Community Voices

Crime Watch: Common-sense tips to stay safe during holiday shopping

Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell
Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell

I want to share information sent to our Crime Watchers by Miami-Dade Police Lt. Eric Rossman of the Intracoastal District:

Here are a few tips for shopping during the holidays:

▪ Consider shopping for gifts online in the safety of your home. Nearly every retail outlet supports online purchasing. When going out to shop, do so in the company of others. There is strength in numbers. Thieves are unlikely to target a group of two or more.

▪ Never leave wallets, purses, cellphones or any other item of value in open view inside your vehicle. Stow purchases out of sight, preferably in a locked trunk. Those with an SUV are advised to conceal valuables under a blanket or mat. Tinted windows aid in obscuring the view inside a vehicle, particularly at night.

▪ Prepare for your shopping trip by taking only the credit and debit cards you plan to use. Secure the rest at home. Do not carry large sums of cash and when paying with cash, don’t flash more than you need for payment. Temporary holiday vendors may use the old, manual credit card slider devices. Be sure to obtain the carbons from these transactions. Personally, I would avoid these vendors.

▪ When parking to shop, choose a well-lit space as close to the entrance as possible. Leave no valuables in your vehicle and lock your doors. Be aware of your surroundings, both inside and outside a store. People loitering in a parking lot may be a potential threat.

▪ When leaving the shopping outlet or mall, observe the parking lot and the area around your vehicle. If there is anyone loitering and you feel apprehensive, go back inside the store and request a security escort to your vehicle. They will be happy to oblige.

▪ When approaching your vehicle, have your keys or remote handy to avoid having to fumble for it. Do not use your remote to unlock the doors until you reach your vehicle.

▪ Before entering, scan the interior of your vehicle to ensure that no one is lurking inside. Once inside your vehicle, immediately lock all doors. Keep them locked. Do not roll your windows down for anyone who approaches you.

▪ At home, don’t leave purchases or wrapped gifts where they can be seen by someone looking through your windows. Leave nothing of value near a window, where a thief is able to smash and grab. With a little effort and common sense, we can enjoy a safe and happy holiday season. At the very least, we can make the thieving amoeba work hard for their booty.

▪ Lastly, please do not leave large empty boxes of expensive items roadside waiting to be picked up by the garbage man as all you are doing is advertising to these thugs that you bought an expensive item.

Also be aware of crooks who will try and run scams to detach you from your hard-earned dollars. The county and all the surrounding municipalities all have codes regulating the type of work that can be done by licensed individuals, so please if someone is offering to do some unlicensed “work” ( paint your driveway, roofing, etc.) around your home and the price is too good to be true then you may end up paying the price later.

Thank you and remain ever vigilant.

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.