Crime Prevention during the Holiday Season, November 27, 2013
The holiday season is a great time to spend with family and friends, but unfortunately we are also at a greater risk of being victims of burglaries, robberies, carjacking and thefts than any other time of the year. The U.S. Embassy in San Jose informs U.S. citizens of two separate home burglaries of U.S. citizens’ homes in Escazú in November.
As we approach the holiday season, the Embassy would like to remind you not to be an easy target and to follow these tips in order to have a safe and happy holiday season.
HOME SECURITY WHILE TRAVELING
· Please do not advertise your travel. Leave contact numbers with trusted friends and family. Consider leaving a set of keys with a colleague or friend. Provide instructions on what to do and who to contact in case of an emergency.
· If you employ a domestic employee, arrange for them to stay in your home while you are away, or have a friend or colleague check your home and pick up newspapers, mail, or other types of scheduled deliveries.
· If you have a garden, arrange to have your lawn mowed and your plants tended to if you will be gone for an extended period of time.
· If you have a guard at your residence/building/complex, inform them that you have someone coming to check on the premises at different times.
· Secure your home. Do not forget to close and lock all windows and doors as well as the garage and gate doors. Check outside lighting and replace bulbs if necessary.
· Unplug all unnecessary appliances such as television, stereos, and personal computers. Get an automatic timer for your lights.
· Use your alarm system if you have one. The Embassy recommends that you use an alarm system at all times, but it is particularly important to arm the system anytime you are away from home. Power outages may trip alarm systems, so make sure that you leave the code with a friend or the person that is looking after your residence. A password can be changed after a friend who is looking after your residence has used it.
· If you use a telephone answering machine, turn off the ringer on the telephone. If you do not have an answering machine, unplug all telephones – but do not cancel your phone service.
· Make sure that important jewelry, papers, or other valuable items are locked in a safe place.
RESIDENTIAL SECURITY REMINDERS
· All entrances, including service doors and gates, should have top quality locks.
· Do not leave any keys “hidden” outside your home. Leave an extra key with a trusted neighbor or colleague that will be watching your home, or leave an extra key locked in a safe at your office.
· Keep your doors locked even when you or your family are at home. If you are not expecting any deliveries or workmen, do not open your doors for them.
· If you have window grilles and bars – review your fire safety plans. Do not block bedroom windows as they may be used for emergency egress.
· Make sure you have a charged fire extinguisher Show family members and domestic help how to use it.
· Keep flashlights in several areas within the house. Check the batteries often.
· Keep shrubbery and bushes trimmed and low – do not obscure windows and doors.
PERSONAL SECURITY WHILE TRAVELING
· Notify someone of your travel plans.
· Remember that when traveling you are more vulnerable to becoming a victim of crime. Take special care and remain aware of your surroundings at all times. Do not drink to the point of intoxication, especially where you would not be able to defend yourself or not be aware of your surroundings.
· Use special clothing or accessories to hide your passport, money or credit cards. Keep the majority of your funds in traveler’s checks and hidden. For your visitors it is recommended that they obtain an official copy of their passport to carry and keep the original readily available but in a safe location. The use of a money clip is recommended. If you are robbed you may lose money in the clip, but will retain important credit cards and documents (make copies/store them).
· Consider the use of a fanny or waist pack, worn with the pack in front. These are much safer than carrying a handbag and are more difficult for pickpockets to steal from. If you are wearing a backpack, consider wearing this with the pack in front also.
· Be cognizant of local customs, laws, and regulations.
· Obtain and carry with you the telephone numbers of the local police and, if overseas, the nearest U.S. Mission. Pass these numbers to your guests. If you have a cell phone that you do not use a lot, perhaps your guests can carry it for the time that they are visiting you in case of emergency.
CARJACKING PREVENTION TIPS
· Be aware. When you are out in public, be aware of your surroundings.
· When driving in potentially risky areas, do not allow yourself to be pinned in. Always leave enough space to pull away quickly.
