On Watch

Careful What You Throw Away

Posted: Dec 27, 2012 1:01 PM ET Last Updated: Dec 27, 2012 1:01 PM ET
 This is a story I've told before, but it's one that bears repeating.  Especially this time of year.
 It has to do with the things we throw away.  Specifically, the boxes we put curbside for recycling.  Most of us don't give them another thought.  We break them down, bundle them up and put them out for collection.
 But in most neighbourhoods, those boxes can spend a lot of time on the curb before the truck picks them up.  And in all that time, they're an advertisement for anyone passing by your house.
 Now coffee makers, vacuum cleaners and pots and pans can make nice gifts, but they're not usually the sort of things thieves covet.  Electronics, on the other hand, are very popular items for thieves: they're valuable, portable and easy to re-sell on the black market.   And most manufacturers are proud of what they make and put glossy pictures on the boxes to advertise the contents.
 A slow cruise through a neighbourhood on garbage day, and a thief can pick out exactly which houses he might want to return to later.  It saves him the trouble of having to peer through windows to "case" the house.  He can do his window shopping from the safety of his car.  And let's face it, on garbage day, most of us have gotten used to seeing people cruising slowly through our neighbourhoods, looking for recyclables they can harvest for their own reward.
 I can't remember who first pointed this problem out to me.  It was obviously someone with a mind as suspicious as my own.  This person also had a simple solution: the advertising is only on the outside of the boxes.  So when you're cutting them up to put them curbside, simply make sure they're bundled inside out.  Then all would-be thieves will see is a lot of plain brown cardboard.
 This doesn't guarantee thieves won't break into your home, of course.  The holiday season is still a prime time for this sort of thing because a mound of gifts under a tree offer convenient, one-stop shopping for lots of brand new consumer goods.  The usual precautions about making sure doors and windows are closed and locked and making sure the house looks lived-in even if you're out of town still apply.  It may be the holiday season, but thieves don't take holidays.
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About the Author

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 30 years in Atlantic Canada, covering everything from princes to politicians to prostitutes, and a whole lot of stuff in between. These days, he focusses on stories involving crime and public safety.

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