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Tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of an attack in public

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By Jenny Hartley

Self-defense manuals will tell you that a victim is never at fault in an attack – 100 percent of the blame lies with the perpetrator.

But what would you do if you were attacked in public? Have you thought about your safety in a store parking lot?

Lancaster Police Department Capt. Harlean Howard suggests several tips that will help keep you safer at local stores and parking lots.

- Don't flash that cash. This will only attract attention. Don't carry large amounts of money when you're shopping – take only what you need. That goes for credit cards, too. Use only one credit card at a time, and only take that one with you.

- Record the numbers of your credit cards and the telephone numbers of the credit card companies and stash them away at home so you can easily cancel your cards if they are stolen.

- When you're coming out of a store, look around and be aware of your surroundings.

- If someone grabs your purse, it's best just to let it go, Howard said. The purse and its contents can be replaced – you can't.

- Make a scene. Holler, scream, anything you can do to attract attention.

- Don't waste time getting into your car and driving out of the parking lot. Don't cross things off your to-do list, talk on your cell phone or clean out your purse. Pausing in the parking lot makes you an easier target for the random purse snatcher or attacker.

"The best thing to do is have your keys ready, lock your doors and just go," Howard said. "Be ready to roll."

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or 283-1151