[Editor’s Note: This is the third is a short series of articles from our Contributor Team that we are sharing in the hopes that you and your family have not just a happy holiday season, but also a safe & secure one. -RJP]
The holiday season is once again upon us. It is a time of year usually filled with a lot of joy and excitement. It’s also a time of year when even the most security conscious among us can let our guard slip… Be it from running ourselves ragged getting ready for the big day or allowing the good will and cheer cloud our judgement. Here are some Holiday Season Security Tips:
Keep an eye on the Front Door:
Internet shopping has become very popular and it helps alleviate some of the shopping stress. With it comes a security benefit and at the same time opens up another potential for becoming a victim. If you are like me and do 90% of all your Christmas shopping online then you know on some days it seems like the doorbell is ringing every 5 minutes with another delivery arriving. It can be very tedious to stop what you’re doing and go answer the door yet again. Make sure that every time BEFORE you unlock that front door that you stop and take the extra second to look out the window or check the peep to ensure it is in fact an actual delivery person. During these busy times FedEx and UPS will have seasonal workers running deliveries and sometimes they won’t be driving a company vehicle (tonight at my house it was actually a FedEx delivery but in a Budget rental van). If you have an instance such as mine and it is a package that requires a signature have them hold up their company ID and/or the package label so you are able to read it through the window (or door peephole). Whenever possible track your packages online and you will know when to expect the doorbell and which carrier to expect. If you have someone standing outside your door holding a box wearing a yellow and red DHL colored shirt but you are expecting that UPS man with a package of goodness it could be something sinister. Maybe not but it is better to be safe than sorry.
I am more worried about your personal safety but suffering a monetary loss due to theft is also a possibility with shopping online. Specifically, there have been some reports of thieves cruising neighborhood looking for the midday delivery drop offs sitting on front porches. After an initial drive by and ensuring the coast is clear they grab the package and drive off. To prevent this from possibly happening I suggest the following. If possible have the delivery rescheduled for a time you know someone will be home, arrange to pick it up at your local hub, if you have a neighbor that works at home (or is retired) ask if they would mind accepting the delivery, or have it delivered to your work (if allowed).
When you have to hit the Mall:
I’m pretty sure there is going to be a time (or times) where you are going to have to brave the crowds to do some shopping. If you’re lucky it will be just to the grocery store or your favorite adult beverage store. No matter how quick or short you perceive the trip to be make sure you take the extra minute to put on your everyday carry gear (firearm, knife, flashlight, phone, etc). It doesn’t matter if the trip is to the large mall or a small plaza, getting into and out of our car is a time that is favorable for a criminal to strike and leaving our personal defense tools behind for convenience or because we’re in a rush just isn’t worth the risk. It’s the holidays so unless you’re lucky finding a parking spot will be a task in and of itself. Our usual spot under a lamp post and a straight shot to the front door is probably not available. So unfortunately we will take what we can get. In the parking lot it is fairly easy for someone to hide around a vehicle. It is also fairly easy for a seasoned criminal to move in plain sight around vehicles in a way that wouldn’t cause suspicion. Imagine this scenario. You have just pulled into a parking spot in a well lit area, did a thorough scan around your vehicle to include using your mirrors, after not seeing anything suspicious, you turn the car off. Just as you start to get out of your vehicle you notice someone walking down the passenger side of your car and it appears that they are getting into the car you parked next to. You can see them through your passenger side window with their back toward you and it looks like they are trying to unlock their car. It’s the holidays and of course your in a rush but do you continue to get out of your vehicle? In this situation I would highly recommend taking that extra time (that you already don’t feel like you have) to err on the side of caution. I would suggest ensuring your doors are locked and waiting for them to get in and drive away. Maybe even starting your car and finding a different spot is the better move. In this day and age it is very rare to see someone actually stick a key into a car to unlock the door. Maybe they are just looking at their cell phone before getting into the car but their back is to you so you cannot be sure. Maybe they are staging a weapon of some sort. This is a hypothetical with a lot of maybes, however, it’s the holidays and there are things to do with little time to spare. Take that little bit of extra time to make sure it remains a happy holiday.
You don’t have to be a Grinch:
When the Christmas and New Years holidays roll around people generally seem a little happier and a little friendlier (unless it’s black Friday and you scored the last $50 flat screen). The feelings of good will can be contagious but doesn’t mean we should unnecessarily compromise our safety because we are afraid someone will think we are a Grinch. Someone saying “Happy Holidays” as they encroach into our personal space is not okay. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean we throw out all we know and have trained on managing unknown contacts. There is no shortage of good people collecting for various groups in need during this time of year. There also are some very savvy criminals out there who use this fact to their advantage and pose as a volunteer seeking donations. It provides them a disarming excuse to get you to let your guard down, get into your personal space, and open your purse or wallet. Be cautious, especially if the solicitation is happening in the parking lot and/or away from other people. It is perfectly acceptable and advised to maintain that security buffer via verbal commands. If you want to donate there is nothing wrong with telling them you will gladly donate but to meet you at the store entrance (or other well lit and populated area). Someone who is genuinely collecting for a charity group will understand, gladly give you the space, and happily meet you at the place of your designation. If they do not something might be amiss. Look them in the eye, watch their hands, move in a manner that will put you in a position of advantage to see your surroundings (other possible attackers as well as possible escape routes) and be prepared to defend an attack. It is also quite possible one of these criminals could show up on your front door step ringing the bell seeking donations. Maybe you open the door, give them a cash donation, and they pocket it while moving on to the neighbors house. It could be something worse so why open yourself up to a potential attack. It is perfectly acceptable to talk to them without opening the door and ask them to leave the literature in your mailbox so you can donate at a later time.
This Holiday Season Security Tips really apply regardless the time of year but with the holidays it’s easier to get caught up in the festivities as well as providing more opportunities for those who look to do harm. Stay vigilant, train hard, train often, and train in context. Have a SAFE and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year.