All posts by Ben Boltinghouse

Shopping by Classified Ads? Think Safety

If you submitted your tax return early, have some extra money in your pocket, and want to replace your couch or TV,  looking through the classified ads or going on a site like Craigslist can be an easy and affordable way to make some new additions to your furniture or entertainment options.

After you’ve gotten in touch with the seller and  agreed on a price, however, setting up a place to meet and complete the purchase can be a dangerous situation if you’re not careful. Use the following tips to help ensure that you’re as safe as possible when setting up an exchange.

Meet in public places. Whenever possible, set up the exchanges in a public place, as opposed to meeting at someone’s house. You’re much safer in a busy restaurant or parking lot than at a stranger’s house.

Don’t go alone. You should always bring someone else with you when you meet to exchange, especially if you’re not able to meet in public. At the absolute minimum, make sure a friend or family member knows where you’re going and how long you should be.

Don’t bring any extra cash. Carry with you only the exact amount of money you’ve agreed upon with the seller. There’s no need to risk having anything else taken if things go poorly.

Meet during the day. On top of meeting out in public, meeting when it’s light out is another way to ensure you stay as safe as possible.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a sergeant with Parkland’s Department of Public Safety.]

Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.

 

Our message this week:  National Stalking Awareness Month.

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January is National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to focus on a crime that affected 7.5 million victims in one year.

The theme, “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.”, challenges the nation to fight this dangerous crime by learning more about it.

Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, the U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia, yet many victims and criminal justice professionals underestimate its seriousness and impact. In one of five cases, stalkers use weapons to harm or threaten victims, and stalking is one of the significant risk factors for femicide (homicide of women) in abusive relationships.

Victims suffer anxiety, social dysfunction, and severe depression at much higher rates than the general population, and many lose time from work or have to move as a result of their victimization.

Stalking is difficult to recognize, investigate, and prosecute. Unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily identifiable crime but a series of acts, a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause that person fear. Stalking may take many forms, such as assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, or animal abuse, as well as unwanted cards, calls, gifts, or visits. One in four victims reports that the stalker uses technology, such as computers, global positioning system devices, or hidden cameras, to track the victim’s daily activities.

Stalkers fit no standard psychological profile, and many stalkers follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another, making it difficult for authorities to investigate and prosecute their crimes. Communities that understand stalking, however, can support victims and combat the crime.

As we work more to raise awareness and recognition of stalking, we have a better chance to protect victims and prevent tragedies. If you or someone you know is a victim of stalking, please don’t hesitate to approach any of the Parkland College police officers or call us at 217/351-2369.

For further information on this issue, please visit: stalkingawarenessmonth.org/about

 

This article was originally  posted in January 2017.

 

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Holiday Fire Prevention Tips

The holiday season is the most dangerous time of the year for house fires, whether it’s cooking in an overly cluttered kitchen, lighting too many candles around the home, or stringing up old or damaged holiday lights. Consider the following tips from the U.S. Fire Administration on how to prevent house fires during the holidays.

  • Keep candles 12 inches away from things that can burn, and consider using flameless battery-operated candles.
  • Place candles in a sturdy candleholder that will not tip over, and never leave a burning candle alone.
  • Throw away holiday light strands with frayed or pinched wires, and turn off all your holiday lights before going to bed or leaving your home.
  • Water your Christmas tree every day, as a dry tree can very easily catch fire. Get rid of your Christmas tree soon after Christmas or whenever it dries out.

We hope you have a safe and refreshing holiday break!

 

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

World AIDS Day 2017

For this week’s blog post, we’ll be discussing an intersection between Public Health and Public Safety as we observe World AIDS Day today, December 1.

First, some fast facts about HIV:

  • At the end of 2014, the most recent year for which such data are available, an estimated 1,107,700 adults and adolescents were living with HIV.
  • Of those, an estimated 166,000 (15%) had not been diagnosed.
  • The number of new HIV diagnoses fell 19% from 2005 to 2014. Because HIV testing has remained stable or increased in recent years, this decrease in diagnoses suggests a true decline in new infections.

Although undeniable progress has been made in the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS, the job isn’t finished; plenty more work has to be done, both domestically and abroad. If you’d like to get involved, here are ideas on how to help:

  • Reach out to a local HIV  service organization. Many organizations have support groups for people living with HIV and their loved ones. To find a local HIV/AIDS service organization near you, use HIV.gov’s HIV Testing Sites & Care Services Locator.
  • Get involved in your community. To get involved in HIV and AIDS prevention, care, and advocacy, contact your local HIV service organizations and/or community health department. These groups can help identify local volunteer opportunities. You can also visit the sites listed below to search HIV-related volunteer opportunities.
  • Engage with others. Social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat offer opportunities to connect with others who are interested and involved in HIV issues.

***This post was compiled using resources from hiv.gov and the CDC.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Home Security for the Holidays

Starting with Thanksgiving, the holiday season is typically a time when police departments see an uptick in burglary and theft reports.  Criminals know that many homes will be unoccupied for prolonged periods of time as people are away visiting family, making it a prime opportunity to break in.

Whether you’re headed out of town or just over to a family member or friend’s house for a few hours, here are a few ideas to keep your belongings safe while you’re away:

  • Secure all valuables in a safe; this includes credit cards, jewelry, cash, etc. While you don’t need a bank vault installed in your home, there are plenty of smaller safes that can be secured to the floor via screws or bolts that are perfectly suitable (if you rent, check with your landlord first).
  • Jot down the serial numbers of your consumer electronics. Save them in a safe space or on a secure cloud file. These will help the police recover your items if they’re stolen and someone tries to sell them at a pawn shop.
  • If you own your home, or your landlord will allow you to make modifications, consider installing security cameras and ample exterior lighting. Ensure that all exterior doors have both a handle lock as well as a deadbolt.
  • When ordering gifts online, consider being discreet as you dispose of the boxes they come in. A massive pile of cardboard next to your house can indicate a worthwhile break-in to an unscrupulous passerby. Break down the boxes as much as possible and don’t put them out until the evening before your recycling gets picked up.

If you do come home and find that you’ve been broken into, call the police immediately and don’t go inside if you have any suspicion that the burglar might still be present.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]