Category Archives: Tips and tricks

Officer Bruce Baker knows the importance of security equipment

Police officers keep our streets safe. They serve and protect to ensure we can enjoy our day-to-day lives in peace. However, when it comes to keeping their gear protected, officers turn to high-quality security equipment.

Bruce Baker currently works in the Marin County Sheriff’s Office in California and has been in law enforcement for nearly 25 years. From working in a jail as a deputy to investigating homicides at the sheriff’s department, Baker has seen a lot in his time as a police officer. As a result, he knows how important security is for someone in his line of work.

When asked what the most important thing is when it comes to choosing security equipment, Baker didn’t hesitate to reply.

“Something that’s going to keep everybody safe,” Baker said. “I mean, that’s our No. 1 thing in law enforcement is to keep everybody safe, to make sure they go home every night to their families.”

Baker’s experience as a police officer has taught him the importance of security equipment and making sure it is right for a cop. While he cited that price and budgeting will always be an issue, nothing trumps safety when it comes picking equipment. Most police departments will always be under budget constraints. Therefore, they will have to choose quality gear that will both last and keep officers safe. Whether a department is getting money through grants or community donations, choosing a lockbox or police tactical gear that won’t fall apart is crucial when trying to make funds go as far as possible.

Lockboxes perfect for on and off the job
One ideal product for keeping guns safe at home or at a police department is a lockbox. Whether a cop stores their guns in their patrol car or keeps some at home, locking them away is essential. While Baker’s current department had other means for storing their guns, he noted that many officers purchase lockboxes on their own.

“A lot of people personally have lockboxes at home to keep their guns safe when they’re at home, from their kids and everything,” Baker said.

Baker also noted that two AR-15 rifles were once stolen out of a police garage.

“They broke into a locked garage, broke into the truck and broke the mechanism it was locked in inside the truck,” Baker said. “And they stole it. We eventually got it back through good detective work.”

And while good detective work eventually led to the return of their guns, taking preventative measures to stop robberies before a crime is committed is ideal.

Keep guns secure with the right equipment
Even Baker, who said he wasn’t personally enthusiastic about guns, noted the importance of keeping them in a lockbox.

“It’s very important to lock them up,” Baker said. “I’m not a gun guy. I have a gun at home and it’s completely locked up in a box. I wouldn’t do it any other way.”

A lockbox ensures a gun stays out of the wrong hands. However, they will still keep the weapon accessible for the right person. The great thing about a lockbox is that it strikes the perfect balance between convenience and security. When it comes to quickly opening a lockbox, a push button combo lock is far faster than having to find and use a key. An officer can go from keeping their gun safely stored to having it loaded in their hand simply and swiftly.

Baker compared this balance between security and convenience to getting a gun out of a locked holster.

“In the old days when I started, the gun was just kind of hanging on your belt,” he said. “Anyone could just grab it off.”

However, he noted that these days holsters are locked, making it harder for a criminal to get their hands on the gun, but still convenient for an officer. The same can be said about a lockbox.

Improve vehicle storage and security during National Car Care Month

While April is typically a time where vehicle owners have their cars inspected at body shops, why not also improve a ride by adding some additional security and storage accessories?

It’s National Car Care Month, according to the Car Care Council, encouraging motorists to look assess the following aspects of their vehicles:

  • Brakes
  • Exhaust system
  • Fluids
  • Belts and hoses
  • HVAC system
  • Battery
  • Tires
  • Wipers
  • Lighting

The list goes on, but essentially, spring kicks off the driving season, so it’s important to make sure a vehicle is ready. But, ensuring all parts of a car are properly maintained is just one way to get it ready for warmer weather.

Accessories for security and storage
Vehicle owners should also look to add accessories to improve their vehicle as a part of National Car Care Month. Whether it’s to protect valuables inside a car, as break-ins typically increase with the improving weather conditions, or it’s to add more functional storage for an upcoming camping trip, accessories are available to help.

aHere a number of popular options that are great for someone at work or play:

  • Mini safe: Keep items out of a robber’s hands.
  • Roof cargo: Add some more storage space to the top of a vehicle.
  • Truck bed box: Get more functional storage space in a pickup.
  • Lockbox: Great for a cop who is off the job and looking for secure storage for their gun.

The list also goes on, as well. This spring, every driver should make it their goal to not only make sure their vehicle is well cared for – practicing preventative maintenance – but also ensuring it is as functional as possible. Accessories are a valuable tool in improving the performance of a car or truck – improving security and storage – and will make life easier on a jobsite, camping trip or anything in between.

