Holiday Security Tips for Malls or Outdoor Shopping Areas

Holiday Security Tips for Malls or Outdoor Shopping Areas

The holiday shopping season is here, let’s not forget that we are in COVID-19 pandemic and health officials continue to repeat their messages about the importance of masks, adequate social distancing, and frequent handwashing.

However, millions of people will be heading to the nation's shopping malls or outdoor shopping areas focused on finding the perfect gifts, but crime is not taking a holiday. Police departments across the country report increased calls during the holiday season when shoppers tend to think less about holiday shopping safety and more about buying presents.

FBI Crime Clock:

  • Property crime occurrence every 4.6 seconds
  • One larceny-theft every 6.2 seconds
  • One motor vehicle theft every 43.8 seconds
  • One robbery every 2.0 minutes

Shopping malls, both indoor and outdoor, safety is especially important this holiday season when they are more vulnerable to violent crime. It is never possible to completely eliminate the risk of violence, but being aware of your surroundings and choosing to shop at malls or outdoor shopping areas that take security seriously are important things you can do to help protect yourself and your family against violence while shopping this season.

To help make shopping at the mall or outdoor shopping areas safer for you and your family, I recommend the following tips.

  • Park in a well-lit area as close to your destination as possible. Parking lots and structures are typically the most dangerous places at the mall. If you are shopping alone and feel uncomfortable walking to your car at night, ask mall security officers for an escort. Consider valet parking during the holiday season when many malls offer free or reduced-price valet parking.
  • Look for security cameras and try to park near them. Also, opt for walkways leading to malls and parking lots that have security cameras installed.
  • Choose to do your holiday shopping at malls or outdoor malls that take security seriously. Shopping destinations with regular mall security patrols and visible surveillance cameras provide an added layer of security and a deterrent to criminals.
  • Avoid using restrooms that are tucked away in a back area of a mall or department store. If you can, find a restroom near the mall's food court or other well-trafficked area and always accompany your child.
  • Do not overload yourself with packages. Thieves are always on the lookout for people who might be distracted. Keep track of your packages and try to stay off your cell phone. Hold your purse close to your body or use a front pocket if carrying a wallet.
  • Always know where the closest exits are located. In case of a fire, active shooter or other emergency, make sure you can find the nearest exits and remember to avoid using elevators in an emergency.
  • Take extra care when returning to your car. If you notice anyone suspicious in the parking area turn around and go back into the store. Remember you can use your keys as a weapon. If needed, you can also use your car alarm system by pushing the panic button on your alarm remote control or car horn to draw attention.
  • Remember in the event of an active shooter situation “Run, Hide, Fight.”
  • Run. Getting away from the attacker is the top priority. Leave your belongings behind and get away.
  • Hide. If you cannot evacuate, cover and hide. Find a place to hide out of view of the attacker, and if possible, put a solid barrier between yourself and the threat.
  • Fight. Fight only as a last resort. When you cannot run or cover, attempt to disrupt the attack or disable the attacker. Be aggressive and commit to your actions. Recruit others to ambush the attacker with makeshift weapons like chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors or books.

Being extra vigilant this holiday season will help keep you from becoming a crime victim. Always trust your instincts and report any and all suspicious activity to shopping mall security officers or your local law enforcement.

About the Author

Patrick V. Fiel, Sr. is a national security consultant. He has over 35 years of experience managing law enforcement and security organization. He has served as the Public Safety Advisor for a large security integrator, Executive Director of Security for the Washington, D.C. Public School System, and is retired from the U.S. Army Military Police Corps. He can be reached at (910) 789-4265 or at pvfiel@gmail.com.

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