A lot of crimes take place in transitional spaces, parking lots being a prime example. Parking lots can be dangerous places. They are often poorly lit, isolated, and full of strangers and empty stairwells. There are many things you can do to mitigate risk when going to and from your vehicle. Here are a few things to consider:
- Safety in Numbers: Although you may be in your vehicle alone, that doesn’t mean you have to be in the parking lot alone. Before you exit your vehicle, scan your surroundings and don’t get out unless there are non-threatening people in the parking lot. The same is true when returning to your vehicle. If possible, have someone return to the lot with you. Otherwise, do not enter a secluded parking lot unless it is populated with others who are not a threat.
- Visual Assessment: Never enter a transitional space, especially a parking lot, without first doing a visual assessment. Are others present, and if so, can you determine their intent? Do you have a lighted path to your vehicle? Are there vehicles parked next to yours? Can you see into these vehicles?
- Outside the Norm: Know what is normal for your environment. If it’s hot out, be leery of someone wearing a jacket. If you spot someone loitering, can you see their hands and keep a safe distance from them? If something is out of the norm, it may be best to leave the area.
- Parking Lot Lighting: Park strategically. Park in a well-lit area that leaves you a clear, well-lit path to your vehicle.
- Flashlight: Always carry a flashlight with you. Flashlights allow you to see into dark spaces and temporarily blind others allowing you to create an avenue of escape. Use your flashlight to look into and under adjacent vehicles. Never enter an area you can’t see into.
- Vehicle Signage: Do not make yourself attractive. Bumper stickers showing you’re a gun rights supporter or avid hunter may lead others to think you have firearms in your vehicle.
- Valuables on Display: Never leave anything on display in your vehicle. Even if it’s a bag full of beans, keep it out of sight. You may know what’s in the bag, but others will not. Keep your vehicle clean and devoid of clutter.
- Avoid Distractions: Always remain alert and actively scanning your surroundings.
- Pepper Spray: Perhaps the most effective non-lethal defense you can carry, pepper spray can disrupt an aggressor from a distance. For pepper spray to be accessible, it must be in your hand before you approach the parking lot. Remember, the quickest draw of any weapon is to have it already in your hand before trouble starts. Pepper spray will be useless if it is tumbling around in the bottom of your purse.
Parking lots can be dangerous places. However with a little planning and good situational awareness, these risks can be minimized.