With the holidays upon us, stay safe in parking lots. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 1 in 10 property crimes occurred in parking lots or garages. Car crime often happens in parking lots and can include auto-theft, theft of personal items from your car, theft of car parts or accessories, and vandalism to your car. Location can play a key role in car crime. Prime spots for crime include large parking lots often reserved for commercial use, parking facilities located in urban areas, and parking spots with easy access to freeways. Vandalism is generally perpetrated by youth so even parking near schools can be high risk.
Park near your building in a highly visible, well-lit area; use the main building entrance and avoid secluded exits. Keep valuables, purses, and purchases out of sight. Always lock them in the trunk if you must leave them in the car. Lock the doors and roll up windows once you are in the vehicle.
Don’t be a victim. Criminals prey on the distracted and crime is often spontaneous. Things to mitigate a dangerous situation in a public space like a parking lot include:
- Appear confident. Don’t look timid, absent-minded, or intoxicated, marking you as easy prey.
- Be alert. Don’t be distracted by wearing headphones or looking at your phone.
- Park smartly. Don’t park close to trucks, preventing others from seeing you and providing shelter to predators.
- Scan 360 degrees, always. Don’t isolate yourself in stairwells and elevators. Always walk in the middle of aisles and be aware of your surroundings all around you.
Always try to walk with someone, a co-worker, or a security officer. If you have to walk alone, have a co-worker watch you from a window. Stay on well-lit streets, and in the center of the sidewalk. Stay away from hiding spots such as bushes, doorways, alleys, and parked cars.
Prevention really is the best medicine. Follow the Watch > Hide > Lock > Report method when utilizing parking lots and parking garages to avoid being a victim of crime.
- Park close to the entrance whenever possible in a well-lit and highly-visible location. Circling around until you find a better spot is worth the time.
- Scan the area around your car as you approach it. Stay alert and try not to be distracted by your phone or other diversions.
- If a suspicious person approaches your car, blow your horn and drive away.
- Remove all interior valuables from plain view, including your garage door opener.
- Never leave your purse or wallet in the car, even for a short time.
- Hide large valuable items in your car by putting them in the trunk or under a blanket or large towel, before you park the car.
- Lock all doors, even if you are running in somewhere quickly.
- Don’t leave your windows down.
- Enter and exit the car quickly.
- Carry pepper spray or keep a finger on the car remote emergency button to deter a predator.
- Call the police and corporate security to report any suspicious activity.
- Report light and safety issues to facility management. Don’t assume someone else is
Criminal intent isn’t the only danger lurking in parking lots; distracted driving occurs frequently in parking lots, too. In a National Safety Council opinion poll, drivers nationwide admitted to the following behaviors while driving around a parking lot or parking garage:
- 66% make phone calls
- 63% program GPS systems
- 56% text
- 52% use social media
- 50% send or receive emails
- 49% take photos or watch videos
With these statistics, it adds to the importance of being alert to your surroundings.
Another hazard is the condition of the parking lot and pavement itself. The ground may have potholes, debris, or weather elements (i.e. ice) that make slipping, tripping, and falling a real danger. Remember to pay attention to your surroundings and anticipate possible dangers that can affect your safety before a problem arises.