Q: I was at my bank's ATM one night last week and became quite uncomfortable when a suspicious-looking couple hung around while I was in the vestibule. They finally left before I exited, so I really don't know if they were innocent or not. Did I do the right thing? - Panicky Peggy
A: Dear Peggy: Yes you did, according to my source within the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. And while I appreciate you thinking yours truly is an expert on personal safety matters, I'm really not!
As a result, I made sure to research several security issues before beginning this week's column. As to the ATM matter, my contact says to always stick with the ones attached to a bank where you must have a card in order to come in the vestibule after the bank has closed. And if at all possible, avoid night visits when more criminal activity occurs.
As most of you know, it's also wise to take precautions when you're in a parking garage (and not just a woman, either).
First, try to park closest to the building entrance. If those spots are taken, then choose a walking high-traffic area. As you walk to your destination, don't get close to any car; stay right in the middle (or at least until you hear a car coming).
I've suggested in the past, especially if you're a female and it's after dark, to ask for a reliable escort from the store or office where you're visiting to walk you to your car. It goes without saying as quickly as you enter the vehicle, lock the doors and leave the vicinity. (Even though my sister deems me otherwise - see below - I'm so paranoid I usually call my husband to tell him when I'll be home and, if I don't arrive within the allotted time, call in the troops!)
My sister calls me a miniature pit bull with an attitude, so I certainly feel compelled to act like one when the occasion arrives, one being when I'm out by myself. I've seen some advice that says to never talk on your cell or even have it out; but at least for my purposes, I disagree.
While I continue to be aware of my surroundings, I also have my cell out ready to punch in my 911 code if necessary. Along these same lines, forget wearing headphones or more than a single earbud to listen to music; aside from the obvious danger, it's also hard to hear emergency vehicles coming.
Always walk with purpose, shoulders and head up. If we look like a victim, we're more likely to be victimized.
For other safety tips on Stranger-Danger, log on to www.ncpc.org.