Community Voices

Crime Watch: Tips to keep those holiday thieves at bay

While celebrating these last couple of weeks, we need to keep in mind that some people will start scavenging the neighborhoods to see what people received as gifts. Now you may wonder “well, how will they know what I got for Christmas?” Well, it will be very simple for them to know if you don’t follow some simple crime prevention techniques.

The following should be done as soon as you finish your day’s activities with your family and friends:

▪ Do not place empty boxes of toys, electronics, computer equipment or appliances outside for garbage pickup day.

Instead, take every box, tear it up or squash it and place in a large black garbage bag. The ones you use for leaves. By doing this anyone driving around checking out “garbage” will not see what new items you have received.

But be sure you comply with your city’s trash pickup regulations. Miami-Dade County Waste Management, for example, requires that cardboard boxes be place in your blue roll-out recycling cart. This serves the same purpose by concealing the boxes from valuable gifts.

▪ Mark all your new and used equipment with your driver license number using an electronic engraver or permanent marker. By doing this, should it be stolen and police find it, they will be able to trace it back to you.

Police departments all over the country have storage facilities filled with equipment they cannot return because the objects are not identifiable. So please take the time to mark all your items. This also can serve as a deterrent. When criminals notice that something is marked, they may not bother with it.

▪ You should also take the time to fill out those little registration cards and send them in to the companies. This will provide you with a record of your item should you need one in the future. And don’t forget to keep a copy for yourself.

All of this may sound like a hassle to do, but trust me: All the above steps will help not only in preventing a possible burglary but also help in the recovery of your property.

As we travel during the next few weeks visiting friends and relatives, please remember to wear your seat belt and make sure your children are properly restrained. And one last very important tip, if you drink, don’t drive. If you have a party and someone has too much, take the keys away. So do the right thing by them and for you.

In closing, I want to say thank you to Steven Milbourn, proprietor of the Flagler Outback Steakhouse for helping us with our Annual Toy Drive at the restaurant. I also want to recognize all of our law-enforcement partners and crime watchers who donate toys. Once again we partnered with Miami-Dade Corrections, Janelle Hall, and donated the toys for children whose parents are incarcerated. We also partnered with the Kristie’s House and to the Golden Glades “Baby House,” a United Cerebral Palsy facility providing items for their special need residents.

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.