Six tips for avoiding becoming a victim this holiday season

Crime peaks during the holiday season. Whether you live in a large city or quaint suburb, use these smart practices to keep you and your family safe. Photo: Photo: Geoffrey Fairchild, Flickr

DALLAS, December 18th, 2013 — The holiday season is often a joyous time filled with celebrations, gift-giving and vacations. Unfortunately, the month of December is also often marked by a spike in property crimes, theft and assault.

Whether you live in a large city or quaint suburb, criminals are on the move seeking easy targets. While engaging in holiday activities, including travel, shopping and home celebrations, practice these common-sense practices to protect yourself and loved ones.

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Smart practices can keep you and your family safe. 

1. Do you know where you are?

Several studies show that social predators select victims based on their lack of situational awareness. Knowing your surroundings help you anticipate threats. Practicing vigilance at all times doesn’t make you paranoid, but smart. Using GPS or a map, know your route before departing a safe location and avoid areas that are questionable.

Busy parking lots and unlit shopping centers and garages are ideal strike-points; be aware. Document your parking location so you don’t forget while shopping and choose areas well-lit and well-guarded. Don’t enter or park in poorly lit areas or take so-called shortcuts through sketchy neighborhoods.

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Be wary of vans, trucks, campers, and other vehicles with heavily tinted windows parked next to you.

Distracted, busy shoppers and lost tourists are often ideal choices for pick-pockets, purse snatchers and other criminals. Know where you’re going. Don’t be a statistic.

2. Walk smartly, swiftly

A primary factor criminals consider when choosing a target is their victim’s gait, walking speed and perceived confidence. Walk without distraction. Make direct, polite eye contact with passersby and project assertiveness.

Don’t let others stop you for directions, regardless of how impolite you feel. Approaching a victim for meaningless questions is a common pre-attack method. Keep walking and avoid strangers.

Your safety is not subject to polite social courtesy.

Always have your keys ready to enter your vehicle and home. If you carry mace or another weapon to arm yourself, know how to easily access it.

Think someone is following you? Trust your gut. Cross the street, speed up your pace, or walk into a store. If you sense danger, don’t feel ashamed. Get to safety quickly and conscientiously.

This is your best defense. Also, see #6.

3. Stay off your cell phone, but keep it charged and close

You can’t move with ideal awareness while texting and walking. Some assume talking on a cell phone makes them safer because the other party will know if they’re in trouble, but this is not the case. Good targets are distracted and unaware, face-down in Twitter or a text message.

Stop Pandora, take out your ear phones, put down your cell phone and walk with purpose to your destination.

Having your cell phone out also presents an opportunity for thieves to snatch it and run.

Charge your phone. Cell phone towers track your physical location. Should something happen to you, your well-charged cell phone can save your life. In the event of a robbery, an attack or your presence near another individuals’ attack, your camera, video or phone call to police can completely alter a dangerous situation.

4. Who knows your whereabouts?

Someone should know where you’re going and your target time of return. If something does happen to you, they can alert authorities more quickly. Don’t post your shopping adventures and vacation destination online until after you’ve returned from that location, if absolutely necessary even then.

Social media helps criminals orchestrate everything from flash mob robberies to sexual assaults. Weigh your need to alert the world of your every move with your personal safety. Don’t give criminals an easy target.

5. Secure yourself and property

Lock your doors and windows. When entering your vehicle, check your backseat and once inside, depart. Don’t check your phone, fix your makeup or search directions behind the wheel. Get moving. Be sure to move any packages or shopping bags to your trunk. Tinted back windows aren’t a failsafe. Place purchases in your trunk.

Never leave your purse or expensive items visible in the front seat of your car.

Ladies, carry your purse close to your body while walking. Long straps are ideal for snatching. Shorten your straps or leave your purse in your trunk, carrying with you only what you need in your jacket or front pockets: an ID and your credit card. Men, try to place your money in your front pocket, not back. Try to avoid wearing expensive jewelry while shopping or carrying large sums of money.

When you leave home, don’t leave presents and packages visible through windows. Lock doors, set alarms and bring animals into your home. Dogs are a primary deterrent for home invaders.

Don’t place boxes for expensive items on your lawn. Drop them at a dumpster away from your home or break them down so that their previous contents are not discernible.

6. Arm yourself

Police Departments across the country are issuing tip sheets for holiday safety, but the most important element to your security is often omitted. If you are licensed to carry a firearm, protect yourself.

If not, perhaps consider this ultimate defense.

Though one should never take aggressive action unless in a life-threatening situation, it is your right to defend your home and property. Know your state’s laws and your rights to self-defense, and act wisely. 

While out-and-about, always have your weapon-of-choice, whether that be your concealed carry, mace or otherwise, ready for defense. Ask yourself often, “what would I do if …” and mentally prepare yourself for self-defense.

Most holiday home invasions happen between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.; secure your property, have a plan and act within the accordance of your safety. Your personal welfare is your responsibility alone.

Have any additional tips? Share them in the comments below. 

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Tiffany Madison

Tiffany is a writer and veteran's advocate. Her column focuses on civil liberties, veteran's issues and current events. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanymadisonFacebook or her website.

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