Minimize Your Risk Of Theft While Shopping

The Seattle PI has a report on car prowls at malls while victims are inside shopping, and some advice on how to minimize your risk. Never leave anything of value in your car, and don’t assume that by throwing a coat over it you’ll disguise it. Instead, put it in the trunk.

Also, if you bring items out of a store and put them in your car (we mean trunk), don’t immediately go back in; instead, get in your car and drive to a new parking spot, because loading a car with items and going back inside is exactly the sort of behavior thieves watch for in mall parking lots.

The article doesn’t provide any good stats to prove that it’s a growing problem or anything—but there’s anecdotal evidence that the Christmas season is a good time to be a car prowler, because so many shoppers are already distracted, or filling up the back seat with gifts like it’s a temporary sleigh.

A few other good dos and don’ts:

  • Leave your keys in your car (the police say it happens a lot more than you’d imagine).
  • Leave identification or mail in your car.
  • Leave your cell phone in your car.
  • Lock the connection between your trunk and passenger compartment.
  • Leave unneeded credit cards at home when going to a crowded shopping center.
  • Jot down your parking spot so you don’t have to search for it laden with packages.

One other good bit of advice, which doesn’t fit the rest of the article but is useful nonetheless:

  • Give children a card with contact information for you including a cell phone number.

“How to keep your car safe from thieves while shopping” [SeattlePI]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. UpsetPanda says:

    During the summer, D.C. and Baltimore had a record high in thefts of portable GPS units people leave laying out in the passenger or back seats, and mounted in the car.

  2. dirtymoney says:

    Nothing I hate more than pulling into a parking space & seeing someone just sitting in their car nearby. Makes me ALWAY suspect that they are just sitting there observing others & waiting to break into someone’s unprotected vehicle. (I have no alarm system in my vehicle).

    Also…. put your stealables (like a laptop) in your trunk BEFORE ever pulling into a shopping place’s parking lot. When I stop off & do some shopping after work…. I put my laptop in my trunk before I leave my work’s parking lot…. when doing this … make sure noone is following you afterwards.

  3. SaraAB87 says:

    Yeah, if you have to stash a purse or something valuable, don’t stash it in the store parking lot, either stash it at home before you leave or your last destination, then drive to the place you were going.

    Leaving a valuable in visible view such as a GPS system, especially if its something in high demand is a bad idea anywhere. Over here you can’t even have a CD player in your car or else it will be gone.

    Also don’t leave a lot of junk in your car, if your car is filled with papers, junk and kids toys, a theif will be more likely to rifle through it for something valuable rather than go for a clean, well kept car.

  4. jamesdenver says:


    Hey I do this. If my other half is running into a store I’d much rather be sitting in the car reading or listening to music than lingering about a store doing nothing.

  5. dirtymoney says:


    Pfft! LIKELY story! THIEF!!!

    Yeah I realize that most people sitting in their car are not there casing other cars, but my paranoia always thinks otherwise & doesnt want to take a chance.

  6. JackHandey says:

    Another reason to drive an old beater. I have a rusted ’85 land yacht and never had any problems with theft (go figure!) even though I have semi-nice stereo system inside.

    One day I parked my car on the side of the street downtown, and I just happened to glance at it from inside a high rise. A dodgy guy was walking down the street looking in all the cars’ windows. He skipped mine (didn’t even glance at it!) and continued on with the rest…

    The only problem is this car isn’t exactly a “pussy magnet.” :/

  7. humphrmi says:

    @SaraAB87: I keep my car unlocked. So many times my car has been broken into and the most expensive part was replacing the broken glass. Of course, I don’t have a car worth stealing and don’t keep any valuables in it.

  8. acasto says:

    When at the office late, it helps to park in a spot where you can easily see it from a ‘dark’ window while carrying a Glock.

  9. MrEvil says:

    My Crown Vic is its own security system. It’s a police package car so it looks like a PD unmarked on the outside. I keep anything of any value in the trunk.

