The older Tucson dame waving down traffic Sunday afternoon on Glenn Street near First Avenue may have looked innocent enough.

You never know where folks have been/Ryn Gargulinski

The white-haired lady was somewhat stooped, frail and politely hiding her cigarette behind her back as she tried to flag down a ride.

But who wants to take a chance on picking up a hitchhiking grandma who might double as an ax murderer?

Lots of crimes are simply those of opportunity, with thieves, muggers – or even ax murderers – striking because they can.

“Over the past year, a large number of our property crimes occur at the hands of opportunists, taking advantage of unlocked doors, unsecured valuables, and the inattention of their victims,” says a news release from the Tucson Police Department.

TPD statistics from 2009 remind us of the popularity of some of these crimes:

Residential robbery, larceny and burglaries: 3,369 = 9.2 per day
Larceny from motor vehicles: 2,677 = 7.3 per day
Motor vehicle theft: 3,556 = 10 per day

Top five vehicle theft locations from January to June 2010 as per the TPD website :

Walmart, 1650 W. Valencia Rd., with 12
Northridge Apartments, 1901 N. Wilmot Rd., with 10
Rio Seco Community, 1440 W. Irvington Rd., with 9
El Pueblo Center, 101 W. Irvington Rd., with 9
Rancho Mirage, 750 E. Irvington Rd., with 8

With these fine stats in mind, TPD offered a host of tips, which we supplemented with addition input:

You can never be too careful/Ryn Gargulinski

Lock doors and windows. This goes for homes, cars, outdoor sheds, backyard gates – heck, even lock the fuse box if you can.

Keep shrubbery trimmed low. This way you can see any vagabonds lurking, even if trimming ruins your shade pattern and disturbs nesting birds.

Don’t leave valuables visible inside your car. Your new pair of shoes on the passenger seat is just begging to be stolen. The same goes for your cell phone, CD collection or host of movies you are about to return to the neighborhood Blockbuster. Don’t forget dogs get stolen, too.

Don’t leave vehicle keys in the ignition. This tip goes into the “duh” category, the same category with safety tips like “Don’t lie down on the tracks in front of an oncoming train.” Yet people still do it. Sometimes they even leave their vehicles unattended with the engine running.

Don’t underestimate the tenacity – or pliability – of a thief. “A suspect can enter your vehicle or home through any size window,” the release points out. He or she can also probably slither through that doggie door.

Make sure outside storage areas are locked. Keep all of your possessions in a safe and secure place. If an item is stored outside, please make sure the storage area is secure. Can’t be too safe when it comes to wheel barrows and garden rakes.

Never underestimate the greediness of a thief. Someone stole a small, metal peace sign hung on my front yard tree branch meant to stop passer-bys from hitting their heads. The thing was worth about 50 cents, but it’s the principal of it all.

Spend time with neighbors out in the community. Form a neighborhood association or Neighborhood Watch.

Report all suspicious people, vehicles and activity to 911.

Don’t call 911 to have someone come change the channel on your TV, do a beer run or because a fast food restaurant gave you a hamburger without pickles or special sauce.

Don’t pick up hitchhiking grandmas, especially those in the area of First Avenue and Glenn.


What do you think?

Have you ever unwittingly invited crime? What happened?

Do you leave your bags unattended on the street and then get mad when someone runs off with them?

What’s the worst thing ever stolen from you?