Crime Watch

Crime Watch: Secure your home before leaving for vacation


Special to the Miami Herald

Today let’s review what needs to be done before leaving on vacation to make sure we leave our homes properly secure.

Let’s start with our mail and newspapers. If possible, have a neighbor pick them up. Most people call to suspend delivery, but when you call, do you really know to whom you are speaking? If your papers pile up in your yard, you are advertising your absence.

Have a neighbor take your trash bin to the curb on collection days and then return it afterward. This will be consistent what people passing by usually see.

Don’t let your kids post on Facebook you are traveling. There are people out there checking this time of the year.

Turn on a radio. Remember to leave lights on in the front and rear of the house. Get a timer or use solar-powered lights. Trim hedges, especially if they are near your windows. Overgrown bushes can cover windows, giving a burglar a hiding place and blocking your neighbors’ view of the house. Check windows and other areas that may be vulnerable. If you have a window air conditioner, secure it with brackets and screws.

I always tell people to make believe you got locked out, and then try to get in. That’s what a burglar would do.

Do not leave a message on your phone or answering machine saying that you are gone. Give a neighbor or a family member your contact information in case he or she needs to reach you. In some areas, you can contact your police department to request a vacation watch.

And please, if you go to the bank to withdraw money, be vigilant and don’t make stops on the way home. If you are withdrawing large amount, don’t do it alone — have someone with you. Remember, there are predators out there waiting for you.

If you’re driving on your vacation, when you need gas select stations that are well-lit and, if possible, that have video-surveillance cameras at the pumps.

When purchasing gas, use the pump that is closest to the station building. Credit-card theft happens a lot at gas stations. Crooks will pull the credit card slot out and replace it with a skimmer. They use the pumps that are farthest from the station so they won’t be seen by the attendant.

Before you insert your credit card, grab the slot and give it a pull to make sure it’s secure. If it has been tampered with, you will know it. Always remove your keys and lock your car doors while pumping gas; do not leave your purse or other items out in the open. Pay attention to your surroundings, and please don’t talk on your cellphone while pumping gas.

If you are traveling with someone, make sure they stay in the car if you have to use the restroom. If traveling alone, after you pump the gas, move the car to the front of the building, lock the doors and don’t leave your purse behind.

Have a safe and fun vacation.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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