· Do not be distracted by talking on the cell phone, eating, etc. Losing your focus on the road and/or your surroundings could make you an easy target.
· Keep your vehicle locked at all times and windows closed.
· When approaching your parked car, have your keys in hand. Check the surrounding area for suspicious persons near your car or following you. If you see a suspicious person, do not attempt to get into your car, but quickly walk to the nearest public place and call for help.
· Do not make yourself an even more attractive target by leaving your purse or other valuables in plain view. Do not leave bags visible in your car even if they do not contain anything valuable; thieves won’t know what is in them.
· Avoid parking in unsecured areas and places that will be unlit at night.
· Always be prepared to take evasive actions. Play the “what if game” and think of what evasive action you would take if a person next to you suddenly brandished a gun.
· Be alert for motorcycles or bicycles stopping next to your car, especially if there are two riders.
· Always keep your car well maintained and make sure you have plenty of gas. You do not want to become stranded in a dark, unfamiliar or questionable area.
· If you are forced to pull over due to mechanical problems, be wary of people who stop and offer help.
· Keep your house keys on a separate ring from your car keys.
· Never roll down your window to answer questions. This could be a pretext for a gunman to take your vehicle.
· The most important rule is; if a gunman wants your vehicle or valuables, GIVE THEM UP!!
PERSONAL SECURITY WHILE SHOPPING
· Stay alert and be aware of what is going on around you.
· Park in well-lit areas, as close to the store entrance as possible and away from dumpsters, bushes, or large vehicles. Be sure to lock your doors, close the windows, and hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk. If shopping near your home, consider returning home to drop off gifts. They will be safer there than in your car.
· Never leave your car unoccupied with the motor running or with children inside. A car can be stolen in seconds.
· Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; pay with a credit card whenever possible (but make sure you watch the person handling your credit card. Do not let them walk away with your card and make sure they only swipe it once in front of you). Keep a record of all your credit and debit card numbers in a safe place at home so you can report lost or stolen cards by their numbers.
· Carry your keys, cash, and credit cards separate from each other.
· Remember exactly where you parked your car. Make a mental note or write it down so you will know.
· If you need to use an ATM, use one inside the mall/bank or some other well-lit, populated area.
· Be aware of your surroundings as you come and go from your car. Have your keys out and in your hand so you do not have to fumble to find them in the parking lot. Do not be shy about asking mall or store security personnel for an escort.
· Shopping with children? Teach them to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated. Also, have a family “code word” in case you get separated. This word can be given to security staff so that your child can discern friend from foe.
· If you are hosting a party, arrange alternate transportation for intoxicated guests.
· Do not hail taxis on the street.
· Do not drink and drive. The police will be strictly enforcing local DUI laws and will detain you if they suspect that you have been drinking. Appoint a designated driver who will not be drinking.
AFTER GIFTS ARE OPENED
· Avoid becoming an easy target for post-holiday burglaries by not leaving boxes for new electronic equipment and other expensive items in front of your house or other garbage pick-up locations.
· Break down any boxes you are throwing out, put them in dark garbage bags and place them inside a trash can.
· Think about keeping broken-down boxes inside until the evening before your regular garbage pick-up. Some burglars actually look inside garbage cans for evidence of holiday gifts.
TAKE A HOLIDAY INVENTORY
· Update or create a home inventory.
· Take photos or make videos of items with descriptions and serial numbers. If your home is burglarized, having a detailed inventory can help identify stolen items and make insurance claims easier to file.
· Make sure things like televisions, DVD players, MP3 players, stereo equipment, cameras, camcorders, sports equipment, jewelry, silver, computers, home office equipment, and power tools are on the list.
· Consider engraving your property. This may deter thieves as it makes the goods harder to sell.
IF YOU ARE A VICTIM
· Don’t resist. Comply with the criminal’s demands. Don’t be a hero, your family wants you home for the holidays.
· Be a good witness. Record a suspect’s description, license plate number, vehicle information, etc.
Remember to immediately report all suspicious activity, vehicular accidents, and other security incidents to the local police. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday season.