Your Security At Shopping Center Parking Lots


All shopping centers, regardless of their size, have something in common… a parking lot. This is where you or your family is at greatest risk at the shopping center. Think about this… in a parking lot, everyone is a stranger. A violent criminal can easily fit in with everyone else, unnoticed, and appear as ordinary as anyone else. A criminal predator could walk right past you and you wouldn’t know the difference because it is a ‘public setting’.

Try this out the next time you go somewhere and park in a parking lot. Sit there for a few minutes and watch how easy it would be for a criminal to attack someone. As people walk back and forth from the store / mall / shopping center and their vehicles, notice how they are usually completely consumed by their thoughts, their cell phones, looking down as they walk, thinking about where or what they are going to do next. When they get to their car, only then will they reach for their keys, turn their backs on anyone nearby while they load the car, their kids, while thinking nothing of the ‘stranger’ nearby. Statistically, crimes will occur right then at that point. Typically this will be purse snatching and robbery.

The most important thing to remember in this situation is AWARENESS.

Be alert to others in the parking lot.

Look for any suspicious looking behavior (you’ll know it when you see it).

During the day, park your car away from the hustle and bustle.

At night, park under a light, as close to the entrance as possible.

Do not park next to a van, shrubbery, or the edge of the building.

Observe for a moment before you get out.

Don’t get out of the car if it doesn’t seem to be safe.

When returning to the vehicle, LOOK AROUND.

Have your keys in hand BEFORE you get to the car.

If you notice suspicious loitering around or near your vehicle, walk past and/or return to the store / shopping center.

Don’t electronically unlock your car until you are fairly close to it.

While still at a distance while approaching your vehicle, glance underneath it.

When you reach your vehicle, look inside before getting in.

Trust your instincts.

Train your family.


  1. For what it’s worth, I have noticed that people up to no good often will attempt ‘size up’ a potential victim by getting close and asking some question, ie ‘What time is it, have you got a light, etc’ Keep moving, don’t stop and engage (which is often our instinctive reaction). I usually try to look pissed off, I always figure it’s better to give off a bit of an aggressive posture, don’t slouch. But K-E-E-P moving, toward your car, a door, whatever. Don’t let them close the distance between you.

    I used to do some work in NYC, DC, Baltimore. Some places are pretty safe during the day, but are a whole other ballgame at night. I’ve made some poor judgment calls and wound up going at night to a seeming safe, high traffic business type area (in daytime), only to then notice how deserted it was at night, how there were no police, and a very, very different looking crowd shuffling around. I got too comfortable and didn’t think, but luckily nothing went wrong.

    1. I agree 100% with maintaining a confident posture (even when you don’t think anyone is watching) and to speak a bit loudly and/or gruff in that situation. Good advice regarding the complete difference between night and day of most areas.

    2. Thanks for that information. I have had this happen to me twice now. First time, about 6 years ago) I was 18 or so, and stopped at Walgreens at 10 pm (bad idea) to pick up a prescription. I noticed a car next to me full with creepy looking guys. I went inside anyway, but was very cautious on my way out, had my key in my knuckles… Right when I got to my truck a guy came up saying I dropped my ID, I could see the picture of a fat guy on it! I’m 5′ and 90 lbs, definitely wasn’t me! I just shook my head (in a completely freaked out manner) and drove away as fast as I could.

      Time 2 was only a few months ago. I went grocery shopping at Walmart at about 3 pm. I drive a big diesel truck so I have to park farther out in the parking lot. When I parked there were cars next to me. Nothing was strange on the way in. When I came out there was a gap of about 4 car spaces between my truck and the next car closest to the store, then one right next to me on the far side of the store. I noticed a guy about 30 feet behind me, he had a low hat on, sunglasses, and just didn’t look right. I was suspicious right away, then he stopped at the car next to mine where noone else could see him. I started quickly putting my groceries away, while keeping an eye and ear on him. I heard him say “She’s really small and is almost done so you better get here fast”. I threw my stuff in the truck at that point and sped off. That second time scared me more than the first one for some reason. It didn’t cross my mind until later that he might have only wanted to: steal my groceries, money, rape me… At that moment all I was thinking was he wanted to kidnap and murder me. Reading what you said I know to think that! I need a gun! I’m too tiny to not be armed when I’m out.

      By the way, my mom has already pointed out that I shouldn’t have finished putting my groceries away after I heard him say that.

  2. I realized how smalltown I was. I had to go to another town for some things and had to get gas. I had usually had my husband fill up and was kinda confused at the card swipping thing. I know this sounds silly but in our town, we still go in to pay. I was very flustered at all the questions it asked and it kept me standing there too long I felt uncomfortable. Then I went in to a Walmart like usual to get some photos, and couldn’t get over and people just standing around outside and in the parking lot? So weird. I was very uncomfortable. I just got my stuff and quickly left. Found out later lots of car robberies happened last night. A person I know had their car ransacked.

  3. To ChadUSMC, Jerry and Ken:

    As those of us who drove ambulance used to say: “The freaks come out at Night”

Comments are closed.