Like most of you, I’ve been following the posts and news stories about break-ins, robberies, car prowls, and other crimes in and around our neighborhood. One of our close neighbors had their car window smashed in a few weeks ago—and none of us heard a thing. I try to balance between wariness and paranoia, common sense and complacency. Mostly, I try to focus on what I can do to keep our community as safe as possible.
Many people travel during December, leaving their homes for a few days or weeks. I encourage you to consider a safety plan for your home while making your travel plans. Here are a couple of sites with basic safety/crime prevention tips, and here’s my list:
- Inform your immediate neighbors that you’re going to be gone and ask them to keep an eye on your car and the exterior of your house.
- Lock everything—windows, doors, sheds/garages, cars.
- Leave keys (house and car) with at least one trusted neighbor, along with local emergency contacts and a way to reach you while you’re gone.
- For short trips, ask someone to check your mail—just so that there’s foot traffic up and down your porch and to prevent possible mail/identity theft.
- Ask someone to brush leaves/snow off your car or to keep an eye on your garage.
- For longer trips, either put a hold on mail and paper delivery or ask someone to pick up daily (same with the promotional materials people leave on doorknobs, yellow page books, and other deliveries).
- Keep things normal: consider putting a couple of lamps on a timer; if you have holiday lights or use exterior lights, put them on a timer, too; ask someone to bring trash/recycle/yard waste cans to the curb and back.
- If you’re planning to be away for more than a few days, consider asking someone to come in and check on your house. There are some very responsible teenagers in our neighborhood.
- Find someone you trust to stay in your house. Check references and have your neighbors check in on this person.
- If you have pets, you’ll need to take them into consideration as well; these tips are for property safety only. Special considerations for pets: let your vet know you’re traveling and leave a check or credit card number with them in case of emergency; make sure your pet-sitter has access to travel carriers and driving directions to the emergency clinic; keep copies of pet license numbers and/or microchip numbers current.
Our entire community is safer when we get to know each other. Offer to help your neighbors, and ask for help. Bring in the trash cans for an elderly neighbor, deliver cookies to a newcomer, and talk to people when you see them outside. If you see something suspicious or have concerns, share them—not just with the neighborhood mailing list or the blog, but with the household involved.
Those of us with dogs spend a lot more time on the sidewalk than most people—especially now that it’s dark earlier and the weather isn’t welcoming for an after-dinner stroll. Tica and I are both very aware of the patterns of our neighborhood: what kind of cars people drive, when folks are home, new neighbors… and of course, who has dogs and what time they’re out. We know most of the regulars out walking at various times. I feel like I could reliably identify someone who was out of place, and I’m confident I would notice someone suspicious loading your TV into a van.
Tica and I are a great team to enlist for help watching your house. Your block probably has a few dogs out every night for a constitutional—do you know them? They’re potential allies. The missing piece is knowing how to reach you if there is a problem. Does your next door neighbor have a cell number for you while you’re on vacation?
Wishing everyone a safe, warm winter—at home or away!