Safe and secure

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Whether it’s a fast run to the mall to pick up a birthday gift, a stop at the ATM for some walking-around cash or merely darting out of the house to get to an appointment, too often our minds are on a million different things. A million different things, that is, except for one thing we should be thinking of: safety.

And while we’re not paying attention, we can face a vehicle break-in, a stolen PIN number or even a burglary at home.

Sometimes crime is unavoidable, but there is plenty you can to do to help keep yourself, your family and your property secure. Here are some safety tips from the experts to help you prevent crime.

At home

– Add decorative reinforcement plate to your doors. They can be found at most home-improvement stores and cost around $10.

– Don’t hide spare keys outside your home. Thieves are good snoops, especially when time is on their side.

– Light up your home. Use motion detectors outside and timers inside (when you’re not home).

– Maintain landscaping. Overgrown trees and shrubs can provide hiding spaces for would-be thieves.

– Be really kind to a favorite neighbor or relative who lives nearby. Having someone you trust check on your home regularly goes a long way toward protecting your house.

In your yard

– Trim those trees. Keep your bushes (including hedges) trimmed to 2 or 3 feet tall. Taller bushes provide burglars good hiding spots. In addition, experts recommend the first 7 feet of branches be pruned to prevent someone from climbing to an attic or second floor. Also, you don’t want your bushes or trees to obscure your view of your yard.

– Protect your windows. To deter break-ins, you can plant thorny bushes under windows. Bougainvillea, barberries and roses work well. Using gravel stones under windows eliminates a criminal’s ability to silently prowl near your house. Anyone who walks on those will make a loud crunching noise with each step.

– Shine a light. Install motion-activated floodlights in out-of-reach places around your home. Lights scare away burglars and alert homeowners to potential problems outside. Just make sure they’re installed so no one can tamper with them.

– Get a survey. Some local police departments have free survey programs for homes and businesses. Just ask for the department’s crime prevention folks. Officers can look at a wide range of security issues during these evaluations, including doors, locks, windows and garages. To see if evaluation is available in your area, call your local police department.

When shopping

– Reduce distractions, such as using a cellphone, while walking to your car.

– Always park in well-lit areas.

– Limit the amount of valuables you carry to minimize potential loss.

– Do not leave packages in your car and return to stores.

– If you make a valuable purchase, go straight home.

– Do not overload yourself with packages. Use will-call and curbside package pickup services instead.

– Make a plan ahead of time in case your children become separated from you.

With your vehicle

– When your vehicle is unattended, don’t leave the windows down. And remember to lock the car.

– Take valuables with you and lock anything you must leave behind in your trunk.

– Don’t leave anything in plain sight. If you can’t hide an item in your trunk or car, take it home before going elsewhere.

– Don’t forget about cellphones or other electronics you are charging in the console.

– Copy down serial numbers on any electronics to make recovery easier.

– Take as little with you as necessary when making routine trips to the store, school and other places.

– If you can, park inside your garage instead of in the driveway.

At the ATM

– Use ATMs you are most familiar with in well-lit, well-placed areas.

– Be aware of your surroundings, particularly at night. If you see suspicious people, do not use the machine.

– Have your card in hand as you approach the ATM. Don’t wait to get to the ATM and then look for it.

– Be careful that no one can see you enter your PIN on the keyboard. Use your body to shield the keyboard.

– Do not count or display money from the ATM. Put your money into a pocket or purse and count it later.

– Be cautious when strangers offer to help if you are having difficulty with a transaction.

– If using a drive-up ATM, be sure passenger windows are rolled up and all doors are locked.

Around town

– If you notice another car following you, drive to the nearest police station or busy, well-lit area. Call 911.

– Make a habit of locking your car doors and closing your windows immediately when you get in your car, even before you fasten your seatbelt.

– Always lock car doors and take the keys when you leave your car, even if you’ll be gone for just a short time.

– Don’t leave valuables in view in the car, even if the vehicle is locked. Thieves can smash your window and grab your purse or computer in a matter of seconds.

– As you walk down the street or through the parking area, walk alertly and assertively. Don’t weigh yourself down with too many parcels.

– Do not talk on your cell phone while walking through parking areas. Thieves will assume you are distracted by the conversation and perceive you as an easy mark.

– If you carry a purse, hold it close to your body; if a wallet, keep it in a front pocket.

– When carrying a purse, take only the essentials (a driver’s license, a limited amount of cash, one credit or debit card and a check or two).

– Don’t carry irreplaceable items such as photos of grandchildren, and don’t carry your original Social Security card in your purse or wallet.

– Don’t display your cash or any other inviting targets such as cellphones, hand-held electronic games or expensive jewelry.

– Never leave your purse unattended in a shopping cart.

– Have car keys out and ready when approaching your car. Check the back seat and floor before you get in.

– Complete an inventory. If your valuables or credit cards are lost or stolen, you will have serial numbers and phone numbers handy.


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