Are Women Safe in Silt?

Peggy Tibbetts: Please welcome my guest today. She is an author, artist, musician, dog lover, and my dear friend, Ann Ramsey. Ann shares her story with my readers about her encounter with a strange man with a knife at River Park this week. This is Ann and her dog Honey:

Here is Ann’s story:

Hello all my Silt River/Dog Park friends,

This past Tuesday (August 3rd) around 7 pm, I had an experience at the park that I feel I should share with you. As many of you know, Honey and I walk “laps” at the park for exercise and relaxation, which takes us about an hour or so to complete. By time we were finishing our fourth round Tuesday evening, the park had emptied out, leaving Honey and I there by ourselves. As I came out of the trees by the pond, I saw a man coming towards me from the parking lot area. The first thing I noticed was something large on his right side.  My first thought was that it was a holster/gun, and since he was wearing dark clothing, I immediately thought “Oh, this is a policeman.”  But as he got closer, I realized he wasn’t wearing a uniform, just a dark t-shirt and jeans, so my next thought was that it must be a plain clothes police officer. By the time he was near me, I realized it wasn’t a holster, but a large knife (approximately 8″ long) in a leather sheath.

I didn’t react, but greeted him nonchalantly while Honey barked at him.  This man was a middle-age Caucasian, average build and height, balding with brown hair around the edges, clean cut and spoke fluent English. My guard was up, so I intuitively avoided making eye contact, but did get a good look at his sandals. They were tan with woven leather strips across the top of his foot and looked new.

He sat down on the edge of the tree that fell last month by the pond and tried to pet Honey.  In her usual timid style, she wouldn’t get near him, but barked and ran around him.  I told the man that she was just shy.  He was pleasant enough, but still on a deep intuitive/gut level I felt alarmed and very uncomfortable. Our conversation was brief (2 or 3 minutes), then I told Honey to come and said “Have a nice walk” to the man.  He got up and headed towards the trees and I put Honey on her leash and headed for my car. When I got to the parking lot, I looked around for his car. I was going to get his license plate number and see what kind of car he was driving.  But there was no car. My car was the only car in the parking lot. Apparently he was on foot. That was really disconcerting, to say the least.

The next day, I went to the Silt police station to report the incident. The officer I talked to was very dismissive and basically didn’t want to hear about it.  While I was trying to tell him what had happened, he interjected “Where are we going with all this?”  He never asked for a description or anything. And at the end of my story, he asked me, “Well, were you threatened?”  I said no.  But in retrospect, just the appearance of a man wearing a large knife on his belt, in conjunction with him being on foot, is threatening to any female alone in the park. And a Cocker Spaniel isn’t exactly a big guard dog either.

I used to love going to the park when there was no one there, just for the peace and solitude of it. But now, because this guy was on foot, I don’t have the courage to go there at all.  So I haven’t been back since then and really miss it (which is an understatement).  Honey can’t figure out what’s going on.  I can tell she’s depressed not having her daily walks/swims at the park. I’ve been taking her different places, but it’s not the same.

I’ve been going to the River/Dog Park for 10 years, so this is a real adjustment for me. I feel like I have lost “a friend” and a safe haven close by to unwind and de-stress.  So if anyone wants to meet Honey and me to walk through the park, let me know.  Just call or email me when you’re going and we’ll join you. Thanks!

Sincerely,

Ann & Honey

Back to Peggy:

Of course the important thing is nothing happened. Ann and Honey are safe. Maybe the stranger and his knife were just out for an evening stroll on County Rd 311. Or maybe Ann avoided a carjacking by getting the hell out of there. We’ll never know. I checked the ordinances and it’s illegal to have an 8-inch knife in a public place if it’s concealed. The stranger’s knife was plainly visible so he wasn’t breaking the law. Just because it was visible doesn’t mean he couldn’t use it as a weapon.

We’re a tight-knit group at River Park. People like Ann and me, and others who go there daily, know instinctively when something—or someone—is suspicious. What’s so suspicious about a stranger in the park with a knife? Well, for one thing Rifle police captured an escaped convict in the early morning hours on August 1, just two days before. Two other escaped convicts are still at large.

The police officer’s response to Ann is distressing on so many levels. He didn’t even offer to let her fill out an incident report. If there’s another incident at the park involving a stranger, how will they conduct a proper investigation if they don’t keep any record of unusual activity? I, too, have experienced the same dismissive attitude from Silt PD when my neighbor was harassing me.

With my two big dogs, a home surveillance system, pepper spray, and a cellphone with a camera (never leave home without it), I feel pretty safe. Speaking for Ann and me, and any other woman who lives alone or ventures out alone in Silt, we don’t expect the police to protect us 24/7. We do expect our concerns about suspicious activity to be taken seriously. We want to be treated with respect. If we don’t feel comfortable talking to the police how can we truly be safe?

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