Community Voices

Crime Watch: Important tips to staying safe the final days of holiday shopping season

These are the final days of the holiday shopping season and everyone is running around getting those last-minute gifts. Please let’s remember to be vigilant at all times. Criminals know you are on the “run” and your head is filled with millions of thoughts and they are counting on you to be “scattered in the brain” so please don’t give them the opportunity to come after you while you shop.

Let’s review a couple of things for this week:

1. Don’t carry a purse — keep cash or credit card in pocket, don’t carry lots of cash.

2. Try not to go shopping with your kids — they can distract you while you shop.

3. Don’t leave bags in your car or trunk — move your car if you can to another parking space if you are going to continue shopping.

4. Pay attention to where you parked your car — have keys in hand ready to leave.

5. Pay attention to make sure no one is following you — remember criminals may be taking pictures inside the store of what you bought with their cell phones to send to someone outside the store.

6. Going to an ATM? Go with someone if possible. If not, keep car door locked and when you return to car lock immediately. Don’t be counting cash for everyone to see.

If you are hosting a party, pay attention to your guests and how much they are drinking. Don’t let then drive, take the keys or have someone drive them. Make sure that your guests didn’t leave their cars open and make sure they didn’t leave their purses in the car. Criminals like to roam neighborhoods looking for parties to break into the cars. This happens every year, so protect your guest.

Make sure you destroy the boxes when you’ve gotten big items, such as TVs and other electronics. Place them in large garbage bags so criminals can’t see what you got as a gift. You don’t want them to return to break in to your house.

If you are going out of town this week for the holidays, contact your local police department to place a watch order on your house. Give them detailed information, as to whether anyone is going to be checking your house, feeding your pets. Have a neighbor pick up your mail and paper. make sure you stop deliveries. Don’t leave your garbage can out in the driveway. Contact your alarm company and advise of your travels, whether anyone will be entering. Make sure that if someone is coming to check, they have an appropriate password in case the alarm goes off. Otherwise that person may be confronted by law enforcement if the alarm company calls them.

Let’s enjoy our last week of the holidays without any incidents or tragedies. If you have any concerns call your local police department. They will be able to assist you with any questions.

Happy Holidays to all.

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.