Parking Safe This Holiday Season

It happens every year at this time: Two motorists battle over a rare parking space in a crowded mall lot, tempers flare and actions spiral out of control. The holidays are no time for violence, especially over something as inconsequential as a parking space.

Unfortunately, the hustle and bustle that make this such an enjoyable time of year can also spawn temper tantrums and prompt opportunistic criminals to look for distracted holiday shoppers who may be easy targets for vehicle break-ins, carjackings and other auto-theft-related crimes. So there’s more to this season than ho, ho, ho!

One organization trying to put a stop to such mayhem is Help Eliminate Auto Thefts (H.E.A.T.), Michigan's statewide auto-theft-prevention program. H.E.A.T. coordinates citizen action with law enforcement agencies through a confidential, toll-free tip line (800-242-HEAT) and website (, and the lessons it teaches are as apropos in New Jersey or California as they are in its home state.

“The holidays are a joyous time of year filled with family gatherings and gift giving,” says Terri Miller, director of H.E.A.T. “But with overflowing parking lots and vehicles filled to the brim with purchases, the holidays are also a dream for car thieves.”

Follow these expert tips to make sure you’re careful and prepared while shopping this holiday season:

  • Stay alert and watchful in parking lots. While walking to your car, take a moment to observe your surroundings. Distractions such as talking or texting on cell phones, digging for keys or juggling multiple packages can make you an easy target.
  • Park in well-lit, high-traffic areas. Try to avoid shopping alone after dark. If possible, also avoid parking near objects that block your view of the surrounding area such as Dumpsters, bushes, large vans or trucks.
  • Place valuables and purchases in your trunk or otherwise out of view. Before leaving your car, make sure anything of value is locked in the trunk or out of sight.
  • Remember where your car is parked. Walk directly to your car and don’t spend unnecessary time wandering around the parking lot. Walk confidently and with purpose.
  • Move your car after putting your items inside. If you return to your car to drop off bags in the middle of a shopping trip, move to another area of the parking lot, even if it means giving up a prime spot. This will deter any thieves who may have seen you unload your purchases and then leave to continue shopping.
  • If threatened by a carjacker, give up the car immediately. Any attempt to resist or argue with the robber can turn a theft into a life-threatening situation. Your well-being is more important than any vehicle, and you should be aware that most carjackings involve a weapon. If you witness an auto theft or carjacking, call the police immediately.


by Tom Ripley for DrivingToday