    Probably the safest thing to do is to carry as much with you as possible at the mall and trying to get as much as you can at as few stores as possible.

  10. theblackdog says:

    I have a hatchback, so there is no real trunk for me to use. Yesterday I actually carried one of my purchases with me to every store because I knew that if someone saw it or suspected I had something, it would have been smash and grab time.

  11. BigNutty says:

    I love to screw with the minds of crooks so I like to leave wrapped packages with bricks inside in an unlocked car.

    Also, my wife carries a women’s wallet full of those fake 1 million dollar bills and those pretend credit cards you get in the mail and leave it sticking out a little bit of her purse like a fish hook with bait.

    If anyone is interested, stop by the Santa Anita Fashion Mall next to the Santa Anita Racetrack in the Los Angeles area and look for a 1980 all black Caddy.

  12. XTC46 says:

    @BigNutty: what is the point of this? your wife is stupid, somone is going to see the fake, shoot/stab/mug/etc just to get the fake bills. She gets hurt over nothing. And as for wrapping bricks? I hope somone smashes your window before they realize the door is unlocked.

    Its one thing to be an idiot and not protect your self, but to bait a criminal and even worse allow your wife to bait a criminal? thats just stupid.

  13. TechnoDestructo says:


    The other great thing about beaters is that you can drive them hard and not give a damn about the consequences (well, the consequences for the car).

    Which can actually serve to make the car a reverse pussy-magnet.

  14. Jon Parker says:

    I always thought you could probably avoid a lot of traffic problems by driving a beater with an “Insurance is for losers” bumper sticker.

  15. ksevcik says:

    @JackHandey: I used to never have to worry about anything in my old beater too. Then, of course, I got a newer car and left my work laptop on the back seat per usual while I got lunch. Came back to discover I was missing a window and a laptop. So it was obviously a bad habit to develop.

    Also, don’t assume this is just at malls or just the creepy people sitting in cars. The real thieves are all over and aren’t dumb enough to sit in one place. I was waiting for a parking spot at a chinese buffet and saw a Tahoe (with no plates) slowly cruise the lot and dump 3 guys that casually walked through the lot glancing in cars and occasionally trying a door. Thankfully they didn’t find anything, so I didn’t have to figure out what the heck to do, but I’ve been a lot more cautious since.

  16. skategreen says:

    I installed my CD player in the glove box, took off the face plate around the cd player slot/heater area, and left some fake wires hanging out. It looked like I’d already been broken into.
    I parked in a high risk area for 10 years and sold the CD player with the car.

    Used to daydream about wrapping up a box of dogsh*t and leaving it in an unlocked car…but never did it.

  17. pureobscure says:

    @BigNutty: Why not have her wear a big cubic zirconia ring and a fake Rolex Presidential too? She could hang her arm out of the car window while in traffic in South Central or East LA. That’ll show them thieves.

  18. dirtymoney says:


    You should do the old “purse full o dogshit” prank.

    Take an old purse (has to be a purse that has a small top opening so you have to stick your hand inside) , fill it with mushy dog poo, leave it somewhere for someone to find, get behind some cover & just sit back & watch the hilarity ensue!

  19. ptrix says:


    lol, sounds like you’ve seen this video too: []

    (warning, video contains some R-rated language. you have been warned)

  20. Syrenia says:

    It’s a miracle that people who drive convertibles even survive one day. Oh wait. I’ve been driving a convertible for 3 years now. I do not lock the car, I leave the top down when I park, and unless it’s raining, I leave the windows down — even if I had to put them down when I parked. Take the stereo. Help yourself to the change in the ashtray. The sweatshirt — yours! Just don’t cut the top. Three years and counting, and nothing has ever been taken. (Of course, I’m sure that will change this afternoon, since I’ve just mocked fate.) I worry more about some jerk releasing the parking brake so that it will roll.