Andrea LeFort: Personal Safety

Heritage Group meeting of February  20, 2020.

Constable Andrea LeFort is with the Winnipeg Police Service in the Community Resource Unit, Diversity and Crime Prevention Section.  Her specialty is “Active Shooters”.  She is a part time firearms instructor and deals with extreme violence and the use of weapons, and she “absolutely loves it”.

There are 3 keys to personal safety:

  1. Be aware of your surroundings
  2. Consider the risks associated with an area
  3. Have a plan as to what you will do

Andrea began by asking the group to identify issues in a number of photos that she flashed on the overhead: a person walking down the street, texting or talking on a phone, a woman in large sunglasses with her hair in her face (no peripheral vision), a purse wide open on the back of a chair, someone with both hands occupied.  One was of a pole wrapped in padding to prevent injury and someone with a phone walking right into it.  Apparently this was happening so often in India that poles on sidewalks are being padded to prevention injury.

Andrea then presented a series of simple but useful ways we can help to maximize our own day-to-day personal safety.

Walking Safety Tips

MabelAmber / Pixabay

  • Walk confidently, but cautiously.
    • Avoid using cellphones or other electronic devices; stay alert.
  • Create a situation that gives you options – from the alleys, small alcoves, and the street.
    • Stay alert where you might be pushed into the street or an alley by another pedestrian.
    • Thieves in stolen vehicles do not tend to follow the rules of the road; they speed, go through red lights and drive onto sidewalks. Walk with lots of sidewalk space between you and traffic so you have a better chance to get out of the way.
    • If there’s no sidewalk, walk on the street facing traffic.
  • Don’t wear flashy clothing or accessories (offenders do not want to get caught, so they pick easy, unassuming targets).
  • Keep to well travelled areas.
    • Avoid unfamiliar areas and shortcuts.  A blind alley with no obvious exit may be a tempting shortcut to your car when it is -30C.
    • Increasing safety may require decreasing convenience.
  • Know the exact address of your destination (What’s your best friend’s address?  You can probably tell the street name but what is the number?)
    • 911 must know exactly where you are (“the house with the green door” won’t cut it).
  • Have a mitigation plan.
    • If someone is too close behind you, step aside and let them pass.
    • If you feel you are being followed, change directions, enter a store or area with lots of people, walk a block or two out of the way if you have to.
  • Use the buddy system when not alone.
    • Both people walk to one car and then drive to the other car.
  • Carry a personal alarm to alert people around you of a problem.
    • Even a whistle from a Dollar store can do a good job.
    • Buy a pea-less whistle. The peas in whistles swell in the cold and may prevent the whistle from sounding.
      (check out for examples – Ed.)
    • An alarm may not prevent a crime from happening, but could stop it in action.
  • Don’t carry bear-spray (or any other object that you intend to use as a weapon against another individual) for personal protection.
    • To do so is illegal in Canada. You can be arrested and charged.
    • Bear-spray is OK in the woods for use against a four-legged animal, but not against a person.  You cannot walk in the mall with it.
  • Protect your methods of payment.
    •  Take only what you need with you.
      • Carry only small amounts of cash, or a debit card.
      • More than two credit/debit cards is too many, increasing the risk of identity theft.
      • Do not carry your Social Insurance Card with you. The only time you need your S.I.N. is at tax time and for employment purposes (and only after you get the job).
    • Put your cards in your front pant-pocket.
    • Don’t carrying “tap to pay” debit and credit cards.
      • Tapping  will save you 5 to 10 seconds over entering a PIN number.
      • Contactless cards enable many fraudulent crimes.
  • Always lock your cell phone.
    • Mobile phones hold a lot of information.
    • Most mobile phones offer excellent protection if users use a good password or fingerprint locking system.
      (In answer to a question: iPhones are very secure. If they are locked, even the police can’t retrieve info from them, not even through the cell phone company.)
  • Be on the alert for gangs.
    • Encounters with gang members are possible in all areas of Winnipeg.
    • How to recognize gang members varies.  Be wary of groups of youths wearing similar clothing (e.g. brands, hats, tattoos, bandanas, sports teams).
    • Most law abiding citizens don’t have “f—- the police”, for example, tattooed on their faces.
    • Graffiti may be an indicator of turf.  If you have any in your neighbourhood, have the graffiti removed.  Call 311 and someone will be dispatched to cover it up.
    • Be careful when encountering a group of young females; females can be violent too.
  • Don’t feel pressured to give to panhandlers.
    • Social agencies are available to provide what most panhandlers urgently need.
    • Don’t swear or be abusive; a polite, “No”, usually works.
    • Don’t pause to look in your wallet or purse.
    • Walk and talk confidently.

Other Safety Tips

Free-Photos / Pixabay

  • Use Transit wisely.
    • Choose well-lit busy bus stops.
    • Sit near the bus driver.
    • Know the bus routes and schedules.
    • Ask bus drivers for help.
    • Use “request stop” feature; the driver will drop you off between stops.
    • Report any abuse or harassment of the driver.
  • Practice vehicle safety.
    • Always park in well-lit spots.
    • Do not exit your vehicle around suspicious people.
    • Carry your keys in your hand.
    • NEVER leave valuables in your vehicle.
      • Don’t leave anything that you don’t want stolen (e.g. garage door opener).
      • Some people leave their vehicles empty and unlocked.
  • Watch out for people high on meth (methamphetamine, a potent central nervous system stimulant).
    • There is a psychedelic aspect and paranoia.
    • Something that has no monetary value to us can seem extremely valuable to someone high on meth.  For example, the foil on the inside of a chip bag inside a vehicle can appear to be gold.
    • With this drug, behaviour is completely  unpredictable.
  • mrganso / Pixabay

    Use Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) wisely.

    • Don’t count the money you withdraw from an ATM.
    • Be aware of people around you.
  • If you are victim of a robbery, COOPERATE!
    • Your life and personal safety are more important than property.

Be Proactive

  • Call 911.
  • Report damage to persons or property, any crime in progress, any medical emergency.
    • Stay on the line, stay calm, explain the emergency, give the address and telephone number (this automatically displays to the operator).
    • If the incident involves a vehicle, record the plate number and any unusual marks (e.g. rust, dents, different colour).
  • Be aware of Winnipeg E-Watch (
    • A service through the Winnipeg Police Website that posts recent break-and-enter and stolen vehicle reports by neighbourhood.
  • Talk to one another and share info about your neighbourhood/workplace.
    • The cheapest crime prevention method is communication!
    • Be nice to everyone, but have a plan in place.

Bottom line

Personal safety is something we can all take steps to promote. Often the key is simply being aware of our surroundings, exercising common sense, and not taking unnecessary risks.

Many thanks to Andrea for an awesome presentation that went a long way to hammering that home for us.

Categories: All, Guest Speakers

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