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Friday, April 22, 2011

10 Suburban Safety Tips

Original Article

We are currently house sitting for the next few weeks, firmly ensconced in upper middle class suburbia land. Each morning I take a three mile walk around the neighborhood and there are a few things that bother me here, safety wise.
  1. I noticed that the same half dozen home owners open their garage doors in the early morning and leave them open all day. I don't see the occupants outside so I assume they are in their house. I hope they at least keep the door from the garage to the house locked but still, leaving a garage full of possessions open to the public, even in what is considered a very safe neighborhood, is asking for trouble. What's to stop someone from stealing the stuff in the garage or worse, going into the garage, closing the garage door, using the tools hanging on the wall in the garage to break into the house and robbing the place or worse?
  2. There are quite a few walkers and runners enjoying the safe, nearly car-free streets of the neighborhood. Unfortunately many are wearing their iPods and wouldn't hear a truck if it was bearing down on them. In the gym I like listening to my iPod when I work out, however outside, it is very important to be able to hear what is going on around you for your safety.
  3. It appears that this neighborhood is keeping more than a dozen service industries in business. Throughout the day you will see vehicles for yard guys, pool guys, housekeepers, bug guys, nannys, home maintenance/repair folks, etc. coming and going. With all of these people, it is hard to tell who belongs here and who doesn't and it would be quite easy for someone to put on a uniform of some sort and "blend in" for nefarious purposes.
  4. On a few occasions I have seen individual children walking by themselves and waiting by themselves at bus stops. It appears that most children are driven to school but I have some concern about kids waiting by themselves in the early morning, even though it is a safe neighborhood.
  5. Nearly every home has a home security system in place. I have no idea if they are used or not but I find many people with these systems who live in what are considered safe neighborhoods become lax at using them.
  6. It appears that many people who live here work in the city. With 9 to 5 jobs and long commute times, it is quite predictable, should someone want to plan a burglary, to note when people leave and when they come home, and plan accordingly. Being predictably unpredictable is a good thing.
  7. Some homes appear to be a beacon to thieves and others who could do the homeowners harm. There is a Mercedes in the driveway instead of kept in the garage. Window shades are often left open after dark so a potential burglar can easily look in and practically make a shopping list (56" big screen. Check. Two Apple MacBooks on the dining room table, Check.). Recycling left on the curb each week can provide more than enough information about the homeowners (one family appears to eat take out pizza daily, another has a box from a new Apple computer in the recycle bin). I'm a big fan of keeping things--from my possessions to my habits--private.
  8. Even though there are sidewalks, big beautiful homes, and friendly neighbors, there are always hazards that can threaten your safety if not your piece of mind. Loose dogs, cars backing up and not seeing you, new teenage drivers who think the quiet, straight roads would make a perfect place to practice for their future NASCAR careers, tots who get away from their harried parent/nanny and wander into the road, etc. In other words, even though you aren't on alert like you would be in the city, there are still many things you need to be aware of.
  9. Then there are the hidden safety risks such as teens at home when parents are working all day or gone for the weekend (drugs and teen pregnancy are well documented problems in the inner city but can be just as likely to happen in the suburbs) and houses left empty due to the recent spate of foreclosures (like many areas, this neighborhood has a handful of houses that now sit empty and unattended).
  10. Complacency may be the biggest threat to people's safety in this area. When an area is considered "safe", people automatically let their guard down which, maybe 90% of the time, isn't be a problem. It is the other 10% of the time, when the statistical aberration occurs, that something bad happens and people make the evening news saying something like "I never thought something like that would happen here."

No matter where you live, it is important to take safety precautions seriously, even if you live in a "good" part of town.

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