Tips to avoid having items stolen from a vehicle

Having a car broken into can be a nightmare. Not only might personal belongings get stolen, but you could have to wait around to file a report, then have to deal with an insurance company.

A few preventative measures can help you avoid these situations altogether, and when it comes to your vehicle it's better to be safe than sorry.

Get an alarm system
While an alarm system might cost you some extra cash, it will be worth it in the end. Criminals will shy away from cars with alarms. One simple and effective way to avoid a theft is to have an alarm system present in a car.

Lockboxes will keep items safe 
While it's a good idea not to keep expensive items in your car, sometimes it's not an option. Whether it's a GPS system or even a gun, motorists should always keep a lockbox in their car. Thieves will be thoroughly disappointed if they break into a car and find that they can't even see what's in a lockbox, much less get their hands on it.

Watch where you park
Choosing a dimly lit corner of a parking garage could be a mistake. When parking, always try to pick an area with high traffic and plenty of lighting. This will deter thieves from even considering a break in.

Auto burglar finally behind bars

A man who broke into more than two dozen cars in Northern California has finally been arrested. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Vernon Rayshaun Evans-Carmichael, 22, was taken into custody in January facing 27 felony charges of burglary and grand theft.

Police told the source that Evans-Carmichael has been breaking into cars for at least six months. He was initially arrested in October but was able to post bail at that time. Since his release, he has broken into cars at two separate locations before getting arrested a second time. He is currently being held in a Santa Clara jail on $350,000 bail.

Los Altos Police Agent Mark Thompson told the Los Altos Town Crier that, in addition to the initial felony charges, Evans-Carmichael the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office also filed for four additional burglary and two more grand theft charges. These were for several auto burglaries that he allegedly committed in mid-January.

Evans-Carmichael's M.O.
According to the Chronicle, Evans-Carmichael generally targeted parked rental cars by smashing the windows. In the most recent car thefts, he stole electronics like laptops and camera equipment, which appears to be another pattern in his thefts.

For example, on Jan. 14, the Palo Alto police reported nine cars – seven of which were rentals – with smashed windows and electronics stolen from them, reported the Town Crier. At the time, the evidence turned up by the investigators pointed to Evans-Carmichael, who was also wanted for an outstanding bench warrant. He was then arrested on Jan. 16 in Contra Costa County and turned over to the Palo Alto police, where he was booked with another 17 felony charges.

Though Evans-Carmichael is currently behind bars, police are still warning area residents that similar thefts have continued. As recently as Jan. 27, eight vehicles were burglarized in a similar manner in downtown Palo Alto.

It seems that rental cars are a primary target, so those with "clear markings" that show the rental company logo or other indications that it is a leased car should be especially cautious. Police also stress the importance of not leaving valuables out on car seats or other place that are easily spotted from outside a vehicle.

"It's a crime of opportunity," Thompson said. "They're obviously just looking for anything they can take that is in plain view."

Auto security
The Evans-Carmichael burglaries shine a light on the importance of proper security. Though you may feel that your valuables are safely secured in your car, a single smashed window can lead to the theft of your electronics or firearm. When traveling, it is especially important that you take the proper steps to keep your items safe so you aren't stuck hundreds of miles from home with no phone or cash. Because of this, be sure you are taking every possible step to ensure your belongings are safe while on the road. Invest in a portable safe, which is large enough to fit a hand gun, small electronics or other valuables, but small enough to take with you in the car. Look for one that features a cord that allows you to anchor it to the vehicle.

When it comes to electronics, be sure to use laptop locks. These will not only protect the computer from theft, but will also protect it from damage sustained from the jarring movement that comes with travel. Again, find a laptop security box that features a padlock mounting point so it can be secured to the vehicle. 

Taking these steps will keep your belongings safe in case of a break in, and will have the added bonus of  discouraging someone from attempting to rob your car in the first place.

Keeping your valuables safe in your car

It seems that we have more valuables on us at all times than ever before. Smartphones, MP3 players, GPS devices, personal firearms, purses, wallets and watches all are usually on our person or at least in our vehicles at all times. While most of those objects make our daily lives easier, they also put us at risk of theft. If you leave your car parked on your driveway or the parking lot of hotel, you need to take every step to ensure that it – and the valuables that it holds – are protected from thieves. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:

Common sense
While most of these seem obvious enough, they do bear bringing up as good first steps to protecting your valuables. First of all, lock your doors and roll up your windows. If someone is going to try to break into your car, not having your car doors locked is like rolling out a welcome mat. Even if you're just stepping away from the car for a moment or two – like when you're running into the convenience store to pick up a drink after you pump gas – lock the doors behind you. If you have any valuables, especially small electronics that can easily be grabbed and resold, don't leave them on your dashboard or in the passenger seat where any passerby can see it. At the very least, store it in your center console or glove compartment. This goes for chargers as well. A few cords strewn around your center console are an indication that there are electronic devices nearby.

