How to Lead Criminals Right to Your Door

Police officers were at our neighborhood meeting last night. Not because there was threat of a rumble–I’m 54, and I was the youngest person attending for the first half of the meeting–but to share crime-fighting advice. Most of the tips were the routine things like locking your car doors, stowing packages in your trunk, leaving lights on when you’re away from home, and so on. All things most of us know and do on a regular basis.

One tip, though, came up in a side discussion and was something I’d never thought about.

gpsI purchased a GPS device last year when I took on a work contract that involves a great many road trips. I promptly took advantage of the neat Home feature and programmed my home address into the device. When I finish a work assignment, I don’t have to enter my address–I just press the Home button and the GPS maps the route from wherever I am.

It never occurred to me that if a criminal type broke into my car and stole my GPS that my beloved Home button could lead them right to my door! And it would be my rotten luck that it would get all the directions right that time!

Needless to say, I immediately went home and reprogrammed the Home feature to a different address. Now if someone steals my GPS, they’ll think I live at the grocery store a half-mile away. (Which wouldn’t be far from the truth during one of my more disorganized weeks.)

If you have your home address plugged into your GPS unit or smart phone, you might want to change it to someplace nearby.

Ignore: D3P4JMA526PB

A Visit From Posts of Seasons Past

Holiday card set-upI love this photo by Revere J. This would definitely be my cat, if I had a cat. Or cookies. Or holiday decorations.

Anyway, the holiday season is getting into full swing, and I’ll have some tips to share in the weeks ahead. But first, I wanted to revisit a few posts from last season because I think they’re important. Think of it as a re-gifting, of sorts.

:)

Shop Safely During the Holidays (and Beyond)
These are good tips year round, but especially so at this time of year.

Christmas Tree Care and Maintenance
Tips for keeping your tree fresh, not to mention avoiding the tragedy of a fire.

Tips for Potluck Meal Success
Whether you’re the organizer or an attendee, this post contains tips to ensure that a successful meal doesn’t rely on luck alone.

Holiday Tipping Help
A little extra help during the holidays for people who provide us with great service could make a huge difference in their holiday experience. This post provides some general guidelines.

Give Generously…But Wisely
Charitable organizations depend on our help to do their good work, and the holiday season is all about giving. In this post, I shared some tips for selecting the organizations to which you contribute.

I’ll be sharing more holiday tips in the weeks ahead, but this is a good start. :)

Christmas Tree Care and Maintenance

christmas tree © by steve p2008

The holiday season begins for me when our neighborhood association has its annual recognition dinner for firefighters and police officers. The tradition started long before I moved here, but from what I understand the events have usually followed a set pattern. After chowing down on yummy Leonard’s Barbecue, the fire captain provides a mini-lecture on holiday fire safety. It’s the same info every year, and it’s clearly a Very Big Deal to him, but we appreciate it as it comes from his heart. I’ve seen him get emotional talking about some of the calls his squad has made and the sad results.

Most Christmas tree fires are a result of insufficient watering. A freshly-cut tree can soak up an entire gallon of water in a single day, but many people bring their tree home, fill the tree stand with water for the first week, and then get sidetracked with other holiday activities. Not good, especially if the tree is located near a fireplace (sparks!) or candles, or if there’s an electrical short. This sobering video demonstrates that it takes about three seconds for a dry tree to fully ignite and less than a minute for the room to be completely engulfed in flames.

In a similar test with a properly watered tree, researchers were unable to sustain the tree fire even when they used a blowtorch! That would be enough to convince me to water my tree daily.

