Yep, it’s that time of year again. I’ll bet you can name a bunch of ways to stay safe through the holidays without being told anything. You should be able to. The cops and everyone else say the same thing every year:
• Don’t leave your GPS, laptop, wallet, M-16, Rolex, pan flute or other valuables in the car while you’re inside shopping.
• Don’t leave your house unlocked with no alarm and the porch lights on all day and the mail stacked up and a sign that says “Out of Town” on the front door.
• Don’t leave your purse in the child-seat of the shopping cart, open with your wallet sitting there, begging to be stolen.
• Don’t leave your car on while you walk inside the convenient store to buy something.
• Don’t send your name, date of birth and Social Security number, along with your bank account number, to that guy, the only living relative of the super-rich and recently deceased oil baron in the Great Providence of Neusabee because he happened to have found only you on the Internet and only you can help get his 50-trillion dollars out of his country, which is now on the verge of collapse! Lucky you! You get 25 percent!
• Don’t just jump into any “Secret Santa Shopper” idea that floats in on your e-mail.
• Don’t sell something on the Internet that involves someone vastly overpaying you with a money order and you sending the balance of hundreds of dollars to some unknown address to pay for the “shipping cost.”
The fact of the matter is this, folks. People are going to steal and they’re going to pick someone they think is too stupid or naive to catch on to them. They’re going to get a dozen no’s to the one yes they find. They’ll case the place – your home, business, car — and find out where the path of least resistance is.
It never happened to me, therefore it won’t happen to me
That’s right! It is totally unrealistic to me that I could be victimized. I’m too smart and, besides, I don’t have time for it.
Have you ever been victimized? Do you remember how it felt — even if someone stole something small? I had a baseball glove stolen once. That was in 1979 and I’m still honked off about it.
I had a set of speakers stolen from my Fiat 124 in San Diego in 1972 and to this day I remember how I felt when I walked out and found two holes where the speakers were. I looked around, hoping to find someone standing there with two speakers in their hands, waiting for me to beat them up. They weren’t there. After that, I looked around to find someone to blame for my misfortune.
It happens to a lot of people every day and there aren’t do-overs, so plan ahead — or however the old saying goes: “Failing to plan means planning to fail,” or something clever like that.
OK, we’re busy and we don’t have time for all that preventing-crime stuff. So, given that we’re not going to do a lot of all that stuff, let’s look at a few absolutes:
1) Your car
The most likely place for you to enjoy your first experience as a victim is your car. The easiest way to steal is from a car. Most of the time they — they being bad guys — won’t tear into the dash to get your GPS or stereo. They may, but chances are they won’t. If they see something, they can get in the car in a second or two. Break the window, punch the lock or in some cases just open the unlocked door.
If there is nothing to see, the percentages are in your favor. Take it for what it’s worth.
2) Lock the house
Most people don’t lock their homes during the day. House burglars usually find the back of the home more appealing to enter because of some concealment, like fences and bushes. But at some point they give themselves away as suspicious.
And there is an opportunity to foil the plot. We made the public safety number 9-1-1 so it would be easier to dial. Use it. There’s no charge for unfounded calls. Most of our burglary arrests come from someone seeing something and then calling. Get involved. It feels good — really.
I’m offering a free spa day for anyone who directly affects the arrest of a burglar this holiday season. Why not? It’s good business.
3) Don’t be stupid
Take the keys from your car when you get out. Don’t start it to warm it up and then go back inside unless you lock it and use the second key to get back in.
Don’t pull up to the gas pumps and start the pump, then walk inside the store unless the car is locked.
Finally, don’t leave your stuff behind. We get tons of reports where someone placed a wallet on the counter while they paid for something and then simply forgot the wallet when they left. I know, it’s stupid but it happens.
We forget stuff. I’m a guy who paid for a gallon of milk then left it on top of the car while I found my keys. I drove six miles with a gallon of milk on top of the car, lodged in the luggage rack of my Ford Taurus station wagon. (My family truckster years.)
Our brains are full of everyday stuff that leaves little room for important stuff like security and fantasy football stats.
Use the e-mail and let people in your community know when you see something suspicious. Call the cops and warn others. Two guys come to your door looking like John Wayne Gacy and they ask to use the phone? I’d say that’s suspicious. Let others know what’s going on.
A good alert system we use in Sandy Springs is the Nixle alert system. We send alerts from announcements to lookouts in almost real time. Go to nixle.com to see if your local police use it or something similar to get info out there fast.
5) Last but not least: Relax
A couple of burglaries and thefts here and there isn’t a crime wave. It happens. We’re in a large metro area but we still have control of the ship. Just practice a little courteous skepticism and common sense and don’t second-guess your first instincts.
Get on that 9-1-1 when you need to and I’ll see you at the day spa!