By Yvonne Taunton
The holidays are quickly approaching, and many people are gearing up for the holiday shopping craze. With the malls and grocery stores heavily congested, anyone can become a victim of abduction.
Stacy Moak, Ph.D., professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Social Work, says no one can be 100 percent safe from abduction. However, as a general rule, people need to be aware of their environment at all times.
Here are five best practices that can help reduce the chances of abduction:
- Always have your keys in-hand. Moak suggests getting your keys ready prior to leaving the inside of a building in case you need to quickly access the inside of your vehicle.
- Do not stand next to your vehicle in the dark fumbling through your bags. “You are vulnerable to the element of surprise in that situation,” Moak said. “Avoid going places alone after dark, especially if you are in a place that is not familiar to you.”
- Look inside your vehicle before you get in, especially when it has been parked in a parking terminal or lot. Moak says this is a great practice and encourages everyone to be aware of their surroundings when leaving a mall or grocery store.
- Teach your children danger signs. “As for parents of young children, it is impossible to be with your child every second of every day, but teaching them danger signs — like do not talk to adults you do not know in the park or on the playground — can make a big difference in helping to avoid abduction,” Moak said. “Teach your children to not accept candy or gifts from someone they do not know. These are all standard tips that we have heard over and over, but they still remain true today. If you are unable to supervise your child, make sure another adult is available or in reach of your child.”
- Do not leave your children in public parks or playgrounds unattended. Moak says parents have so many responsibilities, mostly due to work schedules that do not always align with school schedules. That is when community support can be vital. “As a community, we need to support each other to make parenting easier,” Moak said. “We don’t seem to honor the ideal that it takes a village to raise a child. It is always easier to judge than to support, but that will not address the problem in our society.”
Moak emphasizes that people should pay close attention to their surroundings when in public every day.
“Watch what is going on around you,” Moak said. “That’s the fastest way to ward off a potential criminal — by looking them in the eyes. Most would-be offenders will alter their course of action if they fear they can be identified by someone.”
Most importantly, being aware of what is happening around you — and not ignoring things that seem out of sorts — is a critical crime-prevention tool.