Protecting yourself from becoming crime victim

FRESNO, Calif.

A crowded parking lot in the middle of the day or a quiet alley after dark. This year, Central Valley women have been targeted in both. Earlier this month, a woman narrowly escaped getting shot after an attempted carjacking in Downtown Fresno.

Exactly one month before that, a kidnapper forced his way into a woman's car at Fresno's Fashion Fair Mall. Both are chilling reminders: crime can happen anytime, anywhere.

In these days of multi-tasking, talking, texting, and walking can make us more vulnerable as criminals look for their next victim. "Limit those distractions. Being on your cell phone, that takes your awareness away.

" Try to get yourself to where you're prepared going from the store to your car, wherever you're going," said Fresno Police Sergeant Mark Hudson.

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RESOURCES:
Resource Center for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Family Violence
www.rcsfresno.com

Fresno County Crime Victims Assistance Center
www.co.fresno.ca.us/

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Sgt. Hudson said three elements are involved in these kinds of crimes. The so called "crime triangle" includes the lack of a capable guardian, a suitable target, and a motivated offender. The capable guardian part is simple: try not to walk alone. And a suitable target can include anything from being distracted to your body language.

"If somebody looks like they're weak and they're not going to defend themselves, certainly that's going to be that suitable target that's going to be the focus of that motivated offender," said Hudson.

Rocio Reynoso teaches personal safety workshops through a Central Valley resource center for victims of sexual abuse, RCS. She said a good tip is to always have your keys in your hand, ready to go. She tells women to walk confidently and stay on the lookout for anything suspicious.

Then, once you get to your car, be ready to leave. "You sit in there, you put your bag in the backseat, you're looking for other things but your door is open the whole time. You don't want to do that. You want to get in here, shut the door, and then, put your stuff in the backseat," said Reynoso.

The advice seems simple enough but some women say they didn't change their ways until they became a victim. Nancy Allen once had her purse snatched right out of her hands outside of a Fresno store.

"Probably, years ago, I would probably open my door and throw my purse in and then pop the trunk on something like that. I would never do that now. I would never separate my purse from myself. I just pay more attention," said Allen.

Fresno yoga instructor Amy Pittelkau turned into a victim in the midst of a friendly conversation outside of Fresno's Barnes and Noble.

"He was running 50 miles an hour, in jeans on a hot summer day. He had a plan. And it happened within a split second, without even realizing what was going on. It took me a good 10 seconds to realize, 'oh, my wallet is taken,'" said Pittlekau.

The incident made Pittelkau a little more suspicious and much more careful. "I'm aware of who I park next to, I'm aware of who walks by me. I choose my parking spot a little more wisely," said Pittlekau.

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