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Defend Thyself Personal Defense

Parking Lot Safety

by George Wehby   |  July 30th, 2011 14

Quite a few assaults and other crimes have been committed while individuals are getting in or out of their vehicles.  For the criminal, it can be the modern day watering hole.  There is a hint of vulnerability when getting in and out of our vehicle, especially if we are trying to put objects in, such as groceries and/or small children.  Our attention is focused not on our safety, but on juggling the objects and getting to our keys while trying to open the door and not strike the person’s car door next to us.  Criminals know that and may look to take advantage of your distraction. As always, having a good game plan and situational awareness can minimize our risk in these types of situations.

If we think like a bad guy, we can predict and defeat criminal opportunity.  The parking lot offers many areas where a bad guy can hide and wait for you to come into range to pounce.  The many other vehicles provide great concealment for them.  When approaching your vehicle, make a point to sweep out away and scan the likely areas where one could be hiding.  This may provide you with enough of a reaction time to key on their plan and thwart it.  As you are walking, make an effort to look over the entire parking lot.  Criminals would much prefer to ambush an individual who has their head pressed to a cell phone or who is watching their feet hit the pavement.  If an individual or individuals are hanging around your vehicle and don’t seem to be getting in or out of adjacent vehicles, keep your distance and make it obvious you are waiting for them to go about their business.

While approaching your vehicle and performing your scan of the area, have your keys out and ready, taking the extra time to dig for them in your purse or pocket may be the opportunity one needs to launch an attack.  Carry the keys in your non-dominant hand, that way if you need to get to a concealed weapon, they keys will not be in the way.  As you make it to your vehicle, walk around it a little so that you can see if any one is crouched next to your vehicle.  Once at your vehicle, make sure you give a quick check of the back seat.  Yes, this is the stuff of movies, but if Hollywood can think of it, so can the bad guys.

Once inside the vehicle, lock the doors and secure your items for the travel.  Like the gazelle gazing at its reflection from a waterhole, some people sit in their vehicles with their heads down looking over things like a receipt.  This is a great opportunity for the lion to attack.  If you think about it, this information is nothing earth shattering, but it can be the difference between being weirded out by a person in a parking lot and being seriously injured in a parking lot.  At the end of the day, we have to maximize our potential for success, while minimizing theirs.  What steps to you take in parking lots to avoid trouble? Stay Safe!

  • robert38-55

    Never gave it much thought until now! This article has made me 'aware' of what a potential crime can be, and the arears it can happen at.. Thanks George!!

  • ntrudr800

    I always pay attention to my surroundings in the parking lot. All too often I see the ladies with a cell phone crammed up their ear NO MATTER where they are–& especially in the lots. Hello!

  • breamfisher

    One suggestion I'd make is that if you have a remote entry key fob, don't unlock the doors until you've checked around the car. I've seen several folks who open their car doors well before they get to the car. Yeah, it saves time, but it also can give someone access to your car without you being there.

  • Travis Kelley

    Have your keys out before you exit the store. Scan the parking lot so you are absolutely sure you remembered where you parked and can go straight to it, I see people who are obviously lost all the time and have only one thing on their mind…."where did I park my car?" If you don't like the looks of things i.e some lights are burned out in the parking lot at night, someone seems to have been keeping track of you in the store and is now leaving at the same time, etc. request the store send someone out to the care with you to help with the groceries. Remember, criminals are cowards and most often don't want a confrontation of any length, so if you present yourself as someone who is prepared then they will look for the slower target.

  • Chris

    I won't walk between 2 cars if someone is sitting in one of them. Also, if I don't have a choice, I will put the individual closer to my focus, while still allowing me to watch my surroundings with my peripheral, and trying to avoid tunnel vision. I won't walk past the car from back to front. Walking from front to back would give me more options for escape or defense if the door opens towards me (i.e. I see it open, and have better leverage to push it shut on the attacker, another obstacle for the attacker to get around to get me, or if they open behind me, I am already past the door to escape.)

  • Dan

    One thing i have always pointed out to my students is watch the vans with slider doors next to your driver's door. Get in the passenger side, so it seems silly- may save your life!

  • E. Zach Lee-Wright

    The collapsible baton is a problem. As you pull into the parking space and begin to exit the car, your left arm is extended as you open the door. At this moment the criminal comes up from behind and strikes your arm with a swift downward swing of the baton. Next he rolls you out and nails you again several times with the baton. When you wake up (if you are lucky) you will be face down on the asphalt, your keys, wallet or purse, and car will be gone. If you are a guy you will spend the next two years listening to your buddies tell you how they would have handled things better if it had happened to them. This alone will make you want to have your own baton.

    The criminal who has a felony record will choose a baton because it is not a prohibited weapon for him in most states. If caught, the punishment will me much less because he did not possess or use a firearm. Never mind that he can easily kill you with this thing.

    During the daytime in April of 2007 a young lady left a Kansas Target store. Unknown to her she was followed by a rapist. She did not make it into her car. She was beaten and then abducted in his truck. Because of surveillance cameras her case was acted upon quickly but not soon enough to save her life. Parking lots deserve your extreme attention.

  • Les Bell

    If your key fob will open the drivers door with one press, don't press twice to open all the doors. It is easier to defend one door then two or more on the opposite side of the vehicle.

  • C.L. Scott II

    I always try to be proactivea in this situation, however a little refresher such as this is always welcome!

  • Tony

    My weak hand is in my pocket on my backup pistol while I am checking every thing out. IE where my wife and kids are where my blind points are and who else is around me.I unlock the car while i am about two feet away and a quick scan inside the car before any body gets in. not that hard to do just have to get into the habit of doing it.

  • jim

    One thing that has not been mentioned. Don't walk to your car in condition "White" oblivious to everything, with your head buried into your cell phone texting or talking on it. I see so many people doing this, pay no attention to anything. Ipods are in the same category.

  • Nancy

    One thing I keep in mind, whether I am in a parking lot or at home is that red button on my key fob–it sets off the alarm on my car. I have had that eerie feeling a time or two when approaching my car and even inside my house. I aim and press the red alarm button to set it off just for the heck of it. It is just as easily turned off. Also, very important….I have always taught my children to trust their instincts. Sometimes, "something is just not right" whether it be a smell or an unknown sight or sound…that "Something is just not Right" feeling——TRUST IT! Excellent discussion in these tough times!

  • Dennis Hall

    If this ever happens to you and you have nothing to defend yourself with use your Carkeys they make a deadly weapon just place a key between you fingers and use to slash or stab your attacker

  • Roger

    I hope more people would pay attention to your article. When I leave anywhere I always do a 360 (more than once) to check the entire area. When approaching your car is there a van next to you, where a person can be dragged into. Watch for cars and vans with tinted windows. Be cautious of people who seem disabled, asking for help but not parked in a disabled zone. Always keep your keys handy as Dennis stated as a defense as well as a kubaton attached. It is a small stick attached to your key ring. Take classes if needed to learn to use it. See with your ears. Don't use the cell phone or radio until safe.

    Roger 6th Dan Black Belt

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