By Bernie Carr
Thanksgiving is here and the Christmas season will soon be in full swing. Theft and other crimes seem to increase when people are out and about shopping or partying and not paying much attention to anything else.
The other day the management company left a flyer on our door about a “Resident Meeting” regarding apartment safety. I was concerned enough that I attended the evening meeting after work. A couple of policemen and the building management were in attendance. The reason for the meeting was to discuss recent criminal activity in the area, and to warn residents about personal safety.
My neighborhood is in the middle of the city of Houston. If you ever visit the city, you will notice very quickly that the city does not have strict zoning laws. As a result,most areas include a mix of residential, commercial and industrial. One block could be a nice residential area, and across the street would be high rises or industrial parks, unless you live in a planned community in the suburbs. So you can live in a block with nice residences, but go two blocks and you can quickly find yourself in an unsavory looking area. Being careful and aware of your surroundings is very important. Not being critical or negative, that is just the way it is. While we carefully picked the apartment we live in, checked crime statistics and all that, crime in any area is inevitable.
Back to the meeting. Apparently, the management company decided to have a meeting due to a recent shooting that occurred in the complex. They wanted to reassure the residents that it was not a random event but a shooting between acquaintances, a “drug deal gone bad.” There were no fatalities, the shooter was arrested and the victim was shot in the leg. I was still unsettled by the incident – it is not very reassuring to hear that a resident was doing a drug deal. The resident has since been evicted; at least he is not around anymore. The cops also informed us there have been car break-ins and some theft.
Staying safe during the holiday season
- This meeting has just reinforced my feeling that there is no such thing as a “safe area.” We need to be on guard at all times, and always aware of our surroundings. Always find out about what’s going on around you. Surprisingly, for a complex this large, not a lot of tenants attended the meeting, considering it was about something important.
- Maintain an alert stance and scan the people around you. Thieves avoid people whom they perceived is too alert and may have already noticed them
- If you start to have a bad feeling about your surroundings, stop and pay attention to these feelings, it is your intuition telling you not to proceed.
- Thieves try to target people whom they perceive as more vulnerable: the elderly, women alone or women and children.
- To avoid being targeted by thieves, think about what attracts these criminals: flashy jewelry, a large purse that looks stuffed with goodies, smart phones, shopping bags, etc.
- Carry only what’s necessary and leave the rest at home.
- When shopping, always lock your vehicle and do not leave your items in the car, lock them up in the trunk. The cop revealed that they patrol certain malls because thieves are known to “harvest” items that people leave in the cars while shopping.
- Consider a protection device such as mace, pepper spray or a concealed gun if you know how to use them and are licensed in your district.
- When in public, avoid being engrossed in your phone or tablet. This sounds simple, but I have seen so many people with their heads buried in their cell phones even while crossing the street.
- When walking to your car, have your keys ready in your hand, no fishing around the parking lot for missing keys. Brief inattention to your surroundings can cost you your life. If leaving at night, try to walk with someone or have security escort you.
- Train the kids to only open the door to family or friends who know the “password” and never open the door to strangers.
- Keep your curtains or blinds closed. The more passersby see your appliances and items, the more likely a thief will get interested in you.
- Consider an alarm system or a dog if your building allows it.
- Make sure you always lock your doors and windows.
- Look around the area before you open your door or garage, as thieves have been known to follow people in as they get home.
- Be careful about announcing your activities and plans on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, this will give potential thieves a “heads up” that your house is available.
- Before walking or driving up to an ATM machine, make a note of who is in the area. Is there a car just parked nearby? Are there a lot of bushes where someone can hide and jump out at you? If you are not sure, just bypass it and go somewhere else. The most you will lose is time and possibly gas, but at least you’ll be safe.
- When in crowded shopping centers, be alert for pickpockets especially when someone bumps into you.
- If you are working late, walk out with a co-worker or call security and have them walk you to your car.
- If you feel you are being followed home, don’t pull into your driveway. Instead, keep driving and go to a crowded area, police or fire station.
Sorry if this article sounds a bit paranoid, but these are the times we live in. A big part of survival mentality or preparedness is paying attention to your own personal and family security.
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