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Tips for Staying Safe in Parking Lots

Parking lots can be daunting places. Besides aggravations like finding a parking spot, getting your car dinged, and dealing with inconsiderate drivers, parking lots and structures are typically the most dangerous areas in a shopping center, with the highest rate of theft, accidents, and assaults. To avoid risks ranging from being accosted by strangers to "losing" your vehicle in a huge lot that stretches for acres, it pays to have parking lot savvy. Here are a few tips for staying safe in parking lots.

Parking Lot Smarts

Arriving at the Lot

  • Park in highly visible, well-lit areas, preferably with surveillance cameras and security patrol services, which provide an added layer of security and deter crime.
  • Avoid parking near shrubbery or vans with sliding doors that could conceal attackers.
  • In a parking garage, park as close as possible to the elevator, and avoid parking garage stairs unless you are with a group of people.
  • Be aware of pedestrian and vehicle traffic, as well as stray shopping carts; pay close attention when entering and backing out of a parking spot.
  • Avoid parking in tight spaces or in close proximity to cars with child restraints on the same side as your vehicle. This helps protect your vehicle from dings and provides a courtesy to parkers with young children, allowing them more room to maneuver baby carriers, children into car seats, etc.
  • Conceal all valuable items left in your vehicle by locking them in the trunk. Avoid leaving purses or wallets in the vehicle.
  • Be cautious of strangers asking questions, requesting assistance, or handing out pamphlets.
  • When leaving your vehicle, always lock the doors and close the windows. Remember your keys and make sure your vehicle has signaled that the doora are locked.
  • Remember to keep your vehicle in good working condition and with adequate fuel to prevent car trouble. Ensure lights are off before leaving your vehicle to prevent battery draining.
  • Familiarize yourself with parking lot exits.
  • To remember where you parked your car, note landmarks, distance from store entrance, and/or make a note in your cell phone.

Returning to Your Vehicle

  • Walk confidently and with purpose. If you detect a threat, retreat to the building or store.
  • Observe your surroundings when returning to your car, glancing under, around, and in your car as you approach it. If you notice anything suspicious, use the panic button on your vehicle's remote control key fob and retreat to safety.
  • If you feel uncomfortable walking to your car for any reason, ask a security officer for an escort.
  • Stay off your cell phone while walking to and from your vehicle to avoid distraction.
  • Have your keys ready before you get into your vehicle. Searching or fumbling for keys is distracting and increases your vulnerability.
  • If you have a purse, carry it across or close to your body.
  • Enter your vehicle quickly and lock the doors immediately once inside. Do not linger in your parked car.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or unnecessary credit cards on your person or in your car.
  • If you fear you are being followed, instead of leading the follower to your home, go to the nearest police or fire station. Report the vehicle following you, and ask for an escort home when you are confident you are no longer being followed.
Always be aware of your surroundings — that's your best defense!

About U.S. Security Associates

U.S. Security Associates (USA) is one of North America's largest security companies, with 160 locally-responsive offices providing premier national security services and global consulting and investigations to customers in a range of industries. Recognized for world class customer service, leading-edge technology, and an enterprise approach to risk management, USA offers optimized security solutions to meet specific customer needs. USA is committed to building quality security and risk management programs that are Safe. Secure. Friendly.® The Securing Knowledge series is part of the extensive and growing library of reference and training tools that contribute to USA's award-winning customer service and benchmark security programs. USA's investment in training and development resources is reflected not only by BEST Awards from the American Society for Training & Development, consistent ranking on the Training magazine Top 125, and technology-driven quality management system, but also by the company's leadership team, security officers, and service excellence on a daily basis.

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