High-tech safety devices can save lives

Sexual assaults happen every 107 seconds in US

By Eryka Washington - Investigative Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - There is a sexual assault every 107 seconds in the United States, and the number of attacks typically increases in the summer months.

But as technology improves, new crime-fighting gadgets are hitting the market.

From high-tech jewelry to low-tech alarms, a growing number of devices are designed to offer personal protection, particularly for people on the go.

Whether walking to a car in the parking lot or hitting the running trails, no one is immune from random violence, which concerns new mom Joanne Rodriguez.

"If something happened, I guess I would hope my mommy instincts would come in," she said.

Elizabeth Gordon tries to work out with friends and stay alert.

"We live in a day and age where you never know," she said.

Now, personal safety is both wearable and fashionable.

A new company called Cuff offers a line of jewelry that can send out a distress signal.

The key is an electronic module that snaps inside the various bracelets or pendants, which look nothing like a safety gizmo.

The chip pairs with the user's smartphone by Bluetooth. Squeezing it sends an alert to a circle of friends, advising them you have an emergency and providing a map pinpointing your location.

It also can provide live audio from your location. The recipient can contact you and call 911. The jewelry costs $60 and up.

Another wearable is the $20 Little Viper wristband that puts pepper spray in reach. Using the other hand to squeeze the small canister on the band, it dispenses pepper spray for a distance of about 3 feet.

"There are lots of options, and all of them have pluses and minuses as protection," said crime specialist and former police Officer Eddie Gonzalez.

With any product, such as mace or pepper spray, Gonzales said consumers should be certain how to use them. Pepper spray can cross-contaminate and you could end up in distress, as well.

"You want to create distance," he said. "That's what is going to save you, to get away from this person."

A $22 Runt Stun Gun is compact. The product claims it can disable an attacker with 20 million volts.

"The idea behind it is good," Gonzalez said. "But the negative part is you'll have to get pretty close to your attacker -- point-blank. You're going to have to make body contact with him."

Another of the many personal protection gadgets available is a minialarm. When you pull the pin on the $16 key fob from Vigilant, you sound a 130-decibel siren.

"Anything that can make noise to attract attention would help," Gonzalez said.

With any device, Gonzalez advises always keeping it in the same place.

"When a situation happens and you're fighting and trying to get away and panicking and trying to get way, reaching all over, you want to make sure it's always in the same spot," he said.

Another gadget is a hair clip from First Sign.  It contains sensors designed to detect a physical attack and send for help. In addition to sounding the alarm, the smart clip will also collect data that can help in a criminal investigation by activating your phone's GPS, camera and microphone. The clip costs $50 to $75.

When it comes to self-protection, Gonzalez says the first line of defense is to avoid putting yourself in a potentially dangerous environment.

"Be aware of your surroundings, that's the first thing," he said. "And pay attention to your feelings. We can't pick our battlefields, but we can be prepared when something happens."

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