This Christmas and Holiday season will be filled with travel, family and lots of presents. Throughout the entire season there will also be predators of several types out looking for a free ride on your dime. One woman we know was nearly accosted at a nearby mall but thankfully a passerby helped her out and avoided tragedy. This is a season where people are too busy thinking about what they need to do and not about their personal and family security.
There are several things you can do to mitigate your exposure to dangerous people and protect yourself and home from shady people. Some are easy little common sense items and some are costly and worth every penny.
Parking lot security isn't responsible for your safety, if they even have any. They are there to wave the flag and make you feel safer to be there. Last year a lot security guard helped a thief load a motorcycle onto a trailer for a guy who said it broke down. Turns out the guy was stealing it and he was just helping a criminal! Don't get caught up in the hype, you are ultimately responsible for your own safety and the safety of your family. When you enter a parking lot, don't just drive up to the first spot you find. No matter how big of a hurry you are in, be aware of your surroundings. Leave the phone in your purse or pocket and look around. Be aware of the cars near you and try to park near a cart return so you don't have to leave your car unattended for more than a moment. If you do walk away from it, close the trunk and lock the doors. Keep your keys in your hand for a quick reentry.
Never leave your purse in the shopping cart unattended. Another way to help this is to buy a climbing type carabiner or gate clip and clip your purse strap to the cart so it can't walk off while you are turned away for a moment. Having a paper list of items needed helps by keeping one hand free instead of using both to check your phone and distract you from your objective.
Keep chit chat bland and give no useful information out to strangers. That sweet man who's asking you if you have big plans for the Holidays may follow you home and target your house while you are away. The criminal element is primed to take advantage of the season and find easy targets to pillage.
Home delivery services offer pick up options for your house. If you are having packages sent to your home, make sure someone is going to be there. A package on the stoop means two things, the house is more than likely not occupied and the package is easy pickings. You can get online and place a hold on the package for pickup at the UPS or FEDEX office or make sure a neighbor picks it up for you.
A trusted neighbor who knows your habits and is around during the day can be a real lifesaver. Literally. Let that neighbor know if you are leaving and to call if they see anything suspicious. Ask them to pick up packages for you if they get put on the porch. Be sure to thank them and get them a little something for all they do for you. Also go out of your way to get to know your neighbors. Their security is your security. If their house looks like an open invitation to thieves, you may become a target of opportunity as well.
Learn to use and carry personal protection items. The list is huge, from a handgun all the way down to a whistle with several steps in between. Without a doubt, the first few seconds of an attack will be critical so keep your attention tuned to your surroundings. If you are walking in a parking lot, have your hand in your purse or pocket where you can grab whatever you need to ward off danger. Pepper spray is a good option for this because it's easy to use and once it's deployed, the person won't want to be around it. If you see someone approaching, know what to do, angle yourself away from them and don't be afraid to yell or speak up if you are uncomfortable. Whoever you are talking to or texting on your phone is too far away, they won't be of any use to you if you are accosted. Put the phone away.
Secure your home. Keep the doors and windows locked. Keep your garage door down as much as possible. That's an open invitation to thieves. Don't let mail or papers pile up in the mailbox. Security lights are a great deterrent for late night visits from creepers.
Get an alarm system if you can afford it. A local company will serve you much better than a national chain. The national chains have been know to disregard an alarm if they can't get a hold of the property owner. That is unacceptable and will add insult to injury. Any alarm you buy should come hardwired. The units that are wireless are easily defeated and require batteries to be maintained. Get a cellular backup dialer for your alarm. It's a small investment that makes it hard for the common criminal to get past your system if they choose to try. If you can't afford a system, buy the stickers and put them on your doors and windows.
Make every other house more appealing then yours. That's the trick to keeping your house safe. Common thieves are lazy. They want what they can see, so keep the curtains closed near electronics and high end items unless you are home to protect them. Keep your treasure to yourself. Letting everyone and their brother know what you have is a sure way to get someone to want to steal it. If people have no clue what you have, they won't want it!
Keep electronics in your cars out of sight. So many GPS units get stolen every year that I won't even consider getting one. The cost of the broken window is more than what the GPS unit itself costs. The GPS unit can also be used to find out your habits. If yours gets stolen, be very aware for several months afterward. Same goes for your phone. Phones today store so much information that a thief might as well have your personal planner and wiretaps. They can have access to Email, texts and voicemail. If they are savvy, they can get location information from any pictures you've taken and track you. Your phone needs to be kept as secure as your wallet.
Install a security door. Many home improvement stores sell nice looking front doors that have unbreakable glass and heavy duty glass on them. The front door is your first line of defense and if you open the door, it's defeated. Having that second line of defense such as a security type screen door in addition to the weatherproof steel door is a huge security advantage. Lowes sells a very good line of these units with bars and layered high impact glass panels. This way you can open the door to assess the situation and still be safe from harm.
If you are a bold person and wish to make a statement, don't do it with stickers. The stickers on your car can give a criminal a way to get to know you. They may pretend to know your honor roll student or your football star after they see the stickers on your car. Guns are a prime target for thieves, don't put gun stickers on your car or house unless you have a means to protect them at all times.
Use your head when you are out and about. Be generous but not foolhardy. Don't allow your generosity to become a detractor to your security. There are people out there who live to cheat and steal. Many have drug issues and nothing to lose. If they get caught they get 3 hots and a cot during the cold winter months. Many thieves get out of jail before the police officer who caught them gets the paperwork done, mainly due to prison overcrowding. There is no real punishment for non violent offenders, the courts can't handle the load so most fall through the cracks. Be aware of this and be prepared to make yourself and your family the least appealing target you can.
Get to know the police in your area. If you can, stop them in the street and chat them up about any crimes in the area. Many departments have listings of the runs they take in the paper or online. Take some time to read them and see what's going on around you. Let your neighbors know if you see anything suspicious. Call the police if you know something is wrong and be sure to get as much information as possible when you call. Stay on the phone with the operator and give them updates, refuse to let them hang up til police arrive. The thieves might leave and you can give the operator direction of travel and descriptions of the passengers. Stay in your house unless you are trained to handle the situation. There's no good reason to get into an altercation when it's not needed. They may just be trying to get you out of your car or house to rob you.
Stay safe this Christmas season and be aware of your security. This is the prime season for petty thefts and robberies due to all the shopping and travel. Everyone is distracted and trying to hustle around for their next item. Leaves plenty of room to make mistakes and cost yourself your hard earned money, or even your life.