Safety Article:

Seniors can take precautions to avoid becoming burglary victims

by Jessica Leake

Most of us would assume taking a bus at 1 p.m. or going for a short walk to the store in broad daylight would be safe. Not lately.

The Seattle Police Department has reported more than 842 strong-arm robberies citywide since January of last year, many of them involving elderly Asian women. Some police officers in the South precinct have even spent time teaching older adults how to protect themselves on the streets.

The Healthy Aging Partnership, a coalition of some 35 nonprofit and public organizations dedicated to the health and well being of Puget Sound seniors, offers these tips to seniors to help avoid becoming victims of crime.

While it isn't always possible to walk in groups, before dark, or without a purse or wallet, it is possible to take important steps toward a much safer trip to the store or neighborhood park. One of the most important rules of thumb when it comes to safety is to be aware of your surroundings.

For example, when walking alone always look in front of you as well as behind you. If you notice someone following you, go to the nearest open business or pay phone and call the police. Always walk in well-lit areas and be familiar with the path you're taking.

Here are some other things to consider for preventing crime:

  • If you must carry a purse, hold it close to your body. Do not let it dangle by your side. Also, keep a wallet in a side pocket, rather than in the back.
  • When taking the bus, sit close to the driver and be aware of who gets off the bus with you. Trust your instincts. If anyone seems suspicious, report them to the police.
  • Avoid dark, unfamiliar or deserted routes - even if they are the shortest.
  • Try to tell a family member where you are going and when you'll be back.
  • Carry your car or house key between your index and middle finger as a quick weapon to fight off predators. This will also make for faster entry time once you arrive home.
  • If someone stops you to ask for directions, answer from a distance. Do not approach the vehicle.
  • Never display large sums of cash in public, especially at an ATM machine. Also, don't carry more cash than you need at one time.

Another tip for seniors to remember is to always report any crime or suspicious behavior done to you. Police say that many older adults are fearful of reporting criminal activities, and perpetrators are going unpunished.

The City of Seattle announced in late November an arrest of eight people for the robberies targeting elderly Asian women in the South Precinct. The Seattle City Council held a forum in December to discuss ways to prevent these crimes. The Police Department increased patrols and conducted undercover surveillance, which eventually led to the arrests.

If you have questions about safety prevention or any other issue related to life as an older adult, call the Healthy Aging Partnership's free and confidential information and assistance line at 1-844-348-KING (1-844-348-5464). HAP is generously supported by its partner agencies.