Self defense experts share skills for personal safety in vehicles

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COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - Area residents are being warned to stay aware when getting in and out of their vehicles.

Two separate crimes in the community Monday highlight the need to have a plan if something threatening happens when you head to your car.

Monday morning, a woman was walking into her car outside a bank near University Drive and Texas Avenue when a man came into her vehicle as it was unlocked. That man, Andrew Powell, was arrested for criminal trespassing after claiming the vehicle was his.

In a separate case earlier on Monday, Bryan police said Ben Arevalo held his ex-girlfriend at gunpoint and forced her into her car as she was heading to work. Police said he'd been hiding in the bushes and surprised her.

It's a reminder getting in and out of your car can make you vulnerable to people who might do you harm.

“Well, first and foremost you want to be aware of your surroundings. You want to, you know, make sure you look around keep your head on a swivel as you’re walking to your vehicle," said Lt. Bobby Richardson, with the Texas A&M University Police Department. UPD and the Brazos County Sheriff's Office offer self-defense classes.

"You don't need to be a victim," said Ann Schaefer of College Station. She's taken the Brazos County Sheriff's Office's self-defense class. She said she learned a lot and encourages others to consider signing up.

"Don't be silent. Don't be silent. Scream. Whatever it takes. Carry your keys with you when you go to your car. Have your little remote. Hit the panic button. They don't want to bother you if there's noise. If you're an attraction," said Schaefer.

“Always get out of the situation and call 9-1-1. That’s what you need to do whenever you see something going on or if you fear that you’re in trouble or something," said Tracy Hamilton with the Brazos County Sheriff's Office. Hamilton teaches their self-defense course.

"As I'm walking outside of a store I'm paying attention, seeing what's going on around me," she said as she demonstrated walking in a parking lot.

"Typically I have my keys in my hands and just making sure nobody's looking at me. Nobody's following me and I open the driver side door and I'll get in and lock the door behind me," said Hamilton.

Law enforcement told KBTX the use of weapons to fight back is a personal preference.

"When it comes to weapons or any type of self-defense device the one thing you want to keep in mind is you want to be able to use it and use it in a stressful situation. So that means you have to train with it," said Richardson.

"A lot of times people think especially women you know if it's a man you want to take him down. It's not about that, you want to get away. It's just get away and give yourself some time and get some help," said Schaefer.

The self-defense courses at Texas A&M and The Brazos County Sheriff's Office are both free to attend.

Law enforcement also encourages people to stay off their phones and not be distracted when entering or exiting a vehicle.