On Guard

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"The most important thing is to be aware of your surroundings, knowing if someone is behind you, beside you," said Dep. John Vancore from the Eaton County sheriff's department.

"You should never let your guard down, especially if you're alone and in a public place like a parking lot.

"Parking lots offer natural places for bad guys to hide, when you walk out into a parking lot, you don't know who belongs there, who doesn't belong there," he said.

Janice Courter from Grand Ledge was grocery shopping at the Meijer on Saginaw when her purse was stolen. She said it happened while she was looking away for just a split second.

"It was really scary, and I was angry too," Courter said.

Deputy Vancore said a powerful tool of protection can be eye contact.

"If someone has bad intentions, they don't want to be identified, so simply making eye contact with someone a lot of times is enough to scare them off to an easier target," he said.

Another potentially dangerous place: the side of a road.

"It can be a really lonely feeling, even during the day," said Dep. Sharon Worthington of the Clinton County sheriff’s office. She said the most important thing to do is call the police.

If you don't have a cell phone or reception is poor and someone does stop stay in your vehicle and ask them to call or find the police.

Dep. Worthington also said women traveling alone should avoid rest areas.

Both deputies said it's best to stay in groups, especially when you're in a bar or at a party. The most important advice: always trust your instincts.

"If you get a feeling in your stomach that something's not right, pay attention to that feeling," Vancore said.