Our Opinion: Practice situational awareness to stay safe

Published 7:01 am Thursday, March 12, 2020

Our community of over 25,000 is a welcoming and safe community, an important attribute of the home we call Austin.

However, all communities will struggle with crime from time to time some more than most, and while Austin is normally a safe community for people to raise their families in or retire in, we do have our own problems.

This was the case earlier this week when a woman was abducted from inside the YMCA at the Austin Community Recreation Center. Of course, like everybody else we were troubled by this crime and how brazen it was carried out — in the middle of the day, in front of so many people. Luckily, the woman was found about 20 minutes later with the suspect taken into custody and charged in Mower County court.

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Despite the crime itself  and the injuries the victim sustained, this was a fortunate ending.

It should be said from the beginning that all people who visit the Rec Center or downtown Austin should know they are safe. Monday’s incident was not a random act of somebody simply walking in the doors and taking somebody. The man and the woman he abducted knew each other.

We have a wonderful law enforcement structure between the Austin Police Department and Mower County Sheriff’s Office.

Like so many who use the facility, we consider the Rec Center to be a jewel in downtown Austin and people should not be made to feel afraid of going to the Rec Center.

We want to commend those involved in bringing this situation to a safe end and that starts with the two people who made reports of the incident to Austin police. This was a first step: See something, say something. Without these two reports there is no telling what might have happened. We also want to commend the Austin Police Department for their quick action in finding the perpetrator.

However, while these acts continue to work toward making Austin safe, it doesn’t hurt to practice situational awareness

We encourage all people to be aware of their surroundings, whether that’s in a public place during the day or walking out of a building at night. Be aware of the environment you are walking into. Be prepared for anything, and if at all possible, walk in numbers rather than alone.

Put your phone down as you walk to your car and make a practice of holding your keys in your hand so you have a way to defend yourself. If you see something suspicious, please contact law enforcement. Monday’s actions proved how vital that can be.

Austin is a safe place, but taking a few extra steps can make living here even safer.