Sunday, July 17, 2011

Trail Safety - a police perspective

Q: How can I be safe when I’m out running alone on the trails? Should I carry pepper spray?

This is too important of a question for me to do it justice, so I have asked the opinion of Detective Ben Johnson from the Blaine Police Department. Here is what he has to say:

A: I do not recommend carrying pepper spray. For starters, its effectiveness varies too much and people put too much confidence in it. Some people are highly sensitive to it and some are not very bothered. Some attackers will simply get angrier. Then, when it doesn't work victims are prone to freeze and not know what to do next. It isn’t like you see in the movies where there is an immediate effect. It can take a long 5-10 seconds for the effect to take place, and during that time when there is no response the victim might panic. Also, people need to understand that when they spray someone there is a high likelihood some of it will get on them. I don’t use it on duty because I am very sensitive to the stuff and personally don't want to risk getting it on me, because if I do, I can't see.

More important is general awareness of one’s surroundings. This includes the location, lighting, and the amount of other citizens (witnesses) in area/trails/etc. Simply being smart and using common sense will keep people safe most of the time. Of course it is most ideal to run with a partner. But for solo runs, never run after dark, and as hard as this is to hear, do not run with headphones in. This prevents a person from being aware of their surroundings.

Have a practiced plan in place for when self-defense is needed. Self-defense moves don’t need to be complex martial arts moves. Self-defense is as simple as striking the groin or gouging an eye. Women may wince at the thought of gouging an attackers eye out, but it is a great defense move and easy to perform. Understand the alternative! You need to be prepared with the mental fortitude to do what it takes to survive. I tell people to use multiple strikes to disable the attacker and then run away. Too often people think an attacker will stop if they hit them once. Not likely. You need to have a plan, and a willingness to follow through on that plan.

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