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Phoenix police urge caution for female joggers after Iowa, DC murders

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PHOENIX — After two women were found dead after going on a jog in recent weeks, Phoenix officers are encouraging female runners to take caution and be prepared when they hit the trails for a run.

Sgt. Mercedes Fortune with the Phoenix Police Department told KTAR News 92.3 FM that women who like to run should constantly be aware of their surroundings, even if it’s during the day.

“The most important thing is to remember that if you are running during the daylight, be cognizant of the route that you’re taking. Let someone know that you’re taking that route,” she said.

“Always be aware of your surroundings. Look around and make sure that there’s no one who’s obviously following you,” Fortune added.

“If there’s that same car that you’ve seen several times and they’re slowing down every time they come by you and they’re pulling ahead of you and they’re parking in a place and they’re sitting in their car and they’re watching you, those are things you really have to look for because those people are making sure if you’re paying attention as well.”

And for those women who love to listen to music or audiobooks or podcasts during a jog, Fortune advised them to listen from their phone or only keep one headphone in.

The caution from Fortune comes after the deaths of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts in Iowa and 35-year-old Wendy Martinez in Washington, D.C.

Tibbetts was found dead on Aug. 21, almost a month after she went missing. She was last seen jogging around 7:30 p.m. on July 18 and was reported missing when she did not show up for work the next day. Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, has been charged with her murder.

Martinez was attacked on Tuesday evening as she went for a run in the Logan Circle neighborhood. She was stabbed in what police said was likely a random attack, dying after she staggered into a restaurant where customers tried but failed to save her life.

A day before Martinez was killed, Iowa State University golf star Celia Barquin Arozamena was stabbed to death during a random attack while she was golfing by herself in broad daylight in Ames, Iowa.

These random attacks, Fortune said, show how important it is for women to be prepared and aware in vulnerable situations, such as jogging. Carrying defense weapons, such as pepper spray, and taking self-defense classes are good preparation tools, but awareness is the most important key.

“These things aren’t going to work if you are not aware of your surroundings,” she said. “If you’re surprised, it’s going to be hard for you to react. Always keep your eyes up and scan to see what is going on around you.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Kathy Cline and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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