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Community meeting with sheriff highlights personal safety tips

CARBONDALE, Colorado – Recent reports of men exposing themselves or hiking naked on local trails should not dissuade people from enjoying the outdoors, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario urged at a community meeting here Tuesday evening.

But anyone who feels threatened while out hiking should take proper safety precautions, immediately report anything unusual, and take evasive action if necessary, he and other sheriff’s officials also emphasized.

“This is still a safe place to live,” Vallario said in response to questions from a group of five local women who turned out for a personal safety meeting at the Carbondale Firehouse.



“Don’t let something like this interfere with what you enjoy doing,” he said. “You shouldn’t be afraid to go out and do things.

“There’s always risk with anything you do. … Just be aware of your surroundings,” Vallario said.



The Sheriff’s Office called the meeting to offer safety tips and clarify information about recent indecent exposure reports on trails including Red Hill, Rio Grande and the Lorax Trail near Carbondale.

While serious and troubling, authorities offered assurances that none of the reports to date have involved aggressive or violent behavior.

The Sheriff’s Office does continue to actively investigate a report of a naked male or males roaming the trails, Vallario said.

That has included placing “covert cameras” along some of the trails in question. A recent photo of one suspicious hiker was put out as a Crime Stoppers alert, and that person has since been identified.

“We are going to be contacting and speaking with that person,” Vallario said.

Over the past five years, the Sheriff’s Office has received 15 reports of indecent exposure in the Carbondale area, he said.

“In our world, that’s not a lot,” Vallario said. But the more recent reports have shown a pattern indicating it might be the same person, he said.

Garfield Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Tanny McGinnis offered some personal safety tips for those in attendance at the Tuesday meeting.

“Never count on anyone but yourself for your own safety,” she said. “And, if you don’t feel right in a situation, trust your instinct.”

Most important, immediately report any suspicious activity or person, not only out on trails, but anywhere that might be, McGinnis said.

“Don’t wait until something bad happens,” she said. “Let us get there and decide if it’s an emergency or if there’s a crime.”

It’s always best to hike with another person, or even a dog as an added safety precaution, McGinnis said. And, don’t be afraid to address people as they pass by, “so that they know you are aware.”

If threatened or attacked, make a scene and “be loud,” she said.

“The bigger you are, and the louder you are, the better off you’ll be,” she said. “Don’t worry about embarrassing yourself.”

jstroud@postindependent.com


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