BY RACHEL CHEESEMAN, FOUNDER OF STREET SMART SELF DEFENSE
With the sound of Salvation Army bells ringing in the air, it is without a doubt that the Christmas season is in full swing! Give yourself a pat on the back for successfully using good awareness skills for getting you and your packages to the safety of your vehicle. You deserve it! But……you’re not done yet. What happens when you get home? Your awareness doesn’t end at the final midnight madness sale.
Burglaries happen at all times of year, but statistical data does support that the incidence rate goes up during the holiday season. I know of a situation in my hometown where a woman was unloading her car in front of her house. She set her purse down on the porch to open the door and bring packages inside. Suddenly, a man walked up and asked her for a favor, before the woman could even respond to the question the man reached down, grabbed her purse and ran off her porch. My best advice in this circumstance would be not to “overload” yourself right away. For many of us, it’s cold outside and we don’t want to make too many trips to our car. So we “load up” to avoid excessive trips. Criminals want the easy mark so they are taking advantage of your distraction to detail. And in this case, the criminal also created his own additional distraction—beware of “the stupid question”. Questions such as “You have the time?” or “You have any change?” may seem innocent and genuine, but it could be setting you up for a screening, so be sure your valuables are secure at all times. It’s best to unload your packages through a back door, so as not to draw attention. Make sure you take your purse inside the residence first before unloading anything! At least any cards or cash will be more secure and not in full view.
Speaking of “full view”, many people like to leave their window curtains drawn back to show off their Christmas tree in a prominent location. Just remember that while the neighborhood is oohhhhing and aaaahhhhing over your holiday glitz and glam, criminals are getting a closer look to find out what’s under it. Electronics are a high ticket item this time of year, and for those without little kids, some of us like to pre-wrap gifts and put them under the tree ahead of schedule. Be Careful!! If your tree is in a place of prominent display, it’s best to keep those wrapped packages in a closet and out of full view. Of course, it’s common sense to keep your windows covered as well as your doors and windows locked. But despite your best efforts, if a criminal wants in they’ll get in. In other words “where there’s a will, there’sa way”.
I consider my home to be relatively safe. I take all the proper “preventive measures”. But one day, this past summer, 2 men found their way inside my home!! It was a warm sunny day and my husband left the kitchen window, above the sink, open about 3 inches. Who doesn’t do that on a nice day right? Fortunately I had a vigilant neighbor who was home and saw two men sitting on my porch. She thought the situation looked strange so she continued to watch. In a short time, they made their way down my driveway looking up at my windows. As soon as they entered my backyard, she called the police. While the police were on their way, my neighbor watched the one man boost the other up to my kitchen window, slide it open, crawl over the sink and flip the latch on the back door to let the other guy in. Just then the police arrived and caught them as they tried to escape. It’s a very unsettling feeling when someone enters your home uninvited. But I’m not going to live in fear either. Despite our best efforts, we decided to get a home security system to add an extra layer of protection. I’m just glad my neighbor was aware and used her common sense instincts. It’s important to look out for the safety of your neighbors. That’s what creates a safer place to live. But don’t ever deny the fact that it can happen to you.
Your home is your castle! Take every measure to protect it and never take anything for granted. The only foreign guest to enter your home at this time of year should be Santa himself! Holiday cheer and the scent of home baked goods should fill your home—not criminals and police officers. Merry Christmas to all and to all a safe night!!
Rachel Cheeseman is a 2nd degree black belt and has studied the martial arts for the past 28 years. She founded Street Smart Self Defense Academy in Erie, PA 17 years ago to empower women, due to the rape of her sister in her off-campus college apartment. She is a certified instructor for the national full-contact self-defense program called “Model Mugging” and a certified instructor for the MUNIO Self Defense Workshops. Rachel is also a member of and former seminar instructor for the American Women’s Self Defense Association, and she has been inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honors and the World Karate Union Hall of Fame.