Traveling This Summer? Think like a Criminal, Professor Says

Money in wallet

Professor Tod Burke advises travelers to carry small amounts of cash to avoid angering potential robbers by having nothing to offer.

Traveling this summer is going to be a blast. You're taking the kids to the beach, visiting relatives and maybe making a side trip to see the world's largest display of alligator spit.

Summer travel can make great memories for years to come, but make sure you don't let anyone spoil the fun. Who would do that, you ask? Bad guys, that's who.

Tod Burke, a criminal justice professor at Radford University and a former police officer and crime prevention specialist in Maryland, offers tips to help you protect your family and your valuables while trekking miles away from home.

  • Inform trusted friends and family members that you're leaving. Ask someone to keep your house running as if you were still home, Burke suggests. Have them pick up your mail and take out the trash.
  • Don't leave a key under the welcome mat. It's the first place a would-be burglar will look, Burke says. Instead, leave a key with the trusted friend.
  • Don't be too social about your vacation plans. Burke says posting your plans on social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter tips off bad guys that you're not home. Don't be tempted to post photos of you on a giant rollercoaster while you're still on the ride. Wait until you get home.
  • Don't flash your bling: This seems like common sense, but flashy jewelry is a hot target for thieves and robbers. But don't leave those items in your hotel room either. Leave your valuables locked away at home, preferably in a home safe, Burke suggests. If you take jewelry on vacation, keep it in a hotel safe. The same goes for laptops, cameras and other electronic devices.
  • Let yourself be the bad guy. At least let yourself think like a bad guy. For your home, think, "Where am I the most vulnerable?" Burke says, and "If I were a burglar, where would I look?" Taking this simple approach can take you a long way toward returning home to find everything just as you left it.

Finally, Burke says, while you're out, carry as little cash as possible, but do carry some. Robbers can get angry if you have nothing to offer.

If you do need to carry a large sum of cash, the professor suggests that men carry wallets in their front pockets, although it is best to distribute the money in various pockets of your clothing. Few robbers will spend time doing a pat down on a busy street. For women with purses or men with LeBron James-style "murses" or man-purses, carry those with the strap toward a wall if possible. The wall can obstruct the path of a potential purse snatcher.

Jun 30, 2012
Chad Osborne