Choose a safe spot
If you're leaving your car, especially if it's overnight, be smart about the spot you pick. Parking it on a dark street in a questionable area will definitely result in a higher likelihood of a break-in than than in a secure, video-monitored parking garage. Of course, the latter isn't always an option, but you can still take steps to select a safe spot to park your car. Do your best to leave it in a spot with a lot of foot traffic – preferably near a busy store or restaurant. The key is to keep it in sight of as many people as possible. If a criminal is smashing your window, there's a better chance of someone calling the cops if there are a lot of people around to see it. Well-lit areas are preferable, and those under video surveillance are even better.

Keep your car tidy
Aside from not leaving your brand-new smartphone out in plain view, keeping a generally neat car is another deterrent. If you have lots of boxes or a spread over your back seat, potential thieves may assume you may be hiding something of value. There are many GPS models that anchor to car windshields. Even if the whole contraption is removed, it often leaves a circular smudge on the glass, which indicates a GPS device is likely in the car.

Hide valuables before you park
If you pull into a hotel parking spot and spend five minutes stashing various electronics or other valuables out of sight in different parts of your car, there is a good chance an alert criminal has observed the whole thing and now knows that you have expensive items and where they are hiding. Before you reach your final destination, pull over and stow away these items safely.

Avoid valets if possible
While the vast majority of parking attendants are honest, it only takes one to make off with the GPS you left in the center console or the extra cash you keep in the glove compartment. If you do valet park, remember to lock up your valuables if possible well before arriving.

Invest in a security system
Should someone break into your vehicle, you should make it as difficult as possible for the thief to make off with any of your belongings. There are a few items you can pick up that will help keep your valuables secure. Laptop locks are great for those who need to carry their computers around with them. They'll not only keep your laptop safe from theft, but it will keep it from getting jarred and damaged during transport. A portable safe is a good all-around product for things like cash, electronics, handguns and other smaller valuables. Look for one with a strong cord that can anchor it to your car. 

Check your car upon returning
As soon as you get back to your car where you have valuables hidden, check for them immediately. If you do discover anything missing, you'll want to call the police and file a report as soon as possible, which will give you the best possible chances of recovering the stolen items. Remember, a car doesn't have to look ransacked to have been robbed. They may even have taken your laptop and left the case undisturbed. 

Money saving tips for your next road trip

Whether you're packing up your RV for a trip with the whole family or setting out alone in a two-seater convertible, road trips are one of the great American traditions. While many chose to drive to their destinations because they love the open road, there are plenty of people who see driving as a more affordable alternative to flying. Either way, saving a few bucks on gas is something just about anyone can get on board with. On that note, here are a few tips to get you to your destination as inexpensively as possible:

Take it easy
Getting every mile out of each gallon of gas is one of the best ways to save money while you're on the road. Putting a little extra care in your driving style will help you do just that. In general, you should avoid stomping on either the accelerator or the brakes – obviously, the latter tip should be ignored in an emergency – as both will lower the fuel efficiency of the car. If you see a red light or some traffic congestion up ahead, don't speed towards it and then slam on the brakes to screech to a halt at the last second. Rather, try to coast in as gently as possible. Then, when the light turns green, don't peel out like you're in a drag race. 

Slow down
Cars and trucks tend to be most gas efficient when they are traveling somewhere between 40 and 60 miles per hour. Of course, driving 45 miles per hour is probably unsafe for most major highways, so don't sacrifice safety for fuel efficiency. However, be aware that the faster you drive, the more gas you're going to use. Cruising along at 90 miles per hour is not only unsafe and could land you a speeding ticket, but will cost you at the pump as well.

Proper tire inflation
If you take good care of your tires, your tires will take care of you. The importance of properly inflated tires cannot be overstated. If you let your tires get too low – something that happens naturally, not just when there is a leak or puncture – the car's fuel efficiency will suffer, because there will be greater rolling resistance and the engine will have to work harder to get the car moving. On the other hand, an overinflated tire puts you at risk of a dangerous blowout. 

