Parking lots can pose a challenge to people when considering good situational awareness and seeking out the safest spots. Just check it out the next time you park at a grocery store, mall or even the local bank. Consider how easy it might be for someone to hide, get close to someone walking by and snatch a bag or a purse. Or think about how quickly someone could manipulate his or her way to approach — or even attack — you or your family.
Of course, statistics show that the most common crimes in parking areas are theft or vandalism, but there’s no doubt that other more violent activities have occurred. None of us wants to be the next statistic. And none of us wants to be caught unaware and vulnerable.
If you think about it, we are usually all strangers when we’re using a parking lot. And criminals can often blend in with the rest of us and get in close proximity fairly easily in these situations. Most of these criminals are looking for the easiest potential victims, and that doesn’t mean the smallest or frailest among us. It usually means the most distracted, preoccupied or oblivious. That’s why we need to pay attention and why we should consider the best places to park.
So, what should we look for? Here are some of the basics to think about and some tips that may help you stay safe in parking lots:
- Park close to the building and access points, if possible.
- Park in a well-lighted and highly-visible location (remember to consider the possibility of bad weather; and if you’re parking in daylight, think about what that area may look like at night).
- Stay away from shopping cart returns (unless it’s beneficial for you to load packages and/or children).
- Stay away from concrete barriers that may potentially block your ability to maneuver or leave in more than one way.
- Look around before you exit your vehicle (pay attention to people just sitting in their vehicles, watching you, or people just hanging around the parking lot).
- Make sure valuables are not visible.
- Lock your doors and keep your windows up.
- Be aware of possible cover or concealment (that you could use or that a bad guy may be using).
- Check if video cameras are nearby, facing your direction.
(NOTE: Stay tuned for our next Pacifiers & Peacemakers video in which we talk about the next step: exiting a building and getting back to your vehicle safely.)