By six, I’m referring to watching your back, or your rear. Pay attention to possible threats that may be watching but don’t show themselves. If you have a funny feeling like something isn’t quite right, don’t ignore it. Don’t talk yourself out of paying attention to it. It is usually your subconscious picking up on clues that something is wrong even if your conscious mind misses them.

I once sat on a jury of an assault with intent to murder case. A little surprising as a police officer, but the defense ran out of challenges for cause to take me off of the jury. The gist of the case was this: An elderly woman leaves a well known shopping mall here near Flint and proceeds to go home. This was around the holiday time and she had bought some items and took them home with her. Unbeknownst to her a car follows her all the way to her home from the mall; approximately 6 or 7 miles away. As she is getting out and putting her items in her house, this crook, grabs her, assaults her and nearly killed her. This is a horrendous ending to a story that so many people play each and every holiday season in cities all around this country. Cars full of Christmas items and no secure way to transfer them to the house, like an enclosed garage. The truly negative part is her being accosted and nearly killed for some items that probably had no true meaning. Was there a way of her preventing what happened? Perhaps there is.

I will give the answer in the form of a suggestion to those that will be out shopping during the holidays. With the advent of various types of sport utility vehicles; many modern cars don’t have a dedicated trunk where you can secure and hide items from view. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walking back to my car from a store during early morning Black Friday sales and see car after car, full to the brim with future presents all uncovered in the back of some vehicle. If you have tinted windows in the back of the vehicle that will help a great deal. If you don’t have that, take a blanket or sheet and cover-up your items. A would be thief wouldn’t be able to tell if you have the latest electronic gadgets which would be in high demand or some Christmas trees or ornaments or something that would be significantly less important. Since they couldn’t tell and there are so many targets to choose from it might not be worth their time to play around with your vehicle and possibly get caught. If you can, park a bit out in the parking lot, not right next to the front. Yes I know this will make you have to walk further and does somewhat leave you in an isolated area. My point is that if someone is looking at you as a target and following, it would help to have some relative isolation so that you can see is someone is following you from the store. When you get to the car, glance in the back seat and make sure it is clear. I’m a police officer and usually armed, but I do this all the time.

When you drive home, glance in the rear view mirrors from time to time. Look for more than just traffic that might be going around you or how pretty you look. Look for vehicles that could be following you. Look for things significant or subtle about such a vehicle. Such as the color, make, driver and anything significant about him/her, bumper stickers, anything that may help you remember that vehicle if it’s seen again. If you do get close to home and see a vehicle that is following you, have a plan in place for what to do. Don’t panic, stay calm.

In this scenario I would offer the following suggestions: First, don’t go straight home. You wouldn’t want this person to know where you live. Even if you believe you may be safe at home, if you have an exterior garage or none at all, you leave yourself with many moments where you are extremely vulnerable. If you feel you’re being followed, keep driving down well lit and if possible crowded streets. Make several turns if possible to see if the vehicle keeps following. If they keep following, I would suggest driving straight to the police department or sheriff’s office. If you have a cellular phone you can call them from your car once you’re outside. Either way, this affords you some time while you drive to see if you are truly being followed.

I don’t wish to spread panic about the holidays and all the fun that comes with them. I offer these words as a reminder to protect yourself and watch your back. No one else will as well as you and your safety or the safety of your loved ones is your number one responsibility. Take control of what you can control. Pay attention. Be aware and always be safe.

Always Remember…you don’t have permission to Quit.

Jeffrey Washington

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