Now we're getting into some classic NASCAR tricks. Professional racers draft behind other cars to cut down the wind resistance, making their cars faster and more efficient. You can try the same thing on the road if you're careful. Drive at a safe distance behind a semitruck and you should see a couple more miles per gallon. 

Use your GPS
Unless you're driving a route that you're extremely familiar with, plug your trip into a GPS. First of all, it will prevent you from getting lost and using up gas traveling in the wrong direction. Plus, you can stick to the shortest possible route, which should keep you from needing to stop at the pump as often. Stick to major highways as much as possible to avoid the stop-and-go traffic that comes with smaller towns and traffic lights. 

Time your trip
We've all watched gas prices rise and fall – mostly rise – seemingly at will. There isn't a whole lot you can do about overall gas prices, but you can find some patterns. For example, gas prices tend to rise on weekends and in the days surrounding holidays. If possible, plan your trips so they don't coincide with these days.

Find deals
There are lots of ways to save money on the road aside from making your car as fuel efficient as possible. Doing a bit of research before you take off can pay off in dividends. A quick Internet search can point you to lots of hotels that offer special deals with your stay. For example, you may be get a gift card or coupon for discounted gas when you check out. Another trick is to download one of many smartphone apps that find prices at nearby gas stations. Have your copilot search around to find the cheapest gas in the area when it comes time to fill up.

Protect your belongings
Though you may not take it into account when you're budgeting out your road trip, having your valuables stolen while you're at a gas station or hotel can not only be devastating, but extremely pricey. If you're using a roof cargo container, make sure it is securely locked at all times. If you have anything of particular value – important paperwork, electronics, cash or a firearm – bring along a portable safe to make sure no one can make off with your belongings. Look for one that has a heavy-duty cord that can anchor it to your car so it can't be removed by a thief. 

Is your RV ready for spring?

With spring right around the corner, you may be mentally preparing for the hiking and camping trips you have planned once winter is through. If you're like millions of Americans, you've probably got your recreational vehicle stored away for the winter and are itching to hit the road. Before you do, here are a few tips to make sure your RV is as ready for a trip as you are:

If you live in a climate that tends to see sub-freezing temperatures each winter, hopefully you've winterized your RV. The first step to getting your vehicle ready for the spring is to flush the antifreeze out of the fresh water system. To do this, simply open each of the vehicle's faucets and drains and run fresh water through the system until the antifreeze is completely cleared.

It's a good idea to then sanitize your water system to ensure the water is safe for you and your family. To do this, you'll first have to close all of the faucets and plug the drains. Then, mix a quarter cup of bleach for every 15 gallons your water tank holds. Open the faucets and allow them to run until you can smell the bleach, then shut them off again. Don't touch anything for at least 12 hours while it soaks, then turn on your faucets one more time to allow the tank to drain. Just like with the antifreeze, you'll need to continue to run fresh water through the system until you can no longer smell any bleach.

Once your water system is ready to go, give the entire RV a thorough cleaning inside and out. Not only will this keep the vehicle looking sharp, but regularly clearing away dirt and grime will prevent buildup that has the potential to damage the coatings of finish on the RV. Weather permitting, opening the windows and doors for a few hours will help air out any musty smells.

Next, go through and check out any electronics, from the radio to the light over the bathroom mirror, to make sure everything is in working order. It's best to catch any issues while the RV is still parked at home instead of in a parking lot in the middle of South Dakota.

While on the road, you need to protect your belongings. If you already have a lockbox, check it over to make sure it's in good condition. Depending on what you are traveling with, you should consider investing in some kind of security box to protect things like jewelry, important paperwork or firearms.

Before driving your RV anywhere, it's important to check every tire, including any spares you carry. Because the weather cooled and then warmed back up as winter turned to spring, there's a good chance they are no longer properly inflated, so use a tire pressure gauge to check them and fill them up to the recommended level. You should be able to find the proper tire pressure posted near the driver's side door or in the owner's manual. If you drive on underinflated tires, your fuel efficiency will suffer, while an overinflated tire runs the risk of blowing out. While you're inflating them, check for any bulges, tears or bald spots, which can form when the vehicle is stationary for a long period of time.

You probably unplugged your dry cell, coach and chassis batteries before you stored the RV. Before reconnecting them, give them a good once-over. Inspect the terminals and clamps for corrosion, as well as the charge levels, which may have dropped while in storage. This is also a good time to replace any batteries in your smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.

