06.09.10 at 2:30 p.m.
Peter Radowick
Watch Your Stuff

Crime can happen anywhere, but, speaking in general terms, I find downtown Houston to be a pretty safe environment during the traditional business hours. In fact, I can’t recall any acts of violent crime taking place in broad daylight in the 15 years I have worked here.

However, nonviolent crime such as theft remains an irritant. Talk to anyone in charge of security at one of the big buildings downtown – office tower, hotel, convention center, retail outlet – and they will tell you of the challenge of combating theft. Laptop computers, in particular, are coveted by thieves.

What surprised little ol’ naïve me was that laptop theft isn’t a crime of opportunity, per se, a valuable item left unattended to tempt a person with nefarious tendencies. No, laptops are actually targeted by professional thieves – teams of them, in fact. These teams may include the person making the snitch, another creating a distraction, another on lookout, and another outside in the getaway car. These teams will enter a building looking to swipe computers, electronic equipment or anything else that can fetch a price and can immediately be sold on-line in mere minutes. Modern thieves no longer need a place to stash their loot for very long. The internet has made their market a global one. A laptop stolen in Houston today can be sold to someone in Hungary tomorrow.

My late mother-in-law regularly reminded her kids to be alert to what was going on around them. In today’s world, with its many electronic and digital distractions, that’s not always easy. One security professional told me a story about a thief who approached from behind a woman seated in a hotel lobby. So preoccupied was she with the work on her laptop that she never noticed that the bad guy, standing just inches behind her comfy chair, had used his foot to drag away the victim’s purse on the floor next  to her. This was all captured on security cameras.

Every November and December the media offers regular public service announcements to foil would-be crooks. You know: keep packages hidden in the trunk, walk alertly in a parking lot, get an escort when possible, etc.

The same cautionary note holds true even in a seemingly safe place like a downtown office tower. Don’t leave your laptop unattended when you get up for another latte. Lock your purse in your desk drawer. Check the identity of an office visitor whom you don’t recognize.

Be aware of the world around you.

Crime, George R. Brown, GRB, GRBCC
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