What can mall parking lot patrons do to protect themselves and their families this holiday season?
Holiday shoppers, balancing heavy bags, purses, keys, and cellphones, make vulnerable targets. “Large parking lots, such as those found at shopping malls, are considered most vulnerable to crime,” according to The National Safety Council. These facilities present inherent security challenges as they frequently occupy a large space with low levels of activity and numerous hiding places for would-be attackers.
While parking lot safety and security is ultimately the responsibility of the property owner, patrons can take safety precautions to protect themselves and their families. The City of Overland Park urges shoppers to heed the following parking lot safety tips:
- Always lock your vehicle, both when you’re driving and once you’ve parked. Make this a habit.
- When you get ready to park your car, scan the area for anyone or anything suspicious.
- Park as close to your destination as possible.
- Don’t leave your keys in the ignition. (you’d be surprised)
- Don’t leave valuables (GPS, cell phone, wallets, cash, etc) in the vehicle in plain sight. If you secure your belongings in the trunk, make sure no one is watching you store them there. Many trunks can be accessed by pushing a release button inside the car, and a thief will break into your car in order to access the trunk area if it is worth his/her effort.
- Back into a parking space if possible, so that you can exit quickly, if needed.
- Try making your shopping trips during the day. Crooks mostly operate under cover of darkness.
- Always be aware of your surroundings, and don’t be distracted by talking on your cell phone. Is the parking lot well-lit?
- Upon approaching your car look around, in, underneath and next to your car.
- Once inside the car, quickly lock all doors. Most people let their guard down once inside their car.
- If you are alone wait until others walk by and join them from a distance.
- Avoid strangers. Again trust your instinct.
- Keep your cell phone in a pocket or somewhere easily accessible.
- You may opt to carry some non-lethal personal protection product like a stun gun or pepper spray.
- Wear comfortable shoes when walking to your car, so that you could run if necessary.
- If you see someone tamper or damage a vehicle, call the police immediately – 911.
Remember to trust your instincts – you can’t ever be too careful.
Victims of Parking Facility Violence: Know Your Rights
Shopping center patrons have a right to feel safe and secure while on the premises of the establishment they are visiting, both inside a business and outside in the parking lot. By law, property owners are required to protect all patrons legally on the premises from any foreseeable harm. For example, should a shopping center owner have knowledge of prior violence on or near property, they have a responsibility to implement additional security precautions to protect patrons and deter such crime. Should a mall or parking lot owner fail in this critical responsibility, they may be held civilly liable for any injuries, sexual assaults or wrongful deaths which occur as a consequence.
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