play it safe, ladies
Ken Hoffman's safety tips for Houston women as they're the new trending targets
Two women from my West University neighborhood were mugged last week — one in a nearby strip center, the other in the driveway of her home (that’s extra scary). Naturally, local social media erupted in a frenzy. The comments I saw included:
“Women need to carry mace in their purse.”
“Crime is out of control.”
“I remember when it was safe in Houston.”
”It’s time for everybody to carry a gun.”
I am not going to carry a gun or keep mace in a purse, not even a men’s European carryall. I assume that anybody who might attack me is carrying a gun, and the last thing I want to do is create a situation where they’ll use it. I’m not exactly a deadeye sharpshooter in the Wild West Show at Disney World.
It’s probably impossible to completely eliminate the chances that you’ll be attacked, but here’s some advice on how to diminish the nightmare aftershocks of a mugging – getting a replacement driver’s license, new health care ID cards, changing the locks on your house, canceling credit cards, lost cash, the psychological fear and memory of the attack, etc.
Ken’s tips on how to play it safe in Houston
First, there’s no need for you to carry a purse or wallet into a supermarket or store. Lock them in the trunk of your car, or leave them at home. All you need is one credit card.
If someone robs you in a the parking lot, all they’ll get is the credit card and whatever you just bought, maybe that pair of shoes or your bag of groceries. You can replace Jimmy Choos and lamb chops. You can’t replace old personal photos in your wallet or expensive heirloom jewelry. Don’t keep anything of value on your person. It’s like Rodney Dangerfield said, “If somebody picks my pocket, there are two disappointed people.” Make it not worth the mugger’s time.
By the time the strip center victim returned home, less than 20 minutes later, the thief already had used her credit cards to “spend” $800 at two supermarkets and $1,000 at a department store. Most credit cards won’t hold you liable for charges made by a mugger, but it shows how these criminals know what they’re doing, and how fast they do it.
Ditch the purse, watch your cash, and about that security guard...
I talked with the police officers who responded to the strip center incident. They said that attacks and purse snatchings are on the rise. The muggers usually target women because they’re smaller and carry more valuables in their purse than men have in their wallet. The officers advised not to resist attackers or fight back. It’s not worth the risk of physical harm. Muggers are more experienced on offense than you are on defense.
They also said that if you withdraw money from an ATM, drive around the block three or four times and take notice if anybody’s following you. If you think you’re being trailed, call 911 and drive to a police station.
I also talked to the security guard who patrols that strip center in a golf cart. He was very open. “I make $10 an hour and I don’t have a gun. I'm not the police.”
Simple advice, try to park in a busy, safe area during the day and be aware of your surroundings. Stay off your phone when you’re walking in public. If you don’t feel safe, get out of there.
Protection at the pump
Another place where you should be extra vigilant is the service station, where muggers take advantage of drivers, again mostly women, who are distracted and not paying attention to the car using the adjacent pump.
The trend now: Someone will enter the woman’s car from the passenger side, steal her purse, and speed away. The mugger is gone before the woman gets back in her car and notices her purse is gone.
Ken goes to bat on CNN
True story: crime was just as big an issue in Houston several years ago as it is now. Gun sales spiked in certain neighborhoods. A Houston TV station did a story about the buying spree for firearms for personal protection.
I wrong a column saying I wasn’t going to buy a gun. Instead, I keep a Louisville Slugger bat under my bed. I don’t know how accurate my aim would be with a gun, but I play softball and I’m a pretty good contact hitter. All things considered, I stood a better chance with a bat against a burglar.
A few days later, CNN was in Houston doing a crime story. A producer called me and asked, “Do you really keep a bat under your bed?”
Yes, I do.
“Would you be OK if we came to your house and interviewed you?”
Yes, you can.
A CNN news van pulled up in front of my house. The late Headline News anchor Bob Losure and I sat in my living room. The interview went something like:
“Why aren’t you buying a gun like so many of your neighbors?” I can understand why others want a gun in their house, but it’s not for me. I’ve never touched a gun. It’s a personal decision.
“Do you really keep a baseball bat under your bed?” Yes, I do.
“What kind of bat is it?” It’s a 32-inch Sammy Sosa bat.
“Do you think that’s an effective way to protect yourself?” For me, yes.
“Will you show us the bat?” Sure, follow me.
We went upstairs: the CNN anchor, a camera person, and me.
“Will you take a few swings for us?” I remember I swung lefty to avoid a lamp on the side of my bed. Plus lefty swings look better.
“One last question: Will you get in bed under the blankets and pretend that you hear a burglar and pull out the bat?”
Okay, CNN and Bob: We’re done here.