In general terms, common sense and awareness are the best safety tools to prevent victimization, including when traveling on a bicycle trail in Kenosha County. County Board Supervisor Jeff Wamboldt, who also serves as crime prevention officer for the Kenosha Police Department, offers the following tips for staying safe while on trails:
Be fully aware of your surroundings and have situational awareness at all times. In other words, know where you are and have several means of escape if necessary. For example, people who are visibly distracted by their cellphones or listening to music become easy targets for criminals. Always keep an eye on what is going on around you so that you can better detect suspicious activity and protect yourself and your belongings.
Keep your belongings secure. Keep valuable possessions, like smart phones, out of sight. Store them in safe places and only take them out when you need them.
Be confident (even if you have to fake it). Criminals look for “soft targets” – people who are vulnerable or appear vulnerable. An example would be cowering when coming face to face with a stranger. Being confident automatically will make a person a “hard target” - someone a criminal would not want to mess with because the risk is too great. An example of someone who is a hard target is a person who can keep their head up and look others in the eye (confidence and identification).
Travel in groups. Criminals are less likely to attack people in groups as there is strength in numbers. This is especially important on a bike trail where isolation can occur frequently. If it is not possible to ride with another person, consider not going on the bike trail.
Avoid Isolation, unlit and desolate areas. Criminals tend to lurk in dark and deserted areas where there is less law enforcement and fewer potential witnesses.
Determine whether you are in danger. If you are walking or riding on the bike trail and suspect that you are being followed, don't be afraid to look behind you and find out for sure. If possible, look the person directly in the face; this lets him know that you are fully aware of what's going on and that you can and will defend yourself in the event of an attack.
Seek safety. The first thing you should do if you think you are being followed is to determine whether you can quickly get out of the situation without having to confront the attacker - this also involves situational awareness discussed above. Look around to see if there are any groups of people around and if so, walk or run or ride in that direction. If there is nobody around, or if they are too far away, then you will need to take action against your attacker.
Draw attention to yourself. This is the best way to scare off a criminal, as he or she will be afraid of getting recognized or caught. Scream and yell at the top of your lungs, wave your arms in the air, blow a whistle if you have one; do whatever you can to draw attention to the situation.
Put as much distance between the two of you as possible. Run or ride as fast as you can toward safety.
Arm yourself for an attack. If screaming and running don't deter the criminal, then continue moving in the direction of safety and while you do, pull out any potential weapons you have. If you carry pepper spray, pull it out and have it at the ready. Other potential weapons include pocket knives, keys, or pens. Keep your weapon in your hand as you continue moving toward safety.
Call the police. If you have a cell phone on you, then pull it out and call the police using 911. If the attacker is close to you, be sure to notify the attacker that you are making the call, as this may scare them away. Loudly say, "Leave me alone. I am calling the police!"
Fight back. If you believe the criminal will attack or if the criminal says he will attack and you have no other recourse, strike first. If the criminal begins assaulting you, use whatever weapons you have to physically harm him. Poke him in the eyes or throat, kick him in the genitals, scratch him with your nails, spray him with pepper spray, etc.
Always report crimes to the police. Once you have made it to safety, it's important to notify the police of what happened. Doing so may help save the lives of other potential victims. Describe the attacker's physical appearance, location, gender, and style of dress to the police to help them track the person down as soon as possible.