The University Record, June 7, 1993

Crime prevention a matter of being alert to your surroundings

By Mary Jo Frank

Ever get a “funny” feeling that you’re being followed in the parking structure? That the stranger doesn’t belong in your office building? Or that the person who asks you for the time of day really is eyeing your purse?

It’s not paranoia. The vague feeling that something may not be right is what Sgts. David A. Betts and Benny Chenevert of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Crime Prevention Unit call “that sixth sense.”

At the Workplace of the ’90s “Crime Prevention” workshop, Betts and Chenevert encouraged staff members to pay attention to their sixth sense, to always be alert, to be aware of their surroundings and thus able to avoid possible danger when the sixth sense sounds an internal alarm.

Chenevert, crime prevention coordinator, and Betts, crime prevention supervisor, offered a number of tips on preventing crimes at home, when out in the community and at work.

Noting the success of the Neighborhood Watch Program, in which neighbors keep an eye on each other’s property, Betts said DPS has instituted a Building Watch program in some large campus buildings such as the Institute for Social Research.

Chenevert said staff members usually know who does and doesn’t belong in their building. When you see a stranger, he suggested politely offering assistance. Persons who don’t have legitimate reasons for being in the building usually will leave, he said, because they know at least one person can identify them.

“Don’t be afraid to call us. That’s what we’re here for,” Chenevert stressed.

Some other tips:

  • Some thieves have U-M paydays marked on their calendars. It is better not to cash your check during your lunch hour on payday and stash the cash in your purse, wallet or desk drawer for the rest of the day, according to Chenevert.

  • Purses should be stored in a secure place, not in a file drawer or closet down the hall. “If you can’t touch it, it’s too far away,” Chenevert said. He also suggested minimizing what you carry in your purse, taking only the credit cards you plan on using and only a few checks instead of a whole checkbook.

  • Don’t wrap the purse strap around your wrist or across your front and back so that a thief would have to drag you with the purse, the officers suggested.

  • When going to a parking lot or structure, walk with a buddy, look underneath your car and the car next to it to make sure no one is waiting to grab your ankle, and have your key ring in your hand, with the keys poking out between the knuckles, Betts advised.

  • If someone assaults you, Betts suggested shouting the words “rape” or “murder” rather than screaming “help.” “Whatever you do, do it all out,” including even blinding an attacker with keys, Betts said.

  • To avoid becoming an attractive target for a mugger or thief, the officers suggested that you walk assertively with your head up and look people in the eye—it lets them know you could identify them.