JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Some women in Region 8 are on edge tonight after reports of sexual assaults here in Jonesboro over the past year. Just this week, a woman disappeared just across the river in Tennessee. Women have good reason to fear when hearing stories like these.
A certain amount of fear is healthy. It makes you realize that bad things do happen and you need to not take chances. But going to the Internet and believing every e-mail that you get is not. And there's plenty of misinformation out there...
Scan a headline from Topix and you'll find misinformation like this: "The rapist running around Jonesboro."
"The rumor mill doesn't help anybody," said Jonesboro Police Chief Mike Yates. "If you know something suspect something that's important."
It's the hot topic. An investigation by Jonesboro Police into several sexual assaults-- not rape. Detective Lyle Waterworth is working the investigation.
"I think there's some people that want to believe that it's worse than what it is and I'm not downplaying it in anyway," said Det. Waterworth. "Not at all... because the people that have been injured in this, they have been injured. But, it's not as huge as what the Internet is making it."
Instead of fueling fear, Det. Waterworth says he hopes everyone--especially women--think about how they can keep from becoming a victim. Many times it starts with simple things right outside your home. First identify problem areas.
"Hedges. I'm not really a tall guy," said Det. Waterworth. "But, right here.. at dark with the way the contour of the hedges... it would be hard for me to be seen. If these were maybe lopped off four or five inches and squared away. Get the runners off. It would give me an outline. Give me more of a silhouette. For your neighbors to see. For cars, driving by to see and for you to look out and see."
Light is everything. Installing a motion light here would help, and if you have them--make sure they work.
"The more that people can see the front of the house..the more likely they are to be seen as they're coming to the front of the house," said Det. Waterworth.
Darkness brings its own set of challenges. Women have long been told to stay away from darkened alleys. It's just common sense. But, its when we let our guard down that we make ourselves vulnerable, vulnerable to attack..vulnerable to assault. The investigation into sexual assault cases in Jonesboro some similarities... But when it comes to victims...
"We have multiple ages. We have different races. It's different locations. Different demographics, where they work, what they do for fun. And that's the part of what we're digging into."
It's that false sense of security that could lead to assault. Whenever possible at night you should always travel with a friend.
If you have to go somewhere by yourself at night, either to the store or to a restaurant to meet friends, be aware of your surroundings. Walk with your head up, keys out and with an air of confidence. It makes you less vulnerable. Look around parked cars, bushes and trash cans and don't dawdle.
Keep your gas tank as least half full. Always lock your car doors--even if you think you're coming right back. If you think you're being followed, drive to a public place. If your car breaks down, turn on your flashers and wait inside your car with the doors locked.
"This house has a security door... But it doesn't appear that the security door is secure."
Simple things that can make a big difference.
"Keep your trash can at the front of the house," said Det. Waterworth. "When it's moved, it makes a noise that you can hear. If you have high windows, someone could move the trash can and use the trash can as a ladder."
Det. Waterworth says arming yourself with knowledge and using locks, lights and safety devices can reduce your chances.
"So it's important to know the facts. Know that the Jonesboro Police Department is doing everything it can to prevent another one from happening. And if it is one person, to catch the one person, or if it is multiple people, to catch all of them and seek prosecution."
If you have a young driver at home--in my case a teenager--make sure you talk about this. Always, always stay in your car and call for help. Teenagers don't often know that someone offering them a ride or help could harm them. Thank the stranger for stopping and tell them that help is on the way, or ask them to call the police, if they want to help. Good Samaritans are out there--but we need to be very careful who we trust in situations where we're vulnerable--especially at night.