Tis’ the season – to be careful.
Burman, Critton, Luttier and Coleman LLP Blog
As we head out to the malls and stores to engage in our annual binge of holiday shopping, we are not the only ones excited by the advent of the season. As the still unsolved and tragic Bochicchio murders remind us, there are those unscrupulous (and worse) elements of society who view the holiday season as a time of opportunity, when busy schedules and open purses can mean a happy holiday for the criminals among us. Here are some tips to make your season safer and more enjoyable.
Parking lots – One of the areas where you are at your most vulnerable. It is virtually impossible to secure a large parking lot. Parking lots present open access to the public, the sheer size of many of these lots dilute the presence of whatever security officers may be working, large SUVs and other vehicles obscure the view of what is happening around, and the lighting is often less than ideal. To protect yourself remember these simple tips:
- Park as close to the store as possible. Circling around a crowded parking lot looking for an open space is never fun, but a few minutes it costs you may save you a lifetime of misery.
- If you have to park away from the entrance to the mall or store, look for an area which is well lit, where there is a security camera, or where there are passersby who can observe what is happening around your care. Never park behind a mall or store, or in areas where your vehicle is hidden or obscured from the public.
- Travel in a group – especially at night.
- Take your keys out of your purse or pocket when you leave the mall or store so that you aren’t fumbling for them when you reach your car.
- If you have multiple packages to carry, ask a security guard to escort you to the car.
Inside the mall or store – Once inside the mall or store, the potential risks posed
by criminal activity do not disappear. While the interior spaces of a mall or store are better lit and often patrolled by security, keep these important tips in mind:
- Crowds provide cover. Crowded areas allow criminals to blend in. Be aware of the person or persons who seem to follow you inside a store, bump into you, or stand too close. If the behavior of a particular person makes you uncomfortable or seems suspicious, alert security or store personnel.
- Keep your purse closed and in hand. An open purse, or a purse dangling by a shoulder strap, can be a tempting target. If you’re a man, keep your wallet in a jacket pocket, or in the front pocket of your pants, not in your back pocket where it is easily accessible.
- Watch the kids. The unfortunate reality is that children are often the target of criminal activity in today’s world. NEVER leave a child unattended, or use a video arcade or toy store as a baby sitter. Pedophiles and molesters frequently “case” areas where children congregate. An unattended child is a prime target.
Under Florida law a mall or store owes its patrons a duty to exercise reasonable
care for their safety. This is a non-delegable duty, which means that a the mall or store owner cannot avoid the consequences of failing to exercise reasonable care by asserting that it hired a security guard company or parking lot manager, and that the company or persons the mall or store owner hired was negligent. While prior criminal activity on a property will alert the property owner to the fact that criminal activity on the premises is foreseeable, the absence of such activity does not eliminate the mall or store owner’s duty to maintain a reasonably safe premises. Unfortunately, there is often a gulf between what the law requires and the security measures a particular mall or store implements. The best way to ensure your protection is to be proactive when it comes to your safety, and take those small steps which can make a happy season a safe.