The holiday shopping season is again upon us and, unfortunately, it is always a peak time for crimes such as home burglaries, thefts, robberies and even muggings.
Especially in these tough economic times, I want to share some valuable tips that can help prevent you from becoming the victim of a crime during the holidays, particularly since this week marks the start of our busy shopping season.
THINGS TO DO AT HOME
• Be extra cautious and lock your doors and windows at all times.
• Don’t display gifts and other valuables near windows or doorways where they can be seen.
• If you go out in the evening, leave at least one light on and the radio or television so that the house looks occupied.
• If you go out of town, get an automatic timer for your lights. Ask a neighbor or trusted friend to watch your house and perhaps park their car in your driveway from time to time.
• Contact the post office and request that your mail not be delivered during the days you will be away. Your carrier will deliver your “held” mail upon your return or you may choose to pick it up at your designated post office branch.
• Newspaper deliveries should also be placed on hold while you are away so they do not pile up and alert passersby that your house is unoccupied.
• After Christmas when the gifts have been unwrapped, break down the boxes and fold them so as the words are on the inside.
• Don’t put the boxes “as is” out on the curb for the trash collectors as this just advertises your newly acquired electronics and other valuables that are now in your home.
TIPS FOR SAFE SHOPPING
• Always stay alert to your surroundings and the people around you. Avoid areas wherein there are people “hanging around” in parking garages, parking lots, or the outside of stores. Notify the police or security personnel.
• Try to shop before dark if possible and coordinate shopping trips with a friend if you plan to be out late.
• Park your car in well-lit areas and never in dark areas, no matter how convenient the spot might be.
• Always lock your car doors and windows even if you are only gone for a few minutes. It takes a thief only seconds to steal a car.
• Keep packages and other valuables out of public view, preferably locked in the trunk. If you place recent purchases in your trunk and want to continue shopping, move your car to another area. If thieves are watching, they could very easily pry your trunk open and steal your purchases.
• Have your keys in hand when you return to your car, and always check the interior of your car before you unlock the door to get in.
• To discourage purse-snatchers, don’t overburden yourself with packages.
• Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Pay for purchases with a check or credit card whenever possible.
• Be extra careful with purses and wallets. Women should carry their purse under their arm with the strap across their body and men should keep their wallet in an inside jacket pocket and not a back trouser pocket.
• Finally, be sure to teach your children to go only to a store clerk or security guard to ask for help if they should become separated from you while in a store or shopping mall. They should never go into a parking lot alone.
I wish you and your family a safe and wonderful holiday season.
Katherine Fernandez Rundle has been the Miami-Dade State Attorney for 15 years and is a pioneer in the creation of innovative programs to help prevent crime and provide rehabilitative opportunities to eligible offenders. For information, call 305-547-0535.