Our family is at the center of our personal universe. Most people would do almost anything for the sake of their family. That includes protecting them from known dangers and harm. This becomes increasing difficult, at times, because we live in an open society where we share the same public places as violent criminals like at shopping centers.
Family Security Plan
Whenever your family walks out the front door they leave that zone of protection that you have created. The secret to keeping your family reasonable safe once they leave home is to have a family security plan. To develop a family security plan you must give careful thought to the public routines of each family member and think of ways to make them safer from the violent people in the world. The best way to accomplish this is to hold a family meeting to discuss this plan and play what if using different scenarios. For example, what if we need to go to the shopping at the mall? What precautions can we take to be safer in the parking lot? What if someone approaches to rob us while walking to our car on the street at night? What would we do and how would we react? Where would we go and who would we notify in case of emergency?
Most people have no such family plan and have not met as a family to discuss what if situations. When or if a criminal assault does occur, the family will not be prepared and will have to rely on instinct in response to the incident. What if their response instincts are wrong or their reactions inappropriate, under the circumstances?
Shopping centers come in all sizes from the giant regional malls to the small strip-center with only a few stores. What they have in common is a parking lot. This is where your family is at greatest risk because of the "nature" of a parking lot. If you think about it, we are all strangers in a large parking lot. Violent criminals can blend in with the rest of us and get in close proximity fairly easily. Criminal predators can walk right by us and we will allow it because of the public setting.
Learn to Observe Conduct
Next time you go to a large shopping center sit in the parking lot for a few minutes and observe how easy it would be for a criminal predator to approach and attack you or your family. Shoppers walk to and from their cars totally consumed by their thoughts and thinking about what they are going to do next. Watch shoppers as they approach their cars fumbling for their keys. They will turn their backs and attention completely away from those nearby to load their shopping bags into the car, and get children and infants installed inside the vehicle. Most shopping center violent crimes occur precisely at this point. The most common violent crimes are purse-snatch and strong-arm robbery. Less common but potentially more serious are the crimes of carjacking and abduction.
Awareness is Important
To protect your family in this setting the best defense is awareness. Awareness will allow you anticipate the potential danger and plan ahead for the next time you go to a shopping center. Planning includes selecting a safer time to shop (daylight) and arranging not to shop alone if possible. You can plan where to park (i.e. not next to a large van) and in high traffic areas. You can plan to scan the area for suspicious males before parking and exiting your vehicle. You can also plan not to park or exit your vehicle if suspicious males are in the area. Families should agree in advance to exit and enter their vehicle quickly and lock the doors. Families should be trained to look around their vehicle before approaching and retreat if anyone suspicious is loitering in the area. They should be trained to return to the shopping center and alert security or call the police.
- Be aware and alert to predators in the parking lot
- Plan when to go and where to park
- Do not get out of the car if it doesn't appear safe to do so
- Scan the area around your car as you approach it
- Teach your family to enter and exit the car quickly
- Trust your instincts of you see someone suspicious
- Return to the store if anyone looks or acts suspicious
- Ask if the shopping center does parking lot escorts
Family Security Shopping Centers