A class of about 12 local women gathered at Crestwood Elementary School Saturday morning in Springfield to take a women's self defense class. In light of the series of unsolved assaults that have been occurring in the Springfield area since September, Frank Cresswell — president of C&J Security Corp. and a retired FCPD police officer — said he thought it was important to conduct a class in the Franconia District.
FCPD Public Information Officer Lucy Caldwell confirmed that FCPD didn't pay C&J Security and the class was offered free of charge to the community. Caldwell said Cresswell wanted to offer the class specifically in the Franconia District because of the series of reported assaults.
"I heard about the assaults, and I'm just afraid this will escalate," Cresswell told Patch Saturday. "I know about the department having cuts, so I volunteered my services along with my other self-defense instructors."
The participants were first briefed on safety tips such as being aware of their surroundings, having a plan of action and having a survival mindset.
C&J Security told the women they have to get out of the mindset that someone else is their protector, such as family members or a spouse. Instead, they need to get it in their heads that they can protect themselves using defense techniques; personal weapons such as their hands, feet, knees and elbows; or environmental weapons such as keys, an ink pen or their purse or handbag.
Franconia resident Jill G. said she signed up for the class for self protection, and the recent assaults were a definite motivator for being able to protect herself.
"I signed up for self confidence and self protection and to learn how to defend myself," she said. "My routine hasn't changed since the assaults, but I am more aware of my surroundings and this class is great, and I recommend it to anyone."
C&J Security offered these self-defense tips during class:
- Have a survival mindset: "I will do whatever it takes to survive."
- Be aware and have a plan of action: Don't be paranoid, but be aware of your surroundings.
- Use your voice: Get loud, and say "no" or "stay back" in an attempt to get the attention of others.
- If your mind or your instincts tell you something is wrong, pay attention to that gut instinct.
Cresswell and his instructors directed the women through defense techniques in the school's gym, demonstrating how to get into alert and fighting stances and distance themselves from attackers.
Since early September, FCPD has received 23 reports of simple assaults mainly in a concentrated area of Springfield. At the recent community meeting about the assaults, Captain Jim Baumstark told residents that the department is not sure if they're looking for one suspect or more, due to the varying descriptions the victims have provided.
At the community meeting, Crime Prevention Officer Jim Reid provided these tips on personal safety — similar to some of the tips emphasized Saturday:
- Plan and think ahead: "We're not talking about making you paranoid or having you stay in your house afraid to come out. Be aware of your surroundings," he said.
- Be a good witness: Try to look at the suspect's face if you can and observe and report it to the police only. Reid says do not attempt to apprehend a suspect yourself.
- Walk with confidence: Reid said criminals usually target victims who look weak or unaware of surroundings. He said walk with proper posture that says you know where you're going. Avoid texting while walking in order to pay attention to where you are.
- Use the buddy system.
- Report immediately: Call 9-1-1 or (703) 691-2131 if you see anything suspicious.
- Be cautious when carrying a weapon (firearm, mace, taser, etc.): "Any weapons that you carry can potentially be used on you."
If attacked, Reid said "create distance between yourself and the suspect. Make noise as well because criminals will want to go undetected."
Baumstark explained that these incidents are not considered sexual assaults because there is no evidence that the suspect(s) is getting any sexual gratification. The incidents are categorized as simple assaults according to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Baumstark said that once caught, the suspect could face up to one year in prison and $2,500 in fines for each assault.
To see a short self-defense demonstration, click on the video provided above.