Community Voices

Crime Watch: Tips to keep your home safe while traveling during spring holidays

In the coming week, many of you will be traveling since the kids are out of school. Here are some tips to keep in mind before you leave and while traveling.

▪ Contact your local police department and request that they place a “watch order’’ on your home. (Be aware that not all departments have this service.) Provide information such as when you are leaving and returning, whether anyone will be checking your house and picking up your mail, and whether a car will be in the driveway. Make sure you provide the name of anyone allowed into your home while you are away. The more information you give, the better the officers can act if they see something suspicious.

▪ Set an automatic timer in your home, if possible, or leave lights on in different parts of the house. Leave the back and front porch lights on.

▪ Ask a neighbor to get your mail, pick up your newspaper and park his or her car in your driveway during certain times of the day or evening — and let the police know about this.

▪ Do not leave spare keys under the mat or under a potted plant!

▪ Alert your alarm company that you will be gone and advise them to contact police immediately if there is cause for concern. If you have asked someone to come to the house, give the alarm company the person’s name and provide the person with a special password. Change the password when you return.

▪ Do not leave a message on your answering machine that you are gone. You may want to forward calls from home to your cellphone.

▪ Do a walk-through of your home to check windows and doors. Look around to be sure there is nothing that may attract the attention of someone walking through the neighborhood.

▪ Do not leave the garbage can and recycling bin in the front of the house; put them in the rear or at the side of the house where they are out of view.

▪ Hold onto that credit card. If possible, take just one with you and lock the rest up in a safe place.

▪ When purchasing gas, use the pump that is closest to the main building. Credit card theft happens a lot at gas stations. Crooks will pull the slot out of the pump and place a skimmer in it. They use the pumps that are farthest from the building to avoid being seen by the attendant. Before you insert your credit card, grab the slot and give it a tug to make sure it’s secure. If it has been tampered with, you will know it. If you are not sure, use another pump.

There is nothing nicer than spending time with friends and family, but it’s even nicer when we know that our home will be safe while we are away.

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.