On Sunday morning at 10:14 a.m. I was robbed. I mean that literally, not metaphorically. Two thieves drove up behind my car. The passenger snuck up on my car’s passenger side, smashed the window and grabbed my backpack which, as I am now learning, contained everything I need to function on a day-to-day basis.
This robbery is not a reflection on Wynwood. Very much to the contrary. It was the kindness of strangers and the professionalism of management at Goldman Properties that came to my rescue. Moreover, we now know that these criminals came from outside the City of Miami to prey on the tourists and locals in Wynwood.
Instead, this is a cautionary story. Although I have made it this far in life without experiencing this type of crime, it can happen anywhere to anyone. Here are five of the lessons I’ve learned the hard way:
Do NOT put your valuables on the passenger seat.
Backpacks, purses, wallets, laptops, briefcases, shopping bags, cell phones… I think we all know not to leave these items visible when we are away from our cars. But as happened on Sunday, thieves will target vehicles with you standing right there if they think you are distracted enough. Say, pumping gas or taking a photograph of the walls in Wynwood.
And if you are going to be away from your car, experts recommend removing everything visible – the loose change from the center console, the iPhone charging cord draped over the rearview mirror, the GPS bracket from your windshield (Wipe away any marks left by the suction pads.), even the bags of old clothes going to charity. Thieves don’t know that you’ve taken the actual valuables with you, and may break in just to check if they think they have time.
If you plan to put anything in the trunk of your car, be sure to do so before you arrive at your destination. Thieves will often stake out their crime locations watching for someone loading up their trunk before leaving their car.
Do NOT carry everything in one place.
I suspect most of us, women especially, carry our ID, credit cards, cash, keys, and other essentials in one bag. I made it too easy for them. My purse, phone, and camera equipment were all in one easy-to-grab backpack. To make matters worse, I simply grabbed my entire purse Sunday morning; something I don’t ordinarily do and will never do again. Normally I will take only what I will need for that trip, leaving the rest of the credit cards, IDs, and keys at home. Because I had everything – and I do mean everything – in one place, trying to replace what was stolen was a downright comedy worthy of its own blog post.
You might also want to look at using Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay or similar mobile payment digital wallet, and leave all of the credit/debit/gift cards at home.
Also be sure that your phone is securely locked (mine was, thank goodness) and that you know how to remotely wipe it if it is stolen or lost.
DO know where your spare car keys are.
On Sunday, I was driving my daughter’s car (Sorry daughter!) but the keys to my car were in my purse. Getting a replacement key was expensive, time-consuming, and not easy given that they needed my current registration which was, of course, locked in my car.
The better safety measure would have been to not take my car keys (or my office keys) with me at all. I didn’t need them for the errands I was planning to run that morning.
Be very aware of your surroundings
These particular thieves were watching. I saw them parked about a half a block south of my car before the robbery. The driver of the car even beeped his horn a couple of times. I (wrongly) assumed he was alerting someone in the building that he was there to pick them up. Seconds later, they had driven up directly behind my car, and I became a victim of a “smash and grab”.
DO write a personal check once in a while or have some cash at home.
If you practice all of the above safety precautions, you will probably never need this one; but it might be a good idea anyway. My credit union does not have a local branch. The thieves took all of my debit & credit cards, along with the cash I had on hand. After cancelling the cards and alerting my bank, I took my passport and checkbook to Publix to get a little bit of cash until the new debit/credit cards arrived. Back in the old days, I used to write checks at Publix a couple of times a week; but as debit cards became more accepted, I stopped using checks.
Because of that, as I learned this week, I can no longer cash a check anywhere… because I do not have a history of cashing checks. It did not matter that my credit union verified funds in my account. It did not matter that store managers at both Publix and Best Buy vouched for me. Both merchants use a third party check verification company called TeleCheck who adamantly refused to cash a check so I could begin the process of recovering from the robbery.
My final bonus lesson from being robbed in Wynwood on Sunday morning
Keep your sense of humour and your faith in humanity. It hasn’t been easy, and I have broken down in tears more than once so far. But I have also found so much to laugh about, and some really good people to laugh with through all of this.
Stay safe Miami!