Safety Tips for Parking Lots

BY Beth Williams

Your car can practically be your home away from home whether you drive for business or leisure. Therefore, you will want to take some precautions to protect it and your possessions inside. Ideally, you wouldn’t leave anything valuable at all in your car, but the reality of life is that your car is going to serve as much like a safe deposit box or a storage closet in addition to transportation. The following are a few tips to help you protect your car and everything in it while taking a car trip or even while just driving around town.

Keep your keys safe – even when you are at home

  • At home keep your keys safe, this goes for your extra or spare keys too. Don’t leave them in the car or on an entrance table or bench in the house. Secure them in an out-of-the-way place such as a drawer or somewhere safe that is out of sight so a burglar can’t easily find them and drive away in your car.
  • Don’t leave your keys in the car while you are putting gas in your car at the gas station, or when you go inside the station to pay. Don’t tempt or make it easy for a thief to jump into your car and drive away.
  • Don’t go back into the house during winter while you let the car warm up. Yes, we understand it is freezing cold but thieves take advantage of this time of the year. And don’t leave the car running but lock it with the spare key – a thief is most certainly going to forgo the cost of replacing the window to smash it when they’ll have possession of your car. Put your coat, gloves, and scarf on and stay with the car!

Choose your parking space wisely

  • When parking in airport lots, park in view of the exit toll booths or parking office if possible, or just within view of a shuttle pickup location or kiosk. The increased foot traffic will discourage potential thieves. Well-lit areas are next best; most airport lots have surveillance cameras in place, so making it easier for an attendant to see your car on a security camera will help.
  • Be careful when you park your car at a sporting or entertainment event such as a football game or concert.  These cars are a dead giveaway to thieves that you’re going to be away from your car for a set period of time. Never leave ticket or event information in the car that would indicate to a thief how long you’ll be gone. Again choose a well lit or well-trafficked area if possible. Never leave any valuables visible in the car either.
  • Park “trunk out.” If you are storing items in your trunk, you will want to point the trunk out into the lot aisle, where more people can see anyone trying to break in. Don’t give thieves the opportunity to use your car as cover while ripping you off.
  • When parking on the street, try to park within sight of a busy store or hotel entrance, under a street lamp, near a busy corner or out in the open away from things that might provide shelter to a thief (like thick or low-hanging trees). The busier the street, the better.
  • When you park your car in a pay parking lot  – take your parking ticket with you when you leave the car. That way, even if a thief gains entry into your car if they have to pay for a lost ticket and they’ll be getting themselves noticed.
  • Self park when you can so you don’t have to relinquish your keys.

When in doubt, use a parking garage

  • Parking on the street is the most vulnerable place to be, so if you are uncomfortable with your street parking options, by all means, use a parking garage instead. Parking garages often have surveillance cameras. Although you are safer in a parking garage, that does not mean that you are invulnerable.  Remove or lock up any really valuable items – that means accessories for your cell phone, loose E-ZPass apparatus bags, etc. to remove temptation. All of the same precautions above apply; no matter where you park, make it as difficult and uninspiring to potential thieves as possible.

Load and hide your stuff before you reach your destination

  • By the time you pull into a hotel lot, valet queue, parking garage or any parking spot, everything you plan to leave in the car should already be well stowed and hidden. To pull into your spot, and then take your most valuable items and pack them in the trunk, is to broadcast to anyone within view exactly where to focus their attention if they want to rip you off. The best approach is to put your things in the trunk or another safe compartment before you even get in the car at the beginning of your trip.

Don’t leave ANYTHING visible in the car

  • If you leave your radar detector attached to the windshield, your cell phone in the front console, or your handbag on the seat, then do not expect sympathy when it gets stolen.  A car alarm will not, ever, protect from a smash and grab. It takes a thief 5 seconds to smash the glass, grab the item, and be around the corner. Even with your alarm sounding he’s gone.
  • It’s not just electronics that thieves break into vehicles for.  Don’t leave gym bags, shoe boxes, shopping bags or anything in the vehicle.  If a thief sees a bag in a vehicle, they may think the bag contains something of value and smash your window to get it.

Unload your stuff away from your parking spaces as well

  • If you are planning to return to the same parking area, you will want to take your stuff out of the car away from the lot if possible. If you open the trunk and take out all the good stuff each time you return to your car, eventually someone will notice. The best case is to be able to pull over somewhere safe away from either your home base or destination and get your stuff then.

Make your car look protected

  • A huge part of the job an alarm does is to give a visual warning to a thief that the car has security measures. Make sure you put the alarm warning stickers on the window and the LED warning light in the dash is fitted. (And if you don’t want to get an alarm you can buy these little extras separately.)
  • Make it a habit to always lock your car doors, in your driveway, at a gas station, even while driving and certainly when parking even for a minute.

A neat car is less likely to be burglarized

  • A car that is filled with jackets or beach towels that appear to be covering items of value suggests that valuables may be under the pile of jackets or towels. If a potential thief sees nothing but car upholstery, he or she is less likely to be curious about what might be hidden in the car.

These security devices will help you guard valuables in your vehicle. They are portable, so you can take them from your vehicle to your RV to your home or your office.

Built like Fort Knox, this security lock box is perfect for locking your valuables inside your vehicle. Currently used by several U.S. law enforcement agencies.
This water-resistant portable safe is designed to protect your valuables when you need to leave them behind. It easily secures a 15″ MacBook, and DSLR Camera.
Secure your valuables inside a well-made mobile safe that lockdowns in your vehicle or to a fixed object. A great feature when security is needed in an office, hotel, or car.