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Department of Public Safety chief, SU student and local trainer give tips for jogger safety

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Runners should take extra precaution when running alone, particularly at night, according to Department of Public Safety.

Although Syracuse University had no reports of joggers being pestered, robbed or harassed in the past 18 months, police are urging joggers to take extra caution on and near campus.

“It’s really not an issue here, but I’m not saying it can’t be,” said Department of Public Safety Chief Bobby Maldonado said. “There’s always a possibility of victimization if you’re in unfamiliar areas or if you’re not paying attention to your surroundings.”

In early February, the New York City Police Department arrested Chanel Lewis for raping and killing Karina Vetrano while she was jogging in Howard Beach, New York, according to the New York Daily News.

Maldonado said he is familiar with the Lewis case, and although the particular crime occurred hundreds of miles away, takeaways from the incident remain, he said.

His first advice to runners is they should be aware of their surroundings and knowledgeable about their running area. Maldonado said people should run without headphones or earbuds to allow for maximum awareness.

In the university area, he said the safest place to run is on campus since it is a well-traveled, lighted area that’s patrolled frequently.

Colin Spaulding, a member of the SU Club Running Team, said he has yet to feel unsafe while running on or near campus. A member of the team since the fall of his freshman year, Spaulding said the team practices four times per week, running on campus during the week and in nearby parks off-campus over the weekends.

Spaulding, now a sophomore mechanical engineering major, runs with earbuds and typically runs at night because he has classes during the daylight hours. He said sometimes he will wear a reflective vest.

“If I’m running alone, I listen to music most of the time,” Spaulding said. “I think that as long as you’re paying attention to your surroundings, it’s safe to have music in.”

As a defense mechanism, Spaulding said he thinks he could outrun a potential predator. He added that if the person was armed, his first defense would be to start running.

Mandy Howard, a coach at Fleet Feet Sports in Syracuse, said wearing headphones or earbuds provides great danger because people will not know if someone is approaching them.

Howard said Fleet Feet, a running store, carries some safety-related devices, the first of which is Wearsafe, a wearable tag that works together with a smartphone application. When signaled, the device notifies emergency contacts that have been set up and they can hear live sound.

Another product is a flashlight, intended for dogs, that has a beeping alarm sound when triggered. Howard said parents often purchased the products during the holiday season for their kids.

“So generally it’s people who are more scared for their runners than the actual runner is,” Howard said. “Just working in the store, I certainly don’t see people rushing in to get products like that because they’re worried. They think, ‘Oh I’m in Syracuse. This is an OK town, I’ll be OK.’”

At Fleet Feet, there are multiple running groups, and Howard said she believes that running as a group lowers the chances of being approached. She said she previously ran alone at night at the West Shore Trail in Liverpool, New York, but stopped because it seemed mildly dangerous and she was often worried.

“I’m just super aware of all the sights and sounds I’m experiencing,” Howard said. “I don’t zone out. I don’t listen to music. If I’m running in a situation like that I’m running defensively, just like if I was driving.”

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