While everyone is cruising around crowded malls and parking lots, with thoughts of a White Christmas and sugar plum fairies dancing around in their heads, many seem to forget one thingâ€¦SAFETY. Most people throw caution to the wind during the holidays, and figure that everyone has good intentions due to holiday cheer, but it’s important to remember, bad guys donâ€™t take a day off.
Letâ€™s take a look at some recent instances, such as the most current craze involving the â€œknockout gameâ€. Most, if not all of the victims were totally unaware of their attackerâ€™s presence. Most videos show people walking aimlessly, feeling relatively â€œsafeâ€, being attacked. Now, think about your everyday routine, and the places you normally walk to and from, unassuming, and somewhat unaware of your surroundings. Add into that mix a Christmas shopping list, comparing prices in stores on your smart phone with the latest sales flyer, your wife or husband calling and saying the kids donâ€™t want the red Legos they want the blue ones, a Salvation Army representative asking for spare change, a runaway shopping cart headed in the direction of your vehicle, and almost being mowed down by the granny that canâ€™t see over her steering wheel. All of these distractions take our attention away from our immediate environment, thus making us more vulnerable to an attack.
Moving in and around your vehicle
Studies show that most violent encounters (about 86%) happen at a distance of 9 â€“ 12 feet. To put that into perspective, thatâ€™s the approximate length of your car (unless you drive some sort of hippie hybrid and probably aren’t reading this article anyways because you think we should give peace a chance). While we are entering or exiting our vehicle, we are often times most vulnerable to an attack.
Criminals know this; they also know that at this time of year, we probably have a pocket full of cash and credit cards. This leaves us VERY open for an ambush style attack before we get out of our vehicles. The same is true for when we are getting into our car. When we have our arms full of a towering stack of gifts that we canâ€™t see over, and weâ€™re fumbling around to try and find our keys, we make an easy target. Pretty tough to fend off an attacker with our arms full of Nerf guns, Hello Kitty, and the latest As Seen on TV paraphernalia.
After the gifts are open
So you avoided conflict at the mall, got yourself a new 62 inch flat screen, the kids are playing with their new toys, and youâ€™re getting ready to head out and knock back some eggnog with friends and family. Youâ€™re excited, and so are the bad guys. Why? That new 62 inch, flat screen, high definition television you just gotâ€¦they know itâ€™s inside the house! Why? You threw the box out in the trash, in the front yard, with the picture of the television on it, facing the street, letting EVERYONE know what you got for Christmas. Had to gloat didn’t ya? Well, your hopes and dreams of watching the Super Bowl on that big screen are out the window.
The cars that have been cruising the streets AREN’T your neighborâ€™s relatives, they are the people who are waiting to see what you got for Christmas, waiting for you to leave, and waiting to own a new television that Santa forgot to bring them, since they were on the naughty list. Christmas Eve and Christmas day are hectic times for law enforcement. Believe it or not, cops want to be home with their families just as bad as you do. They donâ€™t get any extra super powers working these days, and they deal with all calls accordingly. Knowing that most people will be leaving their brand new presents unattended, while they go out of town to visit family, is a criminalâ€™s idea of a perfect Christmas. Home invasions sky rocket, and there are only so many police officers on call to deal with these situations.
How can we avoid falling victim to violent crime during the holidays? Here are a few simple tips:
1. Avoid task fixation
Be aware of your surroundings, stay off of the phone as much as possible (this means talking/texting/updating Facebook/tweeting and instaspamming). As human animals, we are pretty good at multitasking, but try to avoid this at all costs so that you are cognizant of your environment and whatâ€™s going on around you. This is especially important walking TO and FROM stores.
2. Travel in groups
This may not be optimal if you need to buy a gift for someone youâ€™re with, but knowing that the criminal paradigm proves that most violent offenders travel in groups, you may be less likely to fall victim to an attack with one or two friends as opposed to being alone.
3. Park in a well-lit area
This should go without saying. Donâ€™t park in the darkest corner of a parking lot because there are no parking spots left. Do a few laps in your car; find a spot closer to where people congregate, and where there is a source of bright light.
4. Keep your keys in your hand
You canâ€™t fend off a violent encounter with your hands digging through your pockets. Keep your keys in your hands, and try not to be a super hero by carrying 15 bags of goodies back to the car. Make multiple trips, even if it means having to wait in line again and again. No one is more of a perfect target than the person with one hand in their pocket, while theyâ€™re trying to do a balancing act with their other arm being full of gifts.
Also take note that if you carry a firearm, itâ€™s best to keep your strong hand free, or your keys in that hand, so that you can either easily access your gun, or quickly ditch the keys while you go for your sidearm.
5. Keep your guard up
Question everyone. Not everyone has the best intentions this time of year. The person who seems to be struggling with a frozen car door lock may be waiting for you to offer assistance so they can ambush you. Check the back seat of your car before you get in. DO NOT sit and wait for the car to heat up before you leave the parking lot. Put the keys in the ignition, start it, and go.
6. Give them what they want
If you are the victim of an attempted assault/robbery, give the perpetrator what they want. NO amount of toys or gifts are worth the value of your life. Maybe someone goes without a gift this year because of it, but Iâ€™d be willing to bet that they would rather have you, unscathed, in their life instead of the latest Apple product.
7. Re-wrap your gifts
No, not literally, but if youâ€™re going to throw out the boxes, and donâ€™t want to advertise what you got for Christmas, put them in the big, heavy contractor grade trash bags. DO NOT throw them all out on the same day. The trash comes every week (at least where Iâ€™m from), throw out the empty boxes over the course of the next few weeks. Prying eyes wonâ€™t know how much or what you got if youâ€™re only adding one extra bag of trash per week to your trash pile. Also, those empty boxes make great kindling for a warm winter fire (just saying).
8. Leave the lights on
Yes, leave them on when youâ€™re not home. Give the illusion that someone is home, even if you have to use a timer. One or two, even dimly lit rooms can sometimes be enough to dissuade a home invader to pick a home that looks less occupied. Also turn on any exterior lights, such as porch, driveway, and rear exits. Keep in mind criminals prefer to work in the shadows, so try to minimize them around your house. On top of that, put the family in one car, and leave the second vehicle home, again to further the illusion that the house is occupied.
All of this isn’t written to make you a paranoid wreck during the holidays. It serves as a reminder that during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, itâ€™s easy to forget that evil still does exist in the world. Crime doesn’t take a day off. Itâ€™s up to you to take care of yourself and loved ones. Have a safe and Merry Christmas.