Next, you'll have to change the oil and filters in your generator if you didn't do so before storing it. Before running the generator, be sure to check the exhaust system for any damage. Make sure you run the generator for about two hours before bringing it on the road.

It's no secret that rodents and other pests love to make homes in RVs and other vehicles in storage. If you used tape to cover any vents or openings, be sure to remove it before driving. You'll also need to check all of the nooks and crannies, like cabinets, closets and storage areas, for any critters that may have built a nest over the winter.

Just like any car, you need to run a general check on the engine to make sure everything is in good working order. The RV will likely require an oil change and will need to have its fluids topped off. While you're at it, check the wiper blades to see if they need to be cleaned or replaced.

Organizing your truck bed

If you’re a life long pick-up truck driver, you’ve probably spent many years attempting to get the truck of your bed perfectly organized before giving up and just tossing everything in haphazardly. Organizing your truck bed doesn’t have to be a difficult task. In fact, if you pick up the right products and stick to a plan, you’ll find you having a place for everything will make your life that much easier. Here are a few tips to get your truck bed organized:

Start with a lockbox

Of course, driving a truck can mean that anything in your bed is susceptible to thieving passersby. That’s why it’s essential that you invest in a good lockbox to store your valuables that don’t fit in your cab. You can get one that is customized to the make and model of your truck as well as what you plan to keep in it.

Consider a truck bed organizer

It’s inevitable that you’ll have a variety of odds and ends that find themselves floating around your truck bed making lots of noise and ending up out of reach. If you get yourself a good truck bed organizer, you’ll be able to sort everything into its own space, keeping them secure and easy to get to at a moment’s notice.

Cargo bars or nets

If you’re looking for a temporary or easily removable means to store your belongings in your truck, check out a cargo bar. They can easily be installed in any part of your truck bed and removed if you find you need the space. A cargo net is another easy way to keep things in place. If you’re tired of opening your tailgate only to have a half-dozen items roll out onto your driveway, a cargo net will help keep everything inside the truck.

Gear drawers

For those of you who keep lots of expensive equipment in your truck that you need regular access to, a gear drawer is a great option. When you’re driving or the tools aren’t needed, they are safely locked in a heavy-duty container that is completely encased, protecting them from the elements. When it’s time to grab what you need, just unlock the drawers and slide them out to get what you need. To further organize your belongings, it can be separated into two individual drawers.

Tips for protecting your valuables at home

Whether you’re off on a week-long road trip or away from home for a few hours to run some errands, you’ll want to safeguard your residence against burglars.

Your home holds much more than items with a high monetary value. It contains moments and many items that have significant sentimental value. Keeping thieves out of your home ensures that those valuables are protected from sticky fingers. Here are a few tips that may help with deterring burglars from targeting or successfully robbing your home:

Carefully store your lock boxes.
Keeping your valuables in a lock box goes a long way for keeping unwanted hands off your prized possessions. When storing your lockbox, be sure to hide it somewhere where burglars will not typically search for valuables. Additionally, when you’re on the road, be sure to store your valuables in a lockbox in your car so you can head off for a hike or a bite to eat without worrying about the safety of your belongings.

Keep your property pristine.
If you are going to be gone for a few days, have someone pick up your mail and newspapers. Additionally, enlist someone to take care of your landscaping. When thieves are scouting houses to rob, they look for signs that no one has been home for a while.

Invest in motion sensor lighting.
Consider installing exterior lights that come with motion sensors. They may give a potential thief the impression that you are actually home. Furthermore, you can be alerted if someone is sneaking around your home while you’re there.

Get to know your neighbors.
Your neighbors are there for more than borrowing a cup of sugar or a leaf blower. When you have a friendly relationship with your neighbors, they may be more inclined to inform you or the police of any suspicious people or occurrences on your property. When they are out of town, you can keep eye on their home to establish a mutually beneficial relationship.

Be proactive with your landscaping.
If you have a home with a lot of shrubs and trees, make sure they are properly trimmed, as overgrown foliage serves as a good hiding place for burglars skulking around your home. If you have considered adding a bush or two to your yard, lean on the conservative side to make your home a less desirable target.

Close your garage.
Open garages give potential burglars a view of the valuables stored in there, and they can act as a point of entry. If you are not in your garage for an extensive period of time, keep the door closed.

Shut your blinds and curtains.
It is nice to let some sunlight in during the day, but open blinds and curtains may give a thief a good peek at your valuables. Avoid creating an open view into your home by keeping the windows covered in any room you are not currently in and double-checking that all of your curtains and blinds are closed before you hit the road.