July 20, 2019

By JESSICA HAMMER
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Danger can lurk around every corner, whether when walking alone at night in a dark and creepy park or along a city street. Every sliver of light casts menacing-looking shadows.

In addition to advising loved ones to walk in pairs or groups at night, parents have for decades taught their children to never take candy from a stranger or get in their cars or, in general, to never talk to strangers. It’s one of the top rules of parenting.

There are many things parents have to teach their children to keep them safe and those rules tend to change as they get older. Suddenly the rules are now don’t walk alone at night, don’t set your drink down at a party and to be more aware of your surroundings.

There are a lot more rules, or should we say guidelines, people should follow in order to stay safe in 2016, especially women.

Erin Lockman, a first-year Conestoga pre-health sciences student, recalls a scary incident that happened to her.

“There was an old man who grabbed my arm one day and tried to pull me away from my dad,” she said.

Sara Dawkins, who is doing her academic upgrading for biology and chemistry at Conestoga College, said there have been at least three incidents where she felt threatened when she was out and about in the region.

One of those happened when she was walking home alone at night. A vehicle drove up in front of her and a man asked if she knew where a certain street was.

“I said I don’t know and then the guy did some lip-licking thing that was really creepy and told me to get in,” said Dawkins. “I would try to walk away and then he’d drive slow so I couldn’t cross the road.”

Dawkins said she called her boyfriend who wasn’t far away and he came out and saw what was happening and yelled at the man in the vehicle who then drove away.

“I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t have my phone or if (my boyfriend) didn’t come outside when he did,” Dawkins said. “There was nowhere else to go.”

Especially at night, or when walking alone, you shouldn’t have headphones on because it blocks out everything around you. If someone was to come up from behind he would have the advantage.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2013 Canada’s crime rate was at its lowest since 1969. There is no way to tell why the crime rate is declining though policing strategies and technology could be a contributing factor.

Camellia Bustard, a third-year nursing student, said in November 2014 there was a manhunt for a patient who had escaped from St. Mary’s Hospital and was considered dangerous.

“There were police everywhere. They actually ended up coming to our house and were looking under our porch and telling us to stay inside with our doors locked,” said Bustard. “It was really quite scary.”

Bustard had just recently moved to Kitchener about a month or so before the events took place.

“A couple of weeks later I had my car broken into. I guess this is what living in the city is like,” said Bustard.

Around campus, a lot of students say they feel safe because of the security.

“I think they do a good job,” said Maggie Birch, a first-year pre-health sciences student. “You can always see them around the school.”

Conestoga College has a Walk Safe program that offers students a security escort to their vehicles in the parking lots in the evening, across campus or even to their house if they live nearby.

“If (a student) feels threatened we can meet with the student and create a safety plan while here at the campus and outside of the campus,” said Susete Araujo-Vizinho, a security representative for Conestoga College. “Basically (these are) safety tips while taking the bus and safety tips while walking on your own.”

The college also offers self-defence classes for faculty and students.

Though campus security’s response time anywhere on campus is two to three minutes and they are always patrolling the school grounds, there is still a chance something could happen and it is important to try and stay calm.

Taylor Schweitzer, a second-year print journalism student, was in a situation recently where she was alone in the parking lot at the college on a Saturday night. She was still in her car after she parked and was talking on her cellphone when a young woman knocked on the car window and told Schweitzer to get out of the car.

“At first I was thinking she was in trouble or something, I don’t know. So I hang up the phone and I get out,” said Schweitzer.

The young woman then proceeded to ask Schweitzer what “culture” she was and if she knew the owners of the couple of other cars in the parking lot because her vehicle was keyed (when a person drags the sharp tip of a key along a car, scratching the paint). Schweitzer said she didn’t know who owned the other cars.

“She yells over to me, ‘There’s fucked up people in this world.”

Schweitzer said she thought the woman was under the influence of drugs or something because of the way she was acting and speaking, so she left a few minutes later and went to the security office to tell them what happened.

“I was scared. No one was around me so if I did start yelling no one would hear me,” Schweitzer said.

There were two security officials patrolling the parking lot when Schweitzer went back to her car later that night following the incident, making her feel relieved.

If students are ever in a situation where they feel threatened like in a lockdown, they are to try and remain calm, do not attract attention and follow the proper procedures.

The college has a free downloadable app that allows students, staff or faculty to directly contact security if there is a problem or if they require someone to walk them to their car.

If students want to learn more about what to do in emergencies they can go to the Security Services’ page on the school’s website at www.conestogac.on.ca/security-services/.

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