Sexual assaults prompt concerns within community, law enforcement

Feb. 18, 2013 @ 07:07 PM

Henderson police, in response to a recent increase in carjacking incidents, have issued safety tips and the Vance County Sheriff's Office is investigating an armed kidnapping and rape.

Police indicate one of the incidents led to a sexual assault.

Police did not release any other information in an effort to protect the identity of the victim and maintain the integrity of the investigation.

The Vance County Sheriff’s Office also is investigating an incident of rape, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. The location was redacted from the report, which is dated for last Thursday. The report indicates the assailant pointed a gun at the female victim in front of two young boys. The type of firearm is undetermined.

The victim was robbed of cash, cell phone, GPS and a debit card.

Reports of the incidents, and warnings especially to women, have been the subject of discussion in the community, including Facebook posts and questions to The Dispatch.

The police offer the following tips for several everyday locations and actions. Suspicious activity should always be reported to the police at (252) 438-4141.

For homes and apartments:

• Have lights at all entrances.

• Have a wide-angle door viewer on all exterior doors.

• Have good locks on all doors and windows, and use them.

• Do not use your full name on your mailbox, in the telephone directory, or on your answering machine.

• Do not leave a schedule of your times away from home on your answering machine.

• Know which of your neighbors you can trust and depend upon in an emergency.

• Check who is at the door before opening it, and do not open the door to an unexpected visitor.

• Don’t hide extra keys in easily accessible places. Criminals will find them.

• Ask for photo identification of all repair persons. If you are suspicious, call to verify employment.

• Never give personal information to telephone solicitors.

• Consider creating a “safe room” with a separate telephone line or cellular phone, and strong locks. If someone breaks in, you can retreat there and call for help.

• Do not let strangers into your home or apartment to use the telephone. Offer to make the call for them.

• Use security bars for added security on sliding exterior doors.

For times when on the street:

• Never hitchhike. It’s not worth the risk.

• Be very careful using outside ATMs at night or in unfamiliar surroundings.

• When walking, walk in the middle of the sidewalk and walk facing oncoming traffic.

• Try not to overload yourself with packages or other items. Keep your hands as free as possible.

• Do not wear music headphones while walking or jogging.

• Do not read while walking or standing on a sidewalk.

• If you wear a purse with a shoulder strap, be prepared to let it go if snatched. Otherwise you could be knocked down and hurt.

• A good suggestion for men is to carry a second wallet containing a few dollar bills and old expired credit cards, which are normally destroyed or discarded. If confronted at knife or gun point, give the suspect the second wallet and concentrate on a good physical description to help the police in making the arrest.

• Avoid being on the street alone if you are upset or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

• If you carry a purse, carry it close to your body, preferably in front. Carry no more money or credit cards than you absolutely need.

For times when in a vehicle:

• Keep your car in good working order and the gas tank at least half full.

• When you approach your parked vehicle, visually check the area around the vehicle for any suspicious persons or activity. If you observe anything suspicious walk to where there are other people and call the police.

• Always park in visible, well-lighted areas.

• If you drive a car, attempt to avoid parking next to a larger pickup truck or van. The can be easy to hide behind.

• Have your keys ready when approaching your vehicle to reduce the time needed to enter.

• When operating your vehicle, keep the doors locked and the windows rolled up.

• Drive with all the doors locked.

• Any valuables in your car should be placed in the trunk or otherwise kept out of sight.

• Exercise extra caution when using underground and enclosed parking garages. Try not to go alone.

• When stopped at traffic lights or in traffic, allow space between you and the vehicle in front of you so you can drive away if necessary.

• If someone approaches your vehicle and attempts to enter, blow your horn to attract attention and drive away.

• Many people consider a cellular telephone to be a good investment in safety.

• Do not pick up hitchhikers.

• Do not open your window if someone approaches your vehicle to ask for directions, the time, etc. Keep the door locked.

• Never leave house keys attached to car keys at service stations or parking facilities.

• Do not stop for a stranded motorist. Instead, go to the nearest telephone booth and call the police for assistance.

• If you have a flat tire, drive on it until you reach a safe, well-lighted and well traveled area.

• If your vehicle becomes disabled and help is not immediately available, raise the hood of the vehicle (if you can safely do so), attach a handkerchief to the door handle, and then stay in the vehicle with the doors locked and the windows up. Activate your hazard or parking lights. If someone stops to assist you, ask them through the closed window to call the police.

• If you can afford to have one, take a cellular telephone with you when driving.

• Criminals sometimes stage a motor vehicle accident known as a “bump and rob.” The motorist is robbed when they exit their vehicle. If you are involved in a minor accident under suspicious circumstances, stay in your vehicle with the doors locked and the windows up and await the police. If you believe you are in possible danger, write down the license plate of the other vehicle involved in the accident and drive to a safe location to report the accident to the police.

• If you are being followed, don’t drive home. Go to the nearest police or fire station and honk your horn. Or drive to an open gas station or other business where you can safely call the police. Don’t leave your car unless you are certain you can get inside the building safely.

• Carry in your car a flashlight, fix-a-flat, maps, comfortable warm clothing, a portable fire extinguisher, first aid kit, empty gas can, white cloth to tie to door handle or antenna to signal distress and a cellular phone.

• If you are driving somewhere you are not familiar with, plan your route and check a map before you start out.