COA hosts seminar on situational awareness

Friday, November 23, 2018
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Seniors attending the awareness seminar were treated to lunch after the presentation.

Jennings Police Chief Danny Semmes and Lt. Chris Wills visited the Council on Aging (COA) Monday to discuss situational awareness tips just in time for the holidays, when more people start moving around in preparation for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.

“We just want to make sure everyone is aware of things they can do to keep themselves safe,” said Wills. “We want to make sure no one gets hurt.”

Wills advised the group not to travel alone if possible and to always be aware of surroundings.

He also gave tips on how to safeguard yourself while out in stores getting shopping done.

“Avoid wearing flashy jewelry that may draw attention,” said Wills. “Carrying oversized or designer handbags can make you a target for thieves also.”

Semmes also provided the following suggestion.

“Do not leave your purse unattended in the shopping cart,” said Semmes. “Most carts have a child safety seatbelt on them that can be used to secure your purse to the cart which could possibly hinder theft.”

Wills also told the seniors to be careful during the check-out procedure before leaving the store.

“Do not flash large quantities of money for all to see,” said Wills. “This can be tempting to a potential thief.”

Wills and Semmes informed the group that police escorts are available upon request if they did not feel safe walking out into the parking lot alone.

“If store management is made aware, often times someone can accompany you to your vehicle,” said Wills. “If no one is available, call the police department and we will gladly send an officer to ensure your safety.”

Semmes made another valuable suggestion regarding storage of gifts in vehicles.

“Some people may stash gifts in their vehicle to hide them from curious grandchildren,” said Semmes. “Make sure to put them in the trunk or cover the items so they can’t be easily seen. Always lock your car doors.”

Wills said it was a good idea to make a friend, neighbor or another loved aware of when you’re leaving and where you’re going.

“It’s easy to make a quick call and let them know your plans,” said Wills. “That way they know your whereabouts and expected return time in case something does go wrong.”

Semmes and Wills then went on to discuss tips on keeping safe at home. Wills cautioned the people to always keep the house secure.

“Use your locks,” said Wills. “Flood and motion lights help by lighting up your yard, which discourages thieves.”

Semmes spoke about leaving spare house keys in obvious places.

“Don’t hide your keys under the mat or under a plant pot, instead be creative. Potential robbers know about these simple hiding spots. Leave the key with a trusted neighbor or family member.”

Semmes made a point about packages being delivered. He warned residents not to leave packages unattended at the front door.

“There have been a rash of thefts regarding packages being taken. Delivery personel can be instructed to leave packages at the back door instead of in plain sight on the front door step,” said Semmes. “If you plan on being away for an extended period, have a neighbor retrieve the package and check your mail for you. Full mailboxes and unattended packages give a clue to criminals, letting them know that nobody is home.”

The seminar included a warning of one other kind of theft that occurs more during this time of year, credit and debit card fraud. Semmes advised people to use caution when it comes to scanning cards.

“Skimmers can be placed anywhere you swipe a card,” said Semmes. Be aware of your surroundings. Reach up and grab the scanner, you will not break a real one. These skimmers are not secured like the real thing. If it comes off in your hand, do not scan your card. Notify police immediately, and we’ll take care of it from there,” said Semmes.

The last subject covered had to do with fraud over the phone. In recent times, someone calls pretending to be an agent from the IRS or police station, then demands money.

“The IRS will never contact you by phone,” said Semmes. “The police station will not call and say someone you know has been arrested and you need to come bail them out. Never go out and put money on a prepaid to be used for this purpose. This is another way thieves will try to take advantage of people.”

Semmes and Wills ended the session by reminding everyone to stay safe and always be aware of surroundings, not only at this time of the year, but all year long, as well.