Campus safety advice without weapons

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By Dargan Thompson, Staff Writer

Walking to your car after night classes can be a nerve-racking experience. Maybe it seems every dark shadow conceals an axe murderer, or every person walking past is a potential mugger.

Whether or not you have an overactive imagination, here are a few simple tips to keep yourself safe from potential creepers — real or fake.

Jeanetta Mock, a victim advocate at the UNF Women’s Center, said to always keep your cell phone in your pocket when walking by yourself. She also said to keep your keys in your hand when walking to your car, so you don’t have to fumble through a purse or backpack to get them.

Don’t get too overzealous in your self-defense, though. Mock said the center does not advocate carrying deadly weapons of any type, as getting startled could result in an accident.

Linda Dragotto, founder of Jax Women’s Self-Defense, said it is important to always be aware of your surroundings. She said to follow your instincts if something makes you uncomfortable.

If someone starts coming at you, Dragotto said to shout at them to stop and then walk in the opposite direction. She said often this will startle or confuse the person, and they will stop.

“If they don’t stop, I would hope you have on running shoes or have taken my self-defense class,” she said.

Dragotto said if you are alone while walking somewhere at night, it’s OK to call someone and talk to them. That way, if something happens, someone knows immediately and can call the police for you.

She said to have the campus emergency number programmed in your phone and be aware of where the blue light emergency phones are located. Dragotto also suggested only unlocking your car door once you get to it — not from afar — and checking the back seat before getting in.

Dragotto said to be careful what you post on social networking sites, such as Facebook. The new smartphones have GPS built in, she said, so if you take a picture and post it to Facebook, it will also post your location. She said it is better to wait until after an event to post about it rather than letting everyone know where you are or where you are going.

Email Dargan Thompson at [email protected]