He noted that all bicycle riders must wear a helmet and reflective gear during hours of darkness, and that bikers must walk bikes across crosswalks or intersections.

"Parents, please make sure you're leading by example," said Sergeant Harvey. "I've witnessed parents doing the absolute opposite. They have to follow the rules as well."

He also advised the spouses that they should not be surprised to see security forces members patrolling on bikes and on foot.

Major Brenda Mitchell, commander of the patrolling division at Montgomery Police Department, noted crime is down in the city overall.

"We have more officers here than we've had since I've been here," she said. "During the holiday season, police will become more visible at shopping locations, with command posts, lift towers and, starting after Thanksgiving, (a retail shopping) exit patrol."

Montgomery Police Department corporals Denise Barnes and Greg Dixon provided a number of tips to help prevent crimes of opportunity.

Situational awareness helps people avoid danger.

"Be prepared when you come out of the house," said Corporal Barnes. Look both ways, walk past your car to see if anyone is hiding, get in and lock the door.

She advised against carrying purses in to stores. Instead, use a fanny pack or an inside pocket.

"That way, it's on your body," she said.

If you do have to carry a purse and someone grabs it, turn the purse over and empty the contents, which would deter the criminal from taking the contents, said Corporal Barnes.

To prevent holiday shopping thievery from vehicles, the corporals advised people to keep their cars clear of anything that might indicate what they have in the car. This includes hiding the GPS suction cup and loose change.

Wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree may be tempting to burglars. Corporal Barnes advised not putting all the gifts under the tree, perhaps wrapping a few boxes for display and hiding the presents in the closet. And large boxes left on the curb, like huge TV boxes, might clue thieves in on what Santa brought for Christmas. Cut up the boxes before disposal, she advised.

Valuables such as TVs should have distinguishing marks created with an engraver, and people should write down and keep the model and serial numbers in a safe place in case of burglary. People should also keep all the 1-800 numbers to their credit card companies in case their credit cards are stolen.

They advised shoppers to take advantage of security guards in roving security vehicles, having one accompany them if they are overly burdened with gifts.
The police representatives shared self-defense tips. The corporals advised those considering weapons to evaluate their comfort level with them.

"If you're hesitant about pulling out a weapon, then it's not for you," said Corporal Dixon. He also noted that guns aren't the best deterrent. "You can't just pull out a gun and think you're going to scare someone."

Corporal Barnes said that users of chemical weapons such as mace need to know how to use them without harming themselves.

Corporal Dixon cautioned against defense weapon-wielders gaining "a false sense of security," as sometimes mace and pepper spray are less effective on a dog or on someone with a lot of adrenalin coursing through their veins. Noisemakers such as a whistle or a keyfob with an alarm are "a great deterrent," said Corporal Barnes.