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Be prepared for the tricks and traps of predators in parking lots

Parking lots and parking garages are dangerous areas to which business and property owners must pay particular attention. Although anyone can be at risk in a New Jersey parking garage or parking lot, crime records seem to indicate that predators more often set their aims at women who might be easier targets and more vulnerable. Not many parking facilities have surveillance cameras, due to the cost of maintenance and the cost required for personnel to monitor the surveillance systems.

Every time you find yourself in a parking lot or garage, regardless of whether it is at a shopping mall, the gym or your child's day care, you are at risk. The fact that you have been there countless times without coming to harm might bring complacency. However, parking lot crime and assault is a serious issue nationwide, and you can take specific precautions, based on victims' reports.

What will make you a target?

Predators keep their eyes open for anyone — although mostly women — who are distracted or preoccupied. The following do's and don'ts may lessen your vulnerability:

  • Choice of parking spot: Avoid parking in a spot in which a truck shields your car and makes it easy for predators to overwhelm you when out of sight.
  • Avoid isolation: Only use the elevators and stairs in the company of multiple other shoppers.
  • Be alert: Cars traveling slowly among the parked vehicles might be on the lookout for victims, and shrubs in the parking lot and other concealed areas are perfect hiding places.
  • Demeanor: Striking an air and demeanor of alertness might keep you safe. Assailants target those who appear absent-minded, lost or timid, and even those who seem friendly — and being intoxicated will make you an even more attractive target.
  • Distracted: Listening to music with headphones or ear pods, talking on your cellphone or texting while walking can make you unaware of someone following you. It can put you face-to-face with a predator in an isolated location and no time to get a hold of your pepper spray or take any other evasive action.
  • Overloaded: If you have to navigate your way to your car overloaded with parcels and a child or two, it is as good as wearing handcuffs. For your safety, it might be a good idea to ask the store for a security guard to escort you to your vehicle.
  • Buckling in your baby: You are at your most vulnerable while loading your purchases into your car and strapping your baby into his or her seat. The safest way is to leave loading the baby for last. Be alert while loading the shopping bags and then get into the backseat along with the child — locking all the doors. After buckling up the baby, scan the area to make sure it is safe before getting into the driver's seat, again locking the doors.
  • Beware of undercover Good Samaritans: Trust no one — you need not feel guilty for brushing off someone who offers to help you with your parcels or who calls you to show you a problem with your car. It can be a ploy to target you.
  • Always lock your vehicle: Predators will walk parking lots to identify unlocked vehicles, especially vans into which they can climb, only to attack or abduct the unsuspecting owners when they get into their vehicles.

Who is responsible for your safety?

The property owner of any parking lot or parking garage in New Jersey must ensure that he or she takes every reasonable step to ensure the safety of people who use the facility. If you have been the victim of an assault while using a parking area, you might have grounds to pursue a premises liability lawsuit to recover financial and emotional damages you sustained. Proving liability might be a challenge, but resources are available to help you throughout the legal proceedings of such a claim.

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