Parked cars, especially in a dimly lit parking lot, provide the ideal hiding spot for crouching predators unless you are aware of your surroundings.
Carrying a concealed weapon, backing into your parking space, parking under a light post and carrying pepper spray are some of the ways you can stay safe and protect yourself.
This comprehensive list provides some of the best tips to protect yourself in parking lots, which can be dangerous locations as criminals prey on vulnerable and distracted people.
- Assess Your Vulnerability
Being unaware of your surroundings when using headphones or looking at your cell phone can make you more vulnerable to an attack. If you are lost, timid, friendly or even intoxicated, you are more likely to be manipulated by an attacker.
Women are often targets for cowardly predators. Criminals use their size and strength to intimidate and overcome female victims. Women are also more likely to be carrying a small child or packages and have less mobility to defend themselves.
Always remain mindful of your surroundings, especially if you are with other vulnerable people like young children, the elderly or someone in a wheelchair.
- Carry a Concealed Weapon
Women who may not be as physically robust as men but who choose to carry a concealed weapon for self-defense can even the odds. If you carry a concealed weapon, it’s for your comfort and safety in potentially dangerous situations. It’s important to remain vigilant, however. A concealed carry firearm should be an enhancement, not a replacement, for staying aware of your surroundings.
However, when it comes to concealed carry for women, small-framed women need to consider several factors before purchasing a gun and receiving the appropriate training. This would include, for example, determining what is the best handgun for small hands.
Men and women can benefit from a concealed carry weapon as a personal safety device, but it’s important to know how to draw fast from the holster and consider what might be the best self-defense caliber for your situation.
3. Be Vigilant When Parking
Many people forget or choose to ignore common-sense precautions like always locking your doors when you leave your car unattended. Lock your doors immediately when you enter your car to protect against a surprise attack.
As soon as you park, keep your doors locked and scan the area for suspicious activity or anything that looks like it might be a threat.
If you see something or someone who looks suspicious, drive away and look for another area to park.
Park as close to your destination as you can and spend as little time as possible away from your car. The less time you’re away from your vehicle, the less time there is for a criminal to plan an attack.
Parking as close as possible to a building lets you take advantage of remaining in the range of any on-site security such as cameras or guards.
Consider backing into a parking bay so you can leave quickly should someone approach you with obvious mal-intent or if there is an active shooter, gang or panicked mob nearby.
- Avoid Nighttime Shopping or Parking when Possible
It’s a fact that more carjacking incidents take place at night.
Find a spot under a light and in plain view of other shoppers or pedestrians to discourage potential attackers. Many grocery stores and some retail merchants will escort you to your car if you ask them to do so.
As you get closer to your vehicle, keep your finger on the panic button alarm of your car keychain so if you need to you can attract attention from other shoppers and deter the attacker.
If you are approached by a suspicious person, blare the car horn and drive away if possible.
- Hide or Carry Your Valuables
Leaving valuable items visible in your car invites theft. Put all purses, suitcases and other valuables in the trunk, under the seat or in the glovebox.
- Carry Useful Items
Although cell phones are attractive targets for criminals, they’re also useful tools to help you react to suspicious or dangerous situations. Don’t hesitate to dial 911 if you see a crime in progress or you feel threatened.
Remember: If someone tries to grab your phone, purse or something else you are carrying, letting them have it may be a safer option than trying to hold on to it.
A gun is an excellent deterrent to any attempted criminal act against you, but if you don’t have a concealed carry permit, consider carrying non-lethal protection such as pepper spray or a personal security alarm.
It’s also worth attending self-defense classes that can help you learn how to, at a minimum, startle or hurt an assailant and get away.
- Approach Your Vehicle Carefully
You are at your most vulnerable when carrying bags or securing a child in their car seat, and criminals know this. Also, pay particular attention to vans parked next to you or nearby.
Keep your head up and scan the area around your car when returning from a shopping trip. Have a quick look around and glance in your back seat before loading the groceries into the car. Keep the baby in the cart until you have placed all the groceries in the car. You should also consider having a convex mirror fixed to the trunk lid so you can see behind you. Get into the car and lock the doors when it comes time to place your infant in their car seat.
Stay off your cell phone as it will distract you from paying attention to your surroundings. It may also attract snatch and grab thieves.
Once inside your vehicle, immediately close, lock the doors and drive away. Many people let down their guard as soon as they sit down in their car, which presents a dangerous window of opportunity for theft and carjacking crimes.
Take a moment, especially after incidents, where you felt vulnerable or recognized a threat, to consider what you might have done, had that danger materialized into a crime. Is there something you could have done differently? Would having a concealed carry permit provide you with better protection and peace of mind?
You can minimize the potential danger of parking lots by following these simple tips. Empower yourself by remaining vigilant and ingraining these tips as habits you follow every time you go out.