Saturday, December 20, 2008

Crime Tip of the Day: If you're going away for the holidays: Dirtball Waits!

With apologies to the late, great mystery writer, Tony Hillerman, Buz reports that if you're going away for the holidays, Dirtball Waits. He waits because he knows most young professionals, students, and even some older folk, go away for the holidays. And in some areas, the majority of people will be gone--then he'll strike! The areas closest to schools and universities are the main areas he lurks and waits.  A lot of young people make a big deal about loading their cars all up, yelling to their friends and neighbors: "hey, we'll be back the the 26th, the 20th of January or the the 27th of something. Yeah, we're going' up to New Haven, Philly area, New York, etc." He sees the luggage, and gifts, and wishes them well. He might see the wrapped gifts in the hallway, you never can tell; if they leave even briefly, he may have a shot; the doors are not locked securely, as likely as not.
When they're away, he'll scout and wait and be about. He's hoping to leave you a little without. No doubt.
So, if you're going away for the holidays, here are some tips to get you thinking, particularly if you are a student, grad student, post-doc, fellow, or intern, who is going home to see the family for the holiday.
  • Assume you may be broken into while you're away, as painful as that sounds. Leave no cash or jewelry for him to take; he also likes all electronic stuff. Take your laptop, ipod, itouch, etc., with you. Make sure you have your serial number for your desktop either recorded somewhere or, better send it to cyberspace.
  • Ideally, you would want a neighbor who is trusted to check on your house at least once a day, to take in your mail, any fliers or newspapers, and turn on or off some lights around the house. However, the less people who know you are going away, the better.
  • If there are no known viable neighbors, then use a post office vacation card to stop your mail while you're away; any newspapers you get should be stopped as well.
  • Don't make a big deal about leaving: no tooting of horns, no loud cell phone announcements, have all your luggage stockpiled to load quickly and quietly, the earlier in the morning the better.
  • Make sure all doors and windows are locked, using all locks. Even if you don't find a neighbor you feel you can ask, perhaps there is one you can at least discreetly mention to ask to keep an eye out.
  • Of course, if you have an alarm, set it, but make sure your notifications are viable. 
Areas at highest risk: Charles Village, Pigtown and other areas near to UM downtown campus, Remington, and heavy student areas of Hamilton and Loch Raven and Towson. Police historically are busy taking burglary reports right after the students come back from vacation. And many campuses are vulnerable because they are historically empty and the dorms are deserted and they have minimal staffing. Smart schools take special measures to ensure security of the unoccupied dorm rooms during these breaks. But not all schools have experienced this problem yet. Take your laptop with you as well as anything special of value that can reasonably be carried. 

Good luck! We wish these notices were not necessary. But he waits!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Do you feel safer because of the drop in murders?!

Someone just today was asking Buz about the sharp drop in murders compared to last year. While there has been an upsurge in homicides in the city since around the first of November, there is still projected to be a 40+ drop from last year. (Buz is predicting we'll end up with about 245 murders this year: he is so Mr. Cynicalpants!).

But your consultant wonders: does the decrease in homicides make you feel safer as you go about your day-to-day business? I dunno; and I'm skeptical.

So, we're wondering if our faithful, nice readers will chime in and let us know: what difference does the drop in homicides mean to you? do you feel safer? do you feel crime is moving in the right direction?

Please let me know!