There was a story last week in my local news about a mom whose diaper bag was stolen from her car in a Target parking lot while she was right there.
The thieves pulled up in a van while she was changing her baby's diaper and, after rifling through the car, grabbed the bag while she and her older children sat watching, terrified.
So many things scare me about this story. First of all, it's a Target location I have shopped at many times and it happened in broad daylight, but also because it reminds me that moms can be easy targets for criminals, anywhere, especially in parking lots.
With heavy baby carriers and strollers, diaper bags, and pacifiers thrown on the ground to retrieve, we're often balanced so precariously that the slightest breeze could send us toppling.
Add to all that some older children who need to be kept from running into oncoming traffic and a fight between siblings over who gets which seat, and the last thing we have a brain cell to spare for is thoughts of our safety.
But we should.
I have a car that starts with the push of a button -- the key just has to be somewhere in the car. And most days, I throw my diaper bag, which contains my keys, onto the front seat before I strap my daughter into the car seat and put the stroller or grocery cart away.
It would be so easy for a criminal to jump in my car and take away with it ... and my baby. Or harm and steal from us in countless other ways.
While I'm certainly not going to stop going out with my children, there are steps that can be taken to deter criminals. Here are some reminders that are often easier said than done, but important to keep in mind regardless:
- If a van or vehicle with dark, tinted windows is parked next to yours or if there's a suspicious-looking person just sitting in a car nearby, don't go to your car. Find a security guard and ask him to escort you.
- Walk with purpose. This is a mantra I repeat in my head all the time. Of course, finding that purposeful walk with a screaming, flailing child in tow can be difficult to say the least. But at least looking like you're a force to be reckoned with will deter some criminals.
- Stay aware. Try to minimize distractions as much as possible and keep an eye out for suspicious-looking individuals loitering nearby.
- Try to get in and out as quickly as possible. It's difficult I know, but the longer you linger, the longer you're a potential target.
- Once in your car, get going. Don't start opening toys and handing out snacks while still parked. Pull up in front of the store or another more visible area and take care of your children's needs before getting on the road.
- In all cases, no matter how hungry your kids are or how badly you just want to get home, if anything at all seems amiss or suspicious, trust your gut. Go back in the store and wait, or find a security guard to walk you to your car.
Have you had any scary experiences in parking lots?
Image via imjoshdotcom/Flickr