By Officer Larry Jacobs, SSPD

Parking decks can be a scary place, especially older parking decks that have inadequate lighting, decks that are dirty, that have old, broken down and abandoned cars and that also have angled, unused spaces where people can hide.

Your average bad guy will usually spend time in parking decks for several reasons. Two of them are: 1) to break into vehicles, called “entering autos” in police jargon and 2) to assault people.

Now, let’s talk about what we can to reduce your chances of becoming a victim from the above two scenarios. Entering autos is a nationwide epidemic. It is a very easy and quick crime. It does not take much skill which makes the cops job that much harder. This means anyone can do it and that means there is an unlimited supply of perpetrators who do this crime. The cops catch people all the time breaking into vehicles, but there is always someone to take their place. So, we need your help by not giving them a reason to break into your car, hence if everyone would do this, your parking deck would attract less suspicious activity.

Here is what you can do to help yourself and the police:

Don’t leave anything visible in your vehicle that would interest anyone. Many of our entering autos are juveniles looking for anything they can get. Spare change is a hot commodity to these folks.

Do not leave the plug-in GPS, IPod, etc. in your vehicle when you exit. Place everything related to these items in a glove box or utility compartment when exiting your vehicle. Place compact discs in the same containers as well. These items are called “targets of opportunity.” If you can walk past your car, look inside and see nothing but floor mats and seats, good job. You have given nothing to a thief.

Don’t leave sunglasses in those handy clips on the sun visors. Many sunglasses cost well over $100 these days. A juvenile thief would think nothing of breaking into a vehicle only for a pair of “cool” sunglasses. Place these in your glove box upon exiting your vehicle.

If your car stereo came with a removable face, then use it. It’s there for a reason. It takes no time to remove. If a thief wants the stereo, it does them no good without the face.

Lock your doors! Even in my garage, I lock my doors. Many of our entering autos are from vehicles with no forced entry to them. People walk parking lots, or neighborhoods, and try door handles. If they are unlocked (and no alarm sounds) then they help themselves to whatever they want. Don’t make it easy for thieves. In most cases, unless the theft is obvious, it could be days or weeks until you realize you have been victimized.

If you have a habit of traveling with firearms, please do not leave them in your vehicle. Get in the habit of taking them in, and out of your vehicle each and every time. Having your vehicle broken in to is a horrible thing which leaves you feeling very violated and victimized. The one thing that would make it even worse is having your vehicle broken in to and now your registered firearm is in the hands of a criminal.

Now, let’s work on number 2, the assault.

The bad guy is looking for a victim. It is up to you to make yourself less vulnerable to attack. Here is what I suggest:

1) Carry a flashlight, any bright flashlight and the bigger, the better cause they tend to put out more light.

2) Carry a whistle with a break-away lanyard if you decide to wear it around your neck.

3) Take your time and look around. Pay attention to your surroundings and if you see anything suspicious, go back the way you came or call 911 from the cell phone you have in your hand.

4) Walk like you have a purpose, stand up straight and stop texting your friend while you’re walking. The attacker (the lion) is looking for that helpless person (the sheep) who not paying attention.

5) Do keep your keys in your hand. They can be used to defend yourself, you can also quickly open the car door to get away from your attacker and you can hit the car finder button on the remote which blows your vehicles horn and flashes its headlights.

6) You can blow your whistle, shine the flashlight in your attackers eyes, scream fire (not rape) and you if that does not work, you do whatever you need to, to fight off your attacker and survive.

7) You can walk with Chuck Norris. If Chuck is not available, walk with a friend or co-worker.

Here are the last two items I recommend:

If the parking deck is to dark, contact the management company for the deck. Ask for additional lighting, cameras, paint the interior white (reflects light and decreases dark areas) and whatever else it takes to make that deck safer for you.

The SSPD offers a women’s self defense class. The class is once a month, a one time, two hour session, held at the SSPD on Wednesday nights from 6-8 pm and is free. The waiting list is several months long, but I will place you on the waiting list and will contact you several weeks before your class with a date.

Larry Jacobs is an officer in the crime prevention unit of the Sandy Springs Police Department. He can be reached at