The Holidays can be a wonderful time of year year for most bringing cheer, holiday parties and good times. However, the holidays bring burglary, larceny, scams, internet scams and credit card fraud. There are record numbers of people out of work and some communities are seeing a significant rise in drug use. Heroin is a major problem in my area of Cincinnati and Northern KY. Unfortunately these people turn to crime to fund their habits or provide for their own.
Protecting Your Home
One of the best things you can do to protect your home is to get a home alarm system. Alarm systems along with the yard signs and window stickers lets burglars know to choose another home. I have also put up “No Trespassing” & “No Soliciting” signs to keep the scammers away from my property. Security cameras are also a great idea; no criminals want to be on camera anywhere. Just having and alarm system is not enough; you have to use it! Set your alarms every time you leave and even when your home. Make sure all your windows & doors are locked and shades drawn when home or away. Don’t take your safety for granted because you live in a low crime area; crime can happen anywhere. Do not leave valuables or purses in plain view of windows or doors. In my city, people have opened doors or windows to grab valuables quickly and leave. This happens even when residents are home in the middle of the day. Porch lights or motion sensor lights are a great idea. Criminals like to work in darkness; don’t make it easier for them! Criminals and scammers take advantage of the the holidays spirit to prey on the generous and unsuspecting. Don’t open the door until you are sure it is okay. Even then, you don’t need to answer. I have told people “No Thank You” or “Get Lost” through a closed door. Call the police if you feel someone is scamming or scoping out the neighborhood homes. Here’s a good video by self defense instructor Massad Ayoob on how to deal with strangers at your door (Don’t Answer The Door). Reporting suspicious activity is one of the best ways we can aid the police to prevent crime and identify criminals. Having a firearm in the home is your last line of defense in my opinion. It’s not for everyone but if you do; make sure you know how to use it as well as knowing the use of deadly force laws for your state.
It’s never a good idea to leave valuables in your vehicle; there are junkies out there that will break your window for some spare change! Do not leave any valuables in your passenger compartment, even if you’re parked in your driveway. Don’t leave coats/clothing, GPS, phone, change, gift cards, wallets, purses, firearms or any personal identifying information in your vehicle. Putting these items under seats or in your glove compartment is not a solution; put them in your trunk if you have to. One of the biggest mistakes people make is leaving multiple chargers plugged in telling a criminal you put the electronics in the glove compartment or center console. Try to park under street lights or as close to your home as possible. And lastly, always check your back seat before getting in your car.
Parking Lots & Garages
Parking lots and parking garages are areas to be very mindful of. Be careful of scammers that stage accidents. The scammers wait for a victim to back out of a space or turn a corner then get purposely hit to claim medical damages. The scammers could be on foot or in a vehicle. Do not park next to vans or cars with dark tinted windows. Park in well lit areas that allow you to see the area around your car. Don’t leave your car running unoccupied with children in the car. Be aware of your surroundings, scan the parking area for potential threats. Make sure to remember exactly where you parked. Do not approach your vehicle if there are potential threats around it. Have your keys in your hand before you get to your car. Something we see a lot of in my area are people begging for money in parking lots with the terrible stories about “a sick relative that they just need $10 in gas money to go see before they die”. Do not give them the time of day! I usually call store security or the police to alert them. If they’re there begging for money; they will most certainly break into cars or take advantage of a door left open. And lastly; do not leave packages in your back seat; it’s likely you will return to a broken window and no packages.
I try to predict what people are going to do when they are driving based on their body language. You’d be surprised how well this works. My son laughs when I tell him to watch this car or that car; he knows someone is about to do something stupid. At stop lights never stop directly behind other vehicles; leave yourself enough space to get out in the case of trouble. While stopped, be aware or your surroundings. Use mirrors and look around for any potential threats. I like to make eye contact with people for an instant to let them know I’m aware of them. Do not get involved with your smartphone, facebook, texting, stuffing your face with food or fixing your makeup. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you get into an accident; there is no need to leave your vehicle until the police come unless you feel the situation is safe and can be resolved quickly. This is a personal decision, but in the interest of security, trust instincts.
Try to shop with and a companion; groups of people are less appealing to criminals. For women I would suggest carrying a small purse or even a wallet with only the essentials for shopping. By not carrying a purse it frees up your hands and you won’t have to lug that purse around all day. Some women may use their purse to conceal a firearm. I applaud the carrying of a firearm but I don’t like the idea of it being in a purse; It’s much better concealed on your person. All we really need is a drivers license, credit card and cash. I don’t think checkbooks are are a good idea because they contain bank account, routing numbers and personal information. A debit card acts the same way as a check nowadays and takes a lot less time at checkout with more security. Leave the checkbooks at home! Do not carry passports, social security cards, pin numbers, or account information. All I carry in my wallet is my drivers license, debit card, grocery plus card and my Concealed Deadly Weapons Permit. I very rarely carry cash because I think its unnecessary (most of the time) and very dirty; but when I do carry cash it goes in my front pockets. When I’m carrying large amounts of cash I keep the bulk of my money in my left pocket and a smaller amount in my right pocket. This way I can pay for things without revealing all my cash. I learned this practice while traveling to foreign countries. Never set your wallet or purse down on or near the register. Thankfully stores have credit card machines that allow you to swipe your own card and select a method of payment. If allowed, this is a good place to get cash back for debit transactions. Just be aware of the people in line around you. Much safer than outdoor ATMs.
I avoid ATMs at all costs. Avoid ATMs at night if possible. Scan parking lots and areas around drive through area. Secure your vehicle and do not leave it running. Bring someone with you if possible. Shield your transaction and limit your time at the ATM. Continually scan your surroundings. ATMs are a prime location for robberies. I would much rather go into a convenient store and buy a water and get cash back. ATMs located inside other businesses are a better option than stand alone outdoor ATMS. Avoid ATMs that obstruct your view or are not well lit. Do not leave your receipt or conduct more than one transaction. Get your money and get out! Respect the space of other people getting money from ATMs. Stand back or wait in your car. This will make others feel at ease when they are making transactions. I generally think ATMs are a bad idea. Maybe the worst place to get money.
Having good “Situation Awareness” is probably the best way to avoid being the victim of a crime. Pay attention to your surroundings and the body language of people around you. Check out this video about “Street Survival” and body language. Trust your instincts, if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. Walk and conduct yourself with confidence. Criminals choose victims. Many people are potential victims and they don’t even know it. Quite simply, don’t look like a victim. Avoid conflict while out or driving. Don’t take shortcuts through unfamiliar areas. A few extra minutes is worth the safety. Identify potential threats before you get too close. Take alternate routes around threats or undesirable people. Make eye contact with people and keep your head up when walking. Ipods and musical devices can distract you and limit your ability to identify trouble. Don’t walk around wile texting or facebooking. Wear clothing that will allow you to get away from trouble. High heels, skirts and dresses are very hard to run in or quickly get out of danger.
More and more states are allowing citizens to carry openly carried or concealed firearms. Carrying a firearm is not for everyone but I do recommend it if you feel comfortable with it and have received the proper training with the weapon and know your use of deadly force laws. OC and pepper sprays are another way to protect yourself if you’re not comfortable with a firearm.
I hope this helps enlighten and keep you safe!
Enjoy The Holidays!