Students find ways to protect themselves


Published: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 2:10 a.m.
With the two recent violent rapes near campus, University of Florida students should become more aware and knowledgeable about ways to protect themselves, University of Florida Police Capt. Jeff Holcomb said.
"We are trying to focus more on people being more aware of their surroundings, not walking alone at night, calling a friend if you're coming to a location from another, letting someone know where you're going and then calling when you get there to let them know you got there safely," Holcomb said.
But some students are taking the warnings a step further.
Stefanie DeLisser, a senior psychology major at UF, carries pepper spray - the same stuff law enforcement officers use in heated situations though it's not as strong.
"I feel safer when I carry my pepper spray. Maybe it's not the most stylish accessory when I go out with friends, but it makes my mom, my friends and I feel safer just knowing that it's there if I need it," DeLisser said.
Pepper spray, which is a common form of protection, can be carried easily and comes in various sizes of containers.
The spray, which can be oil-based, water-based or alcohol-based, causes the throat and eyes to burn, said UPD's Lt. Alton D. McDilda.
"It is a highly effective tool. For the most part, if you actually hit the target area, which is the face, with the spray on most people it is going to work. It's going to allow you a momentary pause, or some type of pause, to react or to get away from the suspect," McDilda said. "Your goal should be to escape and run away once the effects take place."
UPD uses the water-based "OC" spray, which stands for oleoresin capsicum, made from processing peppers and removing their oils.
The Gainesville Police Department uses an alcohol-based spray and has used it to break up numerous fights in downtown Gainesville over the past year, Cpl. Tscharna Senn said.
Senn recommends people who carry pepper spray become familiar with how to use it.
"Wherever you are going to carry it on you when you run - when you're at the mall or wherever - you need to practice taking it out and aiming it in front of you because in a high-stress situation your body does stuff that you can't control," Senn said.
As a common defense weapon, DeLisser carries her OC pepper spray on her key chain like many other students at UF.
Although DeLisser has never had to use her own OC stream spray, she said she feels safer when walking alone at night, going out downtown at night with friends, driving far distances or in areas she feels vulnerable to possible attacks.

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