Stay wary while merry in parking lots

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 30, 2016


METRO DETROIT — When the holiday season hits, Christmas shoppers should keep attentiveness high on their list, whether they’re behind the wheel or after they leave the car.

Tom Scott, senior vice president of communications and marketing from the Michigan Retailers Association, said the holidays are typically the busiest shopping time of the year for malls and shopping centers, which means more traffic congestion. 

“Obviously, the most important thing is be careful; be alert,” he said. “With a lot of people hurrying around Christmas shopping, it can be kind of chaotic out there. You need to take a breath when you can and try not to be in a hurry yourself, although that is easier said than done. Try to give yourself enough time so you’re not racing.”

Scott recommended taking several steps to increase personal safety, including watching where you’re going while carrying lots of packages. Also, to lessen the chance of an auto break-in, check to see that the car is locked, especially when it contains presents. 

“It helps if you have a trunk or some other space where it’s not visible from the outside,” he said.

First Lt. Michael Shaw, from the Michigan State Police, explained that, similar to distracted driving, many shoppers practice “distracted walking” in the parking lot, often while they’re using their cellphones. Instead, walkers should be keeping any eye out for anything that looks dangerous or suspicious.

Shaw suggested that drivers find a well-lit area to park while shopping at night. While he said most parking lots near stores offer plenty of brightness, it might be smart to shop at stores with dimmer parking lots during the day.

“If you are going to go shopping at night, bring a buddy with you,” he added. “It’s not that we all have to be afraid all the time. Criminals are good at what they do, and they are going to look for the easier target.” 

Shaw said parking lot users should keep a mental note of where they parked, and they should have the key fob ready to use before returning to the vehicle. If a customer suspects danger, many stores or malls may offer a security escort upon request, he added.

When it’s time to find a parking spot, sometimes it’s a better idea to let a pushy driver pull into an open spot rather than risk a confrontation, Shaw said.

“This is supposed to be the peaceful time of year,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re a very rapid society now. We want to get in and get out, and we feel a little entitled to that parking spot.”

Learn more about the Michigan Retailers Association by visiting For more information about the Michigan State Police, visit