Here are some guidelines for selecting a healthier tree:

- If you can’t cut your tree yourself, try to buy from a reputable local nursery. Many of the trees sold at pop-up corner lots were cut weeks before and then transported hundreds of miles, usually on the back of a flat-bed truck without benefit of water or cover. (Early drying!)
- In selecting your tree, pull your hand along a branch to check for falling needles. Needles won’t come off a fresh tree. (Also check the ground around the trees on display. If you see lots of needles, you should consider shopping elsewhere.)
- When you get your tree home, cut a couple of inches off the base to “open the pores” of the trunk so that it can accept water.
- Fill the tree stand with water or you might want to try this recipe for Christmas Tree Preservative from Cooks.com:

CHRISTMAS TREE PRESERVATIVE
1 gallon hot water
2 c. Karo syrup
4 tsp. Clorox bleach
6 iron tablets, crushed & dissolved [Cammy note: you can also buy iron powder at most nurseries or garden centers]

Mix together and place in Christmas tree holder.

- Do not let the water level in the tree stand drop below the base of the tree.
- Keep the tree away from all heat sources, including heating ducts as these accelerate the drying process.

It probably goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), never leave a lighted tree unattended, even if you’re in the next room. Remember that 3-second mark in the video? The room could be fully engulfed before you knew there was a problem!

Keep you and your loved ones safe this year by taking care of your beautifully decorated tree!

Shop Safely During the Holidays and Beyond

With the holiday shopping season either here or looming, depending on your approach, it seems like a good time to dust off an old post from my other site and give it a review. The topic: Shopping Safety. The tips are valid year round, but especially so in the crowded parking lots of November and December.

HOLIDAY SAFE SHOPPING HABITS
When Leaving A Building

  • The safest practice is to ask for an escort if security staff is available. (Most shopping centers in Memphis have security patrols, a result of a successful lawsuit by the family of a woman kidnapped from a Walmart parking lot and later raped and murdered. )
  • If security isn’t available, ask a store employee to walk you out or at least stand at the door to ensure you get to the car safely. Or you can wait until someone else is leaving and ask to walk out together. (I do this one a lot. You meet really nice people this way.)
  • Have your keys in your hand before you leave the store, office, restaurant, etc. In a “women’s safety” course I took years ago, we were told to position a key between index and middle fingers in order to go for the “eye jab” if we were attacked. I’ve done it ever since, even though I can’t imagine stabbing someone’s eye.
  • If you have a cell phone, consider punching in 9-1-1 and then hold the phone so that you can easily press the Send button.
  • Scan the parking lot for any activity before you exit the building.
  • Walk with purpose. Criminal types are looking for people they perceive to be “weak”. A quick and purposeful stride shows them you are anything but weak.
  • Be especially wary in approaching your car if a van or other large vehicle with tinted windows is parked next to it.
  • If you have a keyless entry system, unlock the car door as you approach, making sure that you only unlock the driver’s side door. (I get button happy and am forever clicking and re-clicking the lock, which opens all the doors. I am easily entertained.)
  • Make it a habit to check the back seat before you open the car door. (Unlike countless movie and TV types who, even when they KNOW someone is after them, NEVER check their back seats. Sheesh.)
  • Once in your car, lock the doors immediately.
  • Get moving. Don’t sit there primping or studying your purchases. Or is that just me?

When Leaving Your Car

  • Hide or remove any valuables.
  • Park as close as possible to your destination, especially if it’s going to be dark when you return.
  • At night, try to park under a street light.
  • As you drive through the parking lot, scan the area to check for any loiterers or other sorts who give you the heebie-jeebies.
  • Leave your engine running until you’ve collected everything you need and you’re ready to get out of the car.
  • If possible, back into your parking space. It will allow you to leave quickly if you feel unsafe for any reason.

~~~

A few years ago, an email circulated at work warning us all about carjackings in the area. It described the crime, reporting that it happened to the writer’s mother’s co-worker’s mother-in-law. After an initial Eeek! moment, I remembered that a few months ago we received another email describing a mugging that happened to the writer’s mother’s co-worker’s mother-in-law. Too coincidental for me. Sure enough, we checked it out and it was a hoax. Those types of emails usually irritate me, but given the season, it was a good reminder of the need for alertness and caution while shopping.

Do you have any tips to add?