EDGEWOOD — Gun rights, drugs and protecting oneself against assailants were among the issues discussed Thursday evening in Edgewood when Effingham County Sheriff John Monnet addressed staying safe.
"What are you afraid of? Why are you here?" he asked at the beginning of the informal meeting hosted at the Edgewood Christina Dank's Center. "If we knew what traveled through Effingham on our interstates ..."
Monnet spoke of the dangers expressways can bring to small communities, such as serial killers and murderers on the lam. He even had a personal story about a Missouri murderer apprehended on his watch following a traffic stop.
Monnet also touched on staying safe when leaving dark areas at night. He gave the small crowd tips on how to use keys and other items someone carries on them as weapons if necessary.
"You don't know what's out there," he said. "We don't realize what could happen."
Monnet has stood at the entrances of Walmart and frequently observed shoppers scratching their heads, trying to remember where they parked. Some of them use the panic button on their key fob to set off the car's lights and alarm so they can locate it.
"Everyone knows where you're going," Monnet said, adding that this can make one easier to kidnap. "Remember where you parked."
He carries a kubaton on his key chain, a 4-inch stick that, should he ever need to defend himself, he could hold while swinging his keys at his attacker. He recommends the item to anyone looking to protecting themselves.
"Don't be worried about fighting fair — you're fighting for your life," he said.
An audience member asked what could be done to help today's children avoid drugs and violence. "This drug thing has gotten so out of hand," she said.
The sheriff named a few factors he believes may be to blame, including an increase to single-parent homes, saying that with parents out of the home, children are free to watch violent television. Technology, the Internet and cellphones, he added, also limit children's face-to-face interaction.
Monnet believes it's only a matter of time until police officers will be necessary in every school.
"I think it's going to come to that, and I'm sorry to say it," Monnet said.
However, Monnet noted officers in schools have more benefits than just protecting the students and staff. Children get to see police officers as real people and not someone to be afraid of without a reason, he said. This makes children more comfortable talking to authorities when they have information on an illegal activity.
"We've got to get to the kids when they're young," the sheriff said.
When asked about his stance on gun rights, Monnet explained how everyone had a gun when he was growing up. It's only now that legislators and politicians want to take that right away.
"Now they want to say you can't have this," he said. "Why should good people suffer?"
Jill Boone asked how drivers could be sure the person trying to pull them over is truly an officer of the law, after hearing of impersonators stopping citizens to harm them.
Monnet said a ticket could not be issued to a driver who drove safely and legally to a well-lit location to stop for the police officer.
"If you ever have some hesitation or doubt," get to a safer place before stopping, he said.
Nicole Dominique can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.