Some residents say they're keeping a heightened sense of awareness since the Nov. 19 murder of David Michael Grubbs on the Central Ashland Bike Path, but they're not scared of what's out there.
"I'm concerned about the fact that there potentially is a killer running loose in our community," said Greg Skoog of Ashland, "but it doesn't scare me. "… I don't let it control my actions."
Skoog, who has lived in Ashland more than 30 years, walks frequently around town, he said. For exercise and pleasure, one of his favorite spots to walk is Glenview Drive, a mostly secluded dirt road above Lithia Park.
• Be aware. Look up, make eye contact and be confident.
• Listen to your gut. If you feel in danger, do what you need to do to get to a safe place immediately.
• Don't display expensive jewelry, cameras or other pricey items.
• Know that alcohol and drug use can impair your judgment and that can impact your safety.
• Keep a positive mental attitude. You are strong and can be safe.
Safety when out
• Tell a friend or family member the "who, what, where and when" so that someone will know where you are and who you are with.
• Try to be out with at least one other person.
• If you are meeting with someone you don't know well, meet in a neutral place with other people around.
• Carry enough cash for a phone call and a cab if you need it.
• Never leave your drink unattended and do not let strangers get a drink for you. A predator may see that as an opportunity to drug you.
Safety when walking down the street
• Always keep your dominant hand free (the one with greater strength).
• Avoid unfit, vacant or remote places.
• Change your course of direction if you think you are being followed and head in a direction of safety or where there are other people, if possible.
• Listen to what's going on around you.
• Have your keys out of your pocket or purse before reaching your vehicle or home.
Safety Tips for Walkers and Joggers:
• Know where you are running or walking and where help can be accessed.
• Know your start and end points and the precise path you are taking before you depart.
• Tell a friend or family member where you are running or hiking, the path you expect to take and how long you expect to be.
• Always keep your eyes up — don't look at the ground. If you are passing someone, make eye contact and stay confident.
• Always walk or jog against traffic, so you can always see what is coming.
• Listen to what is going on around you — listening to music can not only be distracting, but takes away one of your most valuable defenses.
• Don't go off the beaten path. While it can be invigorating to explore off the beaten path, try to do that when you are with a friend. Don't explore unknown territory on your own. Also, parks or marked paths often will have rangers or other hikers/runners in the area, and that provides another line of security.
• Take a cellphone and whistle with you. These can be used to hail for help if you need it.
Shortly after 23-year-old Grubbs was killed, the Ashland Police Department issued a list of 23 safety tips for residents to keep in mind as police work to solve the crime. "We're not telling people what they can and can't do," said Chief Terry Holderness. "There are just a few things that we recommend for people who are going to be walking or jogging around town."
Some of the tips are common sense, the kinds of things people should practice regardless of any situation, he said. The list covers basic safety, and includes specific tips for people walking down the street out on the town, as well as tips for joggers and walkers.
Skoog, wearing earphones and walking alone, was disregarding a few of the recommended safety tips, but following a few of the others. "I'm very conscious about people coming up behind me. "… You need to have good awareness of what's going on around you," he said. "I never listen to loud music when I have these in."
Skoog's iPod, he said, was playing a book recording, and the volume was "ultra-low."
"I think it's best for everyone to focus on the positive," said David Bryant, 49, of Ashland. "We all know what's out there, but we can't dwell on it."
Bryant, who was riding his Glide Cycle on the bike path, said he hasn't changed anything about his routine, which involves riding on the bike path several times a week.
"I have that voice in the back of my head telling me what happened," Bryant said. "But it's just another voice to listen to. I don't give it any energy."
Dirk Stafford, 41, said he was surprised that his Ashland business, Rogue Valley Martial Arts, which teaches self-defense tactics, didn't see an increase in class sizes after Grubbs was murdered.
He said that in 2010, when Ashland experienced a string of sexual assaults, his class sizes increased noticeably.
"It's not a matter of being afraid, and there is no need for paranoia," he said. "Just be aware of your situation "… be smart, and pay attention to what's around you."
Stafford recommends that people who don't feel confident in there physical ability to fend off a criminal carry police-grade pepper spray or a Taser.
"The chances of lesser violent crimes are a lot greater," he said, "I always tell people to trust their instincts. If you feel weird walking down a dark alley, then turn around, go the long way."
Stafford said Rogue Valley Martial Arts is working to arrange a free self-defense class for the community, but hasn't set a date for it yet.
When it comes to violent crime, Ashland is a very safe place to live, Holderness said.
Comparing the first six months of 2010 to the first six months of 2011, the city's violent crime rate — which includes murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault — fell by 50 percent, from 18 to nine, the latest report shows.
"I grew up in Compton, where this sort of violence happened weekly," said Ebony Figures, 24, of Ashland.
Figures said she never walks or bikes with headphones in, and always pays close attention to what's going on around her when she is commuting alone.
"I walk and bike to work everyday," she said. "My friends get paranoid about me using the bike path. I just tell them there's nothing to worry about."
Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.