On Saturday I learned why.
Park people brought around slips of paper with crime prevention suggestions and urged people to lock up their valuables in their car.
Thieves are breaking into cars at parks across Central Florida, but especially at presumably affluent parks. They are looking for purses and personal items like GPS systems and iPods. People often leave these sorts of things in the car because they can be cumbersome to carry at a park -- especially if you're with your dog or or kids.
Here's what the slip of paper from the Orange County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Unit says to do:
- Keep all valuables out of plain view
- Lock all automobile doors and windows
- Always use your anti-theft device
- Always let a family member or close friend know your plans and when you will return
- Always have a charged cell phone with you
I would also add to the list:
- Take only the most basic items with you when you come to the park, which are easily storeable in pockets or a small bag
- Keep an eye on your dog at all times
|This young stranger is petting Lulu, to Lulu's joy. But I'm not far behind.|
People often ask why I follow Lulu all over the park. I don't tell them I don't trust them, but that's the reason. And with dog-nappings on the rise across the country, I take no chances.
Here are some things I suggest:
- Keep the leash handy. Many people hang it up on the fence of the park. But if you need to extract the dog quickly, you need it nearby.
- Keep the leash short. Most parks require you keep the dog on a six-foot leash outside off the off-leash area. But make sure the dog doesn't get too far ahead of you, especially if you are using one of those extendable leashes. It's a lot easier for someone to get away with your dog.
- Don't go anywhere alone that's dark or not well-lit, even with your dog. Parks can have lots of wooded areas and bushes. Who is lurking behind them?
- Take pictures of your dog at the park. It's the last place you may see the dog. Not only does it give you the latest pictures of your dog, but police may be able to use those pictures to help find possible witnesses -- even suspects.
- Never be too far away. Some people let the dog loose, and sit and do homework or talk on the phone. But where is the dog? Do you know?
- Mind every entrance. Dr. Phillips Dog Park only has one entrance into each off-leash area. But that's not the case for every park. Sanford's Paw Park, for instance, has at least three entrances, with a parking lot at each. That's a lot of entrances to watch.
- Make sure your microchip info is up-to-date.