All posts by Ben Boltinghouse

10 Tips for Nighttime Walking

Whether you’re walking out to your car through the Parkland parking lots or enjoying an evening out in downtown Champaign, Urbana, or Campustown, foot travel at night carries more risks than the daytime. As starts to get nicer outside, we’ve compiled the following list of tips to help you safely reach your destination:

  1. Stay away from poorly lit areas and avoid taking shortcuts down dark alleyways or paths. Choose well-lit, heavily traveled sidewalks.
  2. If you are in an emergency situation, call 911.
  3. Whenever possible, do not walk alone at night.
  4. Be aware of places along your path that could conceal a criminal (shrubbery, buildings, recesses, etc.). Avoid these areas.
  5. Do not use headphones or talk on a cell phone while walking alone at night as this reduces your awareness of your surroundings.
  6. If you think someone is following you, make your way to a populated area and consider calling the police.
  7. Carry yourself with confidence. If confronted, shout or use a whistle to attract attention.
  8. It is risky to travel under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances. Drugs and alcohol can greatly alter your perceptions, reaction time, and judgments.
  9. Make sure to tell someone your plans and travel routes and when to expect your arrival.
  10. Wear clothing that will allow you to run if necessary. If you need to run, drop any heavy cargo you’re carrying (heavy books, packages, etc.) since these slow you down.

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

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. During this month and throughout the year, Parkland College is dedicated to supporting families and reducing the risk of child abuse and neglect.

Even if you’re not a parent, almost everyone knows or is somehow connected to children through family or friends. You don’t have to be a professional to spend time and offer appropriate affection and support to the kids in your life.

Being the best parent you can be involves taking steps to strengthen your family and finding support when you need it. Parenting is part natural and part learned; you can supplement your natural skills with questions for your family doctor, your child’s teacher, family or friends. Books, websites, and parenting classes can also be helpful for ideas on how to deal with new challenges as your child grows up. Parenting isn’t something you have to do alone. When you have the knowledge, skills, and resources you need, you can raise a happy, healthy child.

Find out more about activities and programs in your community that support parents and promote healthy families. Dial 2-1-1 from any telephone in Champaign County and you’ll be connected with trained specialists who can help refer you to the variety of assistance programs available in the area.

A comprehensive tipsheet for parents and caregivers can also be found at: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/tipsheets_2017_en.pdf

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

Cyber Safety, Part 2: Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying isn’t just a problem for adolescents; it often impacts those who have long since left high school behind. If you find yourself being bullied or harassed online, there are a few steps you can take to remedy the situation.

  1. Document all evidence of the bullying, taking screenshots or pictures of any messages, posts, or comments that are made. You should also block the person who is cyberbullying.
  2. Next, report that evidence to the online service providers. Cyberbullying often violates the terms of service established by social media sites and Internet service providers, and they can take action against the users who are abusing their sites. This not only protects you but stops others from being bullied as well.
  3. Finally, depending on the severity of the bullying, bring the evidence you have to law enforcement as well. This should definitely be done when the bullying involves threats of violence, sexually explicit messages or posts, stalking and hate crimes, or taking photos or videos of someone where they would reasonably expect privacy.

The Pew Research Center estimates that 40% of adult Internet users have personally experienced some form of online harassment. If you or someone you know is the victim of online bullying, please reach out and start the process to freedom from cyberbullying.

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

 

Cyber Safety, Part 1

For the next two weeks, we’ll be talking about cyber safety. Today’s post discusses three of the most common forms of theft and fraud that you’ll find online, and next week will be all about cyber bullying.

Phishing

Phishing is a common trick used by identity thieves to gain your personal information. This crime involves sending email or creating sites that appear to be from a legitimate company and asking you to confirm personal information such as bank account numbers, passwords, birth dates, or addresses. PayPal and eBay are two of the most common targets for phishing scams. Before adding any personal information, contact the supposed site directly to see if they have been trying to contact you. Most reputable sites will not contact you in this way.

Identity Theft

When they think of Internet safety, adults most often consider identity theft a top priority. Identity thieves can use the information they find online to drain your bank account and ruin your credit rating. In some cases, the damage caused by identity theft may even harm your future employment prospects, especially if you work in an industry that regularly does credit checks for all job applicants. Should you find yourself to be a victim of Identity theft, visit https://identitytheft.gov/ for easy instructions on how to report the crime and form a recovery plan.

Watch for Fraud

The global nature of the Internet has brought new life to scams. Some of the most common forms of Internet fraud include the following:

  • Online auctions site postings that feature nonexistent or falsely represented merchandise
  • Nigerian money offers promising large sums of cash in exchange for assistance with bank account transfers
  • Financial scams targeting consumers with poor credit who are tricked into paying upfront fees in hopes of receiving credit cards or personal loans
  • Phony sweepstakes offers asking for payment to claim a prize that doesn’t really exist

Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of on the Internet! Think critically about anything that sounds too good to be true.

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

 

April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time when we recognize and focus efforts to combat the damage that sexual violence has on our society.

Sexual violence occurs when someone is forced or coerced into unwanted sexual activity without agreeing or consenting. Reasons someone might not be able to consent include fear, being underage, having an illness or disability, or being incapacitated due to alcohol and other drugs. Consent initially can be given and then later withdrawn.

Sexual violence is a crime that comes in many forms, including forced intercourse, sexual contact or touching, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and exposure or voyeurism. Sexual violence is never the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter what the victim is wearing or doing, whether the victim has been drinking, or what type of relationship the victim has with the person who is committing the abuse.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual violence, Parkland College has a fully trained team of counselors who can help you process the situation, as well as police officers to pursue criminal charges.

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