Column/A lesson in safety

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2006

On Thursday, I joined the rest of Leadership Selma Class XIII for our Judicial System/Public Safety Program.

We started out in the Selma Police Department training room, where we heard from Billy Atchison, who is a member of the Crime Task Force, and has helped start Crimestoppers and the Public Safety Insurance Fund in Dallas County.

Capt. Roy Friene of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department spoke about Crimestoppers, which offers money to those who give tips leading to arrests.

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Since being implemented in 2003, the tip line has received about 100 calls, Friene said, and has helped solve several crimes, including rapes and robberies.

Sherri James of the city’s TrustBuild program talked about the success of that community development and outreach based strategy.

Since being implemented earlier this year, the program has helped people get jobs, cleaned up lots and removed blight.

In addition, TrustBuild has helped educate local residents on city codes, as well as informing them of social service agencies that can provide help they may need.

State Trooper John Reese talked about the work on Alabama’s highways providing service and protection for state residents.

Alabama ranks No. 3 nationwide in the number of drivers who run red lights, Reese said.

He encouraged residents to be careful while traveling during the holidays. Two pieces of advice he gave: Slow down and wear seat belts.

There was more to the day, including a tour of the county jail (believe me when I say you don’t want to spend time there); and sitting through a preliminary hearing for a murder case at the Dallas County Courthouse.

Because there tends to be an increase in crime during the holidays, Atchison gave some safety tips.

Put an imaginary circle around yourself – six to 10 feet. If someone begins to invade that space, let them know you object – look them in the eye, put up your hand, or yell.

Take defensive action.

When you come out of a store, look around. Be aware of your surroundings.

While out shopping, watch where you park. Make sure it’s under a light or away from suspicious-looking vehicles.

Think about what you’re doing.

If someone approaches your car while you’re stopped at a light or a stop sign, bring attention to your situation. Honk the horn. Or, do what a lot of Alabamians apparently do anyway and run the red light if you have to.

When you get home, look around your house. If you didn’t leave a light on, use your bright lights to illuminate the area.

Cut down big shrubs that someone could hide behind.

If someone comes to the door, don’t open it, not even for UPS. Through the door, ask them to step back. Keep your six to 10 feet of space. This will give you a chance to shut and lock the door if necessary.

So, be careful this holiday season, and if you see a law enforcement officer, say thanks.

Think of what society would be like without the law, or those who enforce it.

Tammy Leytham is editor of The Selma Times-Journal.