It’s yet another sub-zero day, so you leave your car running to warm up in the parking lot before you head home from school. Or you don’t feel like hauling your purse around to classes all day, so you leave your purse in the front seat of your car. Sound familiar?
Waite Park, Minnesota Community Service Officer Alicia Mages warned Minnesota School of Business staff, faculty and students that they should rethink that plan.
“Remember, criminals have to have the desire, the ability and the opportunity to be successful. The desire is theirs. The ability is theirs. The only thing you can control is the opportunity.”
She emphasized that many of the personal and campus safety tips she shares seem like common sense but that people often disregard their intuition.
A perfect example, she reminds us, is something as simple as leaving the keys in the ignition of your car. Everyone gets that it is not probably a smart thing to do, but in this weather? Who hasn’t done it recently? We therefore provide the perfect opportunity for savvy criminals on the watch. Even when you are fortunate enough to live in a low-crime area, she says, you can easily fall victim to this ongoing problem.
Career and Academic Services Coordinator Jessica Ward is a member of the St. Cloud campus’ safety committee which invited Mages to address staff.
“In today’s world, we need to be aware of risks around us,” Ward comments. “Having someone come in to help with those reminders, suggestions, and awareness allows us to be safer as individuals, a campus, and a community.”
Mages reminded staff of the basic rules with vehicles.
- Lock your doors.
- Take out (or hide well) your valuables.
- Don’t leave out financial information (to tempt identity thieves).
- Record the serial numbers of all electronics.
- Report suspicious activity.
Another common mistake people make, Mages said, is not reporting suspicious activity.
“People say, ‘Oh, I thought I heard something,’ or ‘it wasn’t worth that much,’ but then they learn later from others in the neighborhood that they were broken into, too. It helps the police department to know if there is a pattern.”
While inside the vehicle, you need to be attentive as well, Mages points out.
- Park in well-lit areas of the parking lot after dark.
- Keep your doors locked and your windows up.
- Keep your vehicle maintained and with at least a half-tank of gas.
- Check inside your vehicle before entering.
- Have your keys ready: don’t fumble for them in a purse or jacket pocket.
- If someone approaches your vehicle, roll down your window only enough to talk.
- If you are followed, don’t go home. Drive straight to a police department or 24-hour business.
Some of her advice is counter-intuitive, Mages admits. “Don’t help strangers,” she says simply. “I know we all want to, but don’t. Call the police to help.”
Mages also included some common sense tips for safety at home.
- If you leave town, don’t post it on social media sites.
- Have someone shovel your walk (or mow your lawn) while you are gone.
- Notify the police when you will be gone.
- Don’t hide keys outside.
- Don’t leave solicitations hanging on your door.
- Meet your neighbors.
- Make sure entrances and the garage are well lit.
- Check ID’s of repair people.
- If you suspect your home has been burglarized, do not enter.
Ward felt the lessons were well-received. “Alicia gave us simple ways to be alert: lock your car doors, stay with your purse, what to teach your kids, how to be safe at school…the list goes on. We need to be proactive about our safety and surroundings and focus on not being a target.”