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Family safety is always on the top of the priority list, regardless of the time of year. Every night on the news there are stories about people being victims of crime, most of which could have been prevented. Even so, there are those times of year where the crime rate is higher than others, such as the back to school shopping season and the end of year holidays. Here are things we can do to avoid being a criminal’s target:

Take your friends shopping.

Hanging out, chatting, lunching, and shopping with your gal pals has the makings of a fabulous afternoon. We’ve all heard the advice of safety in numbers. It’s so true. Thieves tend to stake out shopping centers and malls. They watch customers as they go about their shopping and they take advantage of easy targets. They are less likely to approach you or your property if you are in a group. There is more ability to be aware of your surroundings when there is more than one person. It’s also advisable to do your shopping during the daytime; you can better see what’s going on around you. Finally, you don’t need to don your best accessories just to hit the mall. If you are shopping at night, or alone, and do not feel safe, have the establishment’s security guard walk you to your car.

Don’t let your car be a treasure box on wheels.

Whether you are shopping, running errands, or parked at home, your car is an easy target. Whether it’s the middle of the day in a crowded parking lot, or middle of the night in front of your home, someone looking to steal a car is first going to check to see if the vehicle is unlocked. Leaving your car unlocked, or — heaven forbid — running, while you run into to a store real quick is like giving an open invitation to a thief to relieve you of your transportation and everything in it. The next thing to consider is to put any valuables, such as shopping bags or your purse, in the trunk. Though this is not foolproof, it is a much safer idea than leaving them in plain sight or even covering them up with a jacket or blanket. If you are putting your valuables in the trunk, it’s a good idea to put them in the trunk before you reach your destination, such as before you leave. It is not a good idea to leave one store, put your purchases in your car, and then walk back into the same store or one within the same shopping center, to continue shopping. Rather, do all your shopping before returning to your car.

Your home is your castle, not a storefront window.

Every person should be able to feel safe in their own home. There is nothing like a home invasion to strip that away. The first thing to do is make sure you don’t leave any information regarding what you’ve got in plain sight. That means leaving shopping bags, boxes, or receipts in your car or on top of your trash pile the night before trash day is not advisable. Going through someone’s trash is an easy way to find out what is in their home without even stepping one foot in. Make sure that you break down any merchandise boxes, such as for electronics, and put them in the trash can with a lid, or in a black trash bag. If you have the storage space, consider keeping the boxes for future use as storage or to keep the kids busy on rainy days. Also make sure you keep your windows and doors locked, even when you are home. Do not leave your garage door up for extended periods of time when you are not outside. Many people use their garages as storage units. It’s really easy for items to sprout legs and walk off when the garage door is up.

When you are away, don’t let the cat play.

If you are planning on taking a vacation or being gone for at least a few days, there are things you can do to deter uninvited guests. Be sure to tell a neighbor you trust when you will be gone. Ask them or another friend or family member to pick up your mail and newspaper. Also consider getting a timer for the lights in your living or front room. Additionally, some police precincts will patrol your house while you are away. All you need to do is fill out and submit a patrol request for the dates that you will be out of town. Check with your local precinct to see if they offer this service.

When trying to keep ourselves, our families, and our property safe, our greatest asset is our common sense. Many of the best strategies have to do with taking a few minutes to evaluate our surroundings, and then using safety and precautionary measures to make and execute a plan. An ounce of prevention can go a long way to keeping you and your loved ones safe.

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