- Park as close to your destination as possible. Stay away from the far reaches of parking lots and perimeter areas with fences, pillars, shrubs or greenery that could conceal someone hiding.
- ALWAYS lock your car door before walking away... no matter how long you will be gone. Never leave anything of value in your a car. Purses, phones and packages can be an open invitation to thieves.
- As you approach your car, start by visually scanning underneath. Pay attention to the cars parked next to you. If you are parked next to a van with a sliding door, enter your vehicle from the passenger side and slide over.
- Before you get inside the car do a quick visual sweep of the inside. Check behind all rows of seats. Do not leave blankets or coats lying around inside as these items can be used to conceal criminals.
- Do not linger in parking lots. Once you get to your car, get in as quickly as possible and lock your doors. Try to avoid standing by the car to organize your belongings or socialize with friends.
- Have your keys handy. Use your keyless remote system if you have one to lock and unlock the doors quickly and without fumbling. These keyless remote systems often come with a panic button which can also be a valuable tool in an emergency.
- Trust your instincts. If something does not feel right tell someone, scream or run. It's better to play it safe then to worry about looking foolish. Ask for an escort to your car if you are feeling uneasy or are overloaded with packages or children.
- Walk confidently and with a purpose. Even if you do not know where you are, pretend that you do. Seeming disoriented or disorganized can be a dangerous mistake.
- Avoid talking on your cell phone when you are loading and unloading people and packages from your car. However, make sure that you always travel with your phone and be sure that it is charged in case of an emergency.
- Make eye contact with the people approaching you while you are walking. This alone may be enough to scare off a potential attacker. Criminals often fear being identified and will likely move on if they feel that they may be recognized later.
- Try to refrain from disclosing information about you or your kids on the outside of your vehicle. Child-related bumper stickers and decals can be "red flags" for predators.
- Mothers with very young children should avoid using their car as a diaper changing station. Standing outside with your car open and your back exposed to the parking area makes you extremely vulnerable.
Remember that just because someone looks "safe" does not mean that they are.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times... even if you feel like you are in a safe environment. You can never, ever be too cautious!