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Make sure your young adult loved ones know about situational awareness!

January 27, 2020

by John Boch

Over Thanksgiving weekend, a UIC student coed was robbed, repeatedly raped and then murdered in a parking garage by one of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s early release prisoners. The family and police found her cold, lifeless body a couple of days following the attack after pinging her cell phone for its location.

A death investigation turned up lots of video leading up to the attack, and with it, they identified the suspect.

Meanwhile, the 19-year-old woman, Ruth George, didn’t have to become a victim. Sadly, she ignored multiple pre-attack indicators at her peril.

While we can’t protect the young people we love 24/7, we can equip them with the tools they can use to help keep themselves safe. By using good situational awareness, they can practice avoidance and employ strategies to stay safe.

What can we teach them?

First and foremost, teach them to listen to their intuition. Don’t dismiss those nagging feelings of possible danger. After all, one’s intuition always has the person’s best interests at heart and furthermore, it’s usually right.

For more about this, read The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.

Next, encourage them to maintain the awareness of their surroundings. Unless, of course, they want to become victims.

Yes, this includes staying off their phone and keeping earbuds out of their ears while in public.

Everyone – including young people – should stay alert and watch for behaviors outside the baseline of normalcy. This includes individuals loitering (or even walking) without a sense of purpose.

Ruth George, walking alone, saw the suspect loitering at the CTA train stop near the UIC parking garage late at night (red flag #1). He whistled at her, and made persistent catcalls and comments directed her way (red flag #2). Then he began to follow her (enormous red flag #3).

Did Ruth George trust her gut and move to a well-lit location with lots of other people around, employing the old “safety in numbers” maxim? Nope.

Did she hit one of those “emergency phones” and summon assistance at the suspicious individual? No.

Instead, she ignored her instincts and walked – alone – into a desolate, marginally lit parking garage trying to get to her car.  All the while with a suspicious man continuing to follow her deeper and deeper into the parking structure (more red flags).

In the end, police say he caught up with her as she tried to enter her car. Putting her in a choke-hold, he choked her unconscious, then raped her repeatedly in the back seat of the car. In the end, he left a used condom in the car, along with the victim’s lifeless body after strangling her.  It became a parent’s worst nightmare for their wonderful, bright teenage daughter.

The “Who would I victimize game.”

Play a game with your loved ones. The next time you’re together in a busy public location, take a moment to stop and people watch. Imagine you’re a robber, rapist or other criminal. Ask them to identify a few people who might make particularly appealing “targets” to be accosted.

Then ask your loved ones why they picked certain individuals as ideal targets. Did the best targets look lost or unsure of their surroundings? Did they exhibit task fixation with technology (phones, etc.)? Or wear earbuds for bonus points? Did they have their arms full of stuff? Perhaps the manner of dress (or lack thereof) made them more appealing victims.

Then ask your loved ones if they exhibit those behaviors while they are in public. If so, they need to stop. Instead, they should embrace a command presence by maintaining an awareness of their surroundings.

The three most likely places to become a victim.

Good people should remain especially alert in parking lots (Hello, Ruth George?), gas stations and that last 50’ to their front door. Bad guys prefer those locations because there are lots of place to lurk and/or loiter and oftentimes plenty of distractions for the task fixated.

As an example, think about the last time you filled up at a gas station. The pump asks a litany of questions, drawing your attention and making it easy for someone to slip close without notice. Especially with all of the visual obstructions.

Force yourself to break that task fixation and look around after each question offered by the pump. Walk a couple of steps away from the nozzle while gas flows to watch for suspicious characters. Anyone not walking to or from their vehicle should merit additional scrutiny.

For most folks, these strategies will help them recognize potential threats and avoid them. Especially if they listen to their intuition. And practicing some awareness and self-confidence surely beats maintaining blissful unawareness in public as shown by a majority of people.

5 Responses to Make sure your young adult loved ones know about situational awareness!

  1. Mark Finch on January 27, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    Is this a condemnation of the rapist/murderer or of the teenage girl who lost her life just by simply trying to get to her car?

    • GSL1598 on January 27, 2020 at 6:35 pm

      It is an object lesson on how vulnerable an “unaware” victim becomes a victim. Take some notes MF, or keep your game-box-phone and ear buds in and be a victim.

  2. Lisa weaver on January 28, 2020 at 8:01 am

    Awesome article. Thank you.

  3. Dana Mentgen on January 28, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    I’d add one more area of concern. Parking lots, be it for a fitness club, big box store, supermarket, etc. have become havens for criminals to do a quick robbery. The sheer number of vehicles there make it easy for them to park and remain relatively unobtrusive. When parking at such an area, one should take the time before unlocking their door and exiting to scan the area for anything/anyone looking amiss, then keep that vigilance up both to and from the store. Always stay in condition yellow…Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper would approve.

  4. D on February 2, 2020 at 7:00 am

    Stop voting for these liberal apologists who pander to the criminal class. Bring some common sense back to this state. Hold people accountable for their actions, make then responsible for their own lives. How many early releases or affordable bond recipients have gone on to victimize more people? How many have been murdered because people who should be in jail were released to for some ridiculous sense of social justice? Vote these liberals out.