This holiday season malls provide one-stop shopping for more than the ordinary patrons. Thieves, panhandlers, drive-by purse snatchers, car robbers and other such predators can find almost anything they want in the extensive parking lots surrounding the malls.
And yet there is something about the orderly array of cars and the enticing promise of wonders inside the mall that lulls ordinary folk into a lack of awareness, adding to their vulnerability. Thus the first step in danger abatement is to take responsibility for your own safety. Instead of going into a slow- mode when you turn into a mall parking lot, sharpen your wits and become even more alert to your surroundings.
Even before you choose a mall as your favorite, check out its security program. Does it have foot or motorized patrols in the parking lot? What are their hours? Will the security force provide an escort to your car if you want one? Ask the security department for recommendations on how you can protect yourself and your car at that mall.
Here are some general suggestions that can help you be safer in mall parking lots as you begin your holiday gift shopping.
Practice smart parking
Park as close as possible and preferably within view of the door from which you will exit.
Park in a well-lighted area.
Keep in mind that you may arrive in the daylight but emerge after dark. Choose a spot near a lamp standard.
Leave nothing of value visible in your car.
A car phone, a radar detector, loose change, sunglasses – or the dry cleaning you just picked up before stopping by the mall – is on display and could invite a broken window.
Avoid parking near vehicles in which someone is sitting.
Remember that blacked-out windows could conceal occupants.
Safety common sense
Walk with your purse held firmly to your side, opposite traffic flow.
Don’t let strangers approach you in the parking lot.
Common ploys are to play on your sympathies with a sad tale. Report any such activity to the mall security office.
Know exactly where your car is.
Jot down any grid numbers. And look back at your car as you near the mall entrance to get a mind picture of where it is.
Before you leave the mall, locate your car keys and carry them in your hand, ready to use.
If you return to put purchases in your car and then go back to shop, lock the packages in the trunk and move your car.
Make a scene.
If you think you are being followed, or a suspicious person approaches you, don’t be timid; make a ruckus. Yell, blow a whistle, honk your horn. If you are wrong, so what? You’ve got a story to tell on yourself at dinner. If you are right, you may have avoided being the subject of a more unpleasant story.
Keep in mind that your best protection is your alert attention.
Look around. Let your intuition be your guide.
For more information, go to TWC.com. I’m Lauren Fix, The Car Coach.