safe habits shouldn’t take vacation

School is out. Those words haven’t had much impact on me since the days I was a student, however that has changed. In the Crime Prevention Unit, we dedicate a significant portion of our time to working in the schools. We try to make the kids understand some of the problems that they may encounter and also try to give them tools to make safe, responsible decisions. We start with safe walking and “Checking First” stranger safety in kindergarten and first grade and go all the way through the high school. While fellow crime prevention Officer Scott Kunz and I are not officially School Resource Officers, we do fulfill some of the roles of that specialty. Perhaps the most rewarding thing about my current assignment is the ability to work with the youth in the community. Truth be told, it is a relief on the workload here when school lets out (for about three days, until we start planning summer programs and our other initiatives).

With the end of school comes another tradition: summer vacation. Time spent with family can be priceless, however all too often in our zeal to get that brief respite from the hectic life, we may take fewer precautions with our homes than we should. The good news is that there are some really simple things we can do to help keep ourselves and our property safe before we pack the Family Truckster and set off for Wallyworld, hoping the Moose out front doesn’t tell us that it is closed. Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 9.37.45 AM

One of the things that we talk to the children about is safety on social media. Parents can heed this advice as well. Don’t tell the world that you are traveling. We don’t often think about the dangers we might be inviting. While we may just want to let all of our friends know how much fun we are having, you are also letting everyone know that you aren’t home. Watch Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts about your vacation. Also consider those fun shots of the kids playing by the pool or ocean. We tell the kids not to post their pictures and personal information. Try to set a good example for them to follow.beachgirl

It should go without saying, but make sure that all your doors and windows are closed and locked when you travel. It is a good idea to secure sliding glass doors with a metal rod or wooden dowel to prevent someone from forcing them open. Consider using timers to activate certain lights or even a TV. It will give the impression that there is someone at the home. Maybe even leave a radio on. And leave a shade or blind open in the same way you might if you were home.

Make a call to the post office and the newspaper delivery person to keep papers and mail from piling up. If you don’t suspend service, at least consider having a trusted friend gather the papers and mail. Few things tell a burglar that the home is unoccupied like mail piled up in the mail box. And along those lines, consider leaving a key with a trusted neighbor. They can help you out if there is a problem or emergency. Maybe even let them park their car in your driveway while you are gone. Never leave a key hidden under a rock or potted plant though. Thieves know to look there.

Don’t leave a message on your phone telling people that you are away from home. Simply say that you are unavailable and will return calls later instead.

If you have valuable jewelry or other items, consider putting them into a safe deposit box or a safe which is bolted to the floor of your house.

Consider leaving an exterior light on. And trim bushes and shrubs away from window and doors. They may offer privacy to you, but they do the same to a burglar. If you are traveling for an extended time, consider making arrangements to maintain your yard and property. Avoid the unoccupied look.

Finally, stop by the police department and fill out a vacation card. We maintain a database of vacationing residents and officers can check them during their patrols. It also affords us the chance to have an immediate contact available in the event there is a problem. We also have engravers available that residents can use to inscribe their property with a unique, personal identifier. This can make it easier to identify the property if it is stolen. We can also provide a property inventory sheet for recording serial numbers and such. All of these are available from your Crime Prevention Unit. Give me a call at (412)343-4068 or

Finally, remember to have a fun, safe time whether you are traveling to the end of the world or vacationing in your back yard. Be sure to join us for the Car Show on Washington Road on July 6 for some cool cars and great music.

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