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Keeping children – and adults – safe

By Staff | Aug 12, 2018

Keeping citizens safe is a top priority for law enforcement professionals of Faribault County.

The attempted attack at the I-90 rest stop outside of Blue Earth has gotten citizens talking.

And the conversation has been on the topic of personal safety and safety for neighborhood families and children.

As reported in last week’s edition of the Faribault County Register, a woman from Texas reported being assaulted near the eastbound rest area on I-90 near Blue Earth on July 27. The description of the attacker was given as a male between 5-feet-11 or 6-feet tall with a muscular build. He had numerous tattoos with one being a scorpion on his right forearm.

On Aug. 6, the Albert Lea Police Department posted an update on their Facebook page stating, “Reporting person (RP) stated that a male subject approached him near the basketball courts stating, he needed to come with him while pointing a handgun at him. RP ran towards the City Pool. Suspect drove a Silver minivan (rusted out at the bottom). Suspect described as white male, late 20s to early 30s, black hair, glasses, wearing a white T-shirt and black basketball shorts. Ongoing investigation. You can provide known information to Albert Lea Police Department.”

Concerned Wells citizen and director of the Five Sisters in Wells, Tracey Mullenbeck shared her greatest concern was that these two descriptions do not match, thus begging the question whether there are more than one suspects in the area.

“And we are preparing for Wells Kernel Days, too. It’s a lot of visitors, a lot of foot traffic, and a lot of things going on at once,” she says. “I just feel it’s important that we are all aware of each other and what’s going on.”

Both the Wells Police Department and the Blue Earth Police Department police chiefs, Tim Brenegan and Tom Fletcher, share the same tactical tips to stay safe, and to keep your children safe during the end of the summer.

Chief Fletcher says it is important to know your surroundings. If you are doing something in your normal routine, like going for a morning bike ride or run, and you notice something that you feel is not normal, take a mental note of what is different and get as many details as you can.

“If you notice a vehicle that you don’t normally see, or you see something that you feel in your gut is different, tell someone,” says Chief Fletcher. “Have a phone with you, tell your friends or family where you are going, and have an escape plan. If you’re inside, know where your exits are. If you’re outside, look for buildings or businesses you can get into to get to safety.”

Fletcher also says getting as many mental pictures as possible helps the police tremendously later on.

“Get descriptions of cars and license plate numbers, if you’re stalked or approached by a person, take note of scars, tattoos, any distinguishing features on top of their regular descriptions of height and weight and the like,” says Fletcher. “This helps us immeasurably.”

Chief Brenegan has worked along side Mullenbeck to create posters for Kernel Days to inform the community of some safety tips to keep kids safe.

The poster’s three biggest tips are to:

Trust your gut: If something doesn’t seem right to you, tell someone. Law enforcement can take it from there. If you see something, say something. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Don’t go alone: Predators look for easy targets, so bring a friend or two or four. Make sure your family and friends know where you are and check in regularly, especially if you are headed to a new location. At night, stay in well-lit areas.

Keep your chin up: Be aware of your surroundings. Find your keys before you get to your car, take a cell phone photo to know exactly what your children are wearing when you see them before they go to a friend’s house. Tell your children that adults do not ask kids for help. Directions and lost items are better left to the police.

Faribault County Sheriff Mike Gormley also says it is important to preplan if you know you are going somewhere.

“Have a cell phone with you, as well as a spare charger. Carry personal protection with you, pepper spray or other forms of self-protection, and always let someone else know where you are going,” says Gormley. “Whether it’s just for your morning run, or if you’re going to a new destination. Let someone know where you are going.”

As for children and young adults, Gormley says there are apps available that let you know where your children are.

“And it’s also important to talk to your kids about letting you know who they are with at all times, and being aware of their surroundings, and how important it is to call 9-1-1 if they need to,” says Gormley. “It is no problem if you call us with something suspicious. If you see something, say something and let us come and check it out. If it’s nothing, it’s no big deal, but if it’s something that could be harmful, you are not the one in harm’s way.”

With all of the added events going on before the start of the school year, Gormley says it is important to talk to your kids about where they are going whether it’s just to and from school, or visiting friends after school a large portion of incidents can be avoided if parents and kids do a good job of communicating with one another.

And since it is going to be the start of another school year soon enough, Sheriff Gormley shares a reminder with the community of students walking and biking to school, as well as being aware of school buses and bus stops.

“It’s just a good reminder that if you see a school bus with its lights flashing and its stop arm extended that you stop behind the bus. Don’t pass it, don’t stop right next to it. Stop behind it and wait for the stop arm to be pulled back in and lights to stop flashing. And that’s for both sides of the road. Some students cross the street when exiting their buses. We just want everyone to be safe this school season.”

If you have any questions or need more information, community members are welcome to contact the City of Wells Police at (507) 553-5824, the City of Blue Earth Police at (507) 526-5959, or the Faribault County Sheriff’s Office at (507) 526-5148.