“We don’t receive a lot of calls for that, thank God, in terms of attempted abduction or abduction itself. Obviously, when we do, we are very aggressive and proactive in responding to it,” Harmon said. “And there are a lot of dynamics that are involved with that. Sometimes, things can come over the scanner that are skewed and appear on the surface that it is an abduction, but sometimes, it ends up being a custodial issue. Regardless, we are attentive with it, and we haven’t had a lot, thankfully.”
Harmon said that after seeing several Facebook posts of possible abduction situations, he reported that he followed up with Martinsburg Chief of Police George Swartwood.
“It doesn’t appear to be anything that I can validate at this time, in regard to a trend or a stalker of sorts,” Harmon said. “You hear of situations where women are followed at Walmart or somewhere else, but there is a lot that we can do to safeguard ourselves.”
Before Harmon took office, he taught situational awareness and safety as one’s own personal responsibility.
“You can’t just pull into Walmart and blindly walk up to the front door, get your groceries, come back to the car and go home. We don’t live in that world. Pay attention to surroundings. If there is a big point that I can make with the public, it would be situational awareness. Keep your head on a swivel,” Harmon said.
He advised that if you see something suspicious, report it and have your phone in hand and talk to a friend or a family member and have them on the phone if you feel like you are in a situation that is suspicious, and you suspect someone is following you.
“If you definitely can confirm or correlate that, aside from our own perception or suspicion that, ‘Yes, this is bad situation. I am definitely being followed,’ through correlation, you see the same person separated by time and space — that is how we define correlation. If you see that occur, get on the phone, call 911 or a close sibling or family member and make sure that you have an open-line contact with somebody,” Harmon said. “When it comes to children, it is important to know where they are and who they are with, a phone number to contact or that your children can contact.”
He said it is important to realize that “seconds matter” and to not leave a child anywhere in a public for even seconds.
“We need to continuously be vigilant and validate who we interact with. Almost all the kids have phones now, so make sure they have the information readily available so they can do something as a quick alert, text or a phone call and leave an open line if they find themselves in danger,” Harmon said.
Additionally, in the discussion of safety, he said that the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department has a child’s ID program. He said that even his daughters are enrolled.
“You can stop by the office and request that. What it does is it takes a photograph of your child, and it takes a fingerprint of your child. We advocate that to be done every three years. We grow and change, and so, we advocate that. It is a free service. It is a service provided to the public that we want them to take advantage of. The worst thing is to need it and not have it,” Harmon explained. “In cases of adults, in low light areas, park under streetlights and have your keys in your hand. They can be used. Be aware of your surroundings as an adult. It is also important to communicate your plan with others. As simple as that sounds, it could mean all of the difference in the world.”
Aside from possible abductions, shootings and the other criminal elements that Harmon explained take place at no fault of our own, being vigilant is the advice he extended to everyday life for potentially dangerous situations.
“It is one of those things where we have to be vigilant and where we have to take our own personal responsibility. As much as we love for a police officer to be there at a time of need, right when we need them, it is just not a practical mindset. We do need to take personal responsibility. That would be my biggest piece of advice for the public, not only for themselves but for their children,” Harmon said. “Pay attention out there. Keep your head on a swivel.”