CSPD officer for Westside gives tips on safety, security

     Be watchful.
     Don't count on a weapon to save you.
     Close all your windows when you leave your house, even in hot weather.
     If something looks wrong, don't second-guess yourself - call 911.
     These were some of the tips presented by Laura Cochran, the Colorado Springs Police Department's Westside neighborhood officer, at a town meeting of the Organization of Westside Neighbors April 8.
     Typically, she said during an informal, hour-long talk at the West Intergenerational Center, people tend not to notice things as much in their own neighborhoods, because they're so used to what's there. This can allow criminal types to sneak up on them or into places they shouldn't be.
     That's where being watchful comes in. “When something happens, it's going to be very fast and it's going to shock you,” Cochran said. The suddenness of such situations can often prevent witnesses from remembering key details about attackers or robbers.
     She advised people in those cases to try to focus on “features that can't be changed,” such as height, girth, muscles or accent.
     To avert potential attacks, she said it helps to “present yourself as a confident person” and make eye contact with suspicious- looking people.
     In a scrape, be ready to fight, Cochran said. She does not oppose people packing weapons such as a gun or pepper spray, but “don't rely on it to be the end-all solution.” She observed that pepper spray “doesn't work in the wind,” and having a gun or any weapon means “there is now a weapon available to both of you.”
     Fighting should involve hitting hands, joints, eyes and any sensitive areas of the attacker's body. “Imagine yourself as a cat that doesn't want to be held,” Cochran said. “You want to claw, kick and scream.”
     Always call police if you see anyone or anything strange in the neighborhood, Cochran said. But at certain busy times the non- emergency line can put a caller on hold for up to an hour, she confided, so if a suspicious situation can't wait that long, don't be shy about calling 911.
     If a 911 call has to be made in a confrontational situation, nothing needs to be said at all. Just dial the number and leave the phone off the hook (unless it's a cell phone), and police will track the location, Cochran said.
     Regarding burglaries, she recommended that people “look at their house from a burglar's standpoint. What's the easiest way to get in?” Also, she warned, burglars these days “are getting real brave.”
     One preventive measure she likes is motion lights. These can be especially helpful for police chasing burglars through a neighborhood. “When someone's running and those lights come on, one after the other, it's like a runway,” she said.
     The Westside's variously styled homes can prevent the kind of “break-in” that's been known to happen on the east side, “where all houses look the same,” Cochran observed. She recalled an incident where a lady was home watching TV when someone kicked her door open. The lady watched in alarm as a strange man barged in, then proceeded to pass out on the couch. It turned out the man was drunk and thought it was his house, Cochran said.

Westside Pioneer article