How to Deter Parking Garage Theft

Written by | Updated February 28, 2013

Leaving your car at a parking garage may seem like a hum-drum part of a day, but it’s actually a potential security hazard. Of course, most of us don’t have much of a choice—we have to leave our cars in parking garages sometime or other, whether it’s while we’re shopping at the mall or working down the street. Next time you’re winding through a parking garage, looking for an empty spot, remember these safety tips to keep your car and valuables safe.

When choosing parking:

Avoid parking near shrubbery or large pillars.

Try to park in areas where your vehicle, and the area surrounding your vehicle, is in plain view. It’s easier for burglars to break into your car when they have the cover of shrubbery or pillars to hide behind.

Park in a well-lit area.

Sometimes it’s difficult to find an empty spot in a parking garage, let alone a good one. But if you can, park next to a light post to ensure your vehicle is bathed in light, instead of hidden in a dark corner. This makes it more difficult for burglars to lurk in the shadows around your car.

Don’t park next to a van with sliding doors.

It may seem like the oldest cliché in the book, but it’s wise to avoid parking next to a van with sliding doors, especially one without windows. These types of vehicles make it easy for thieves to break into the cars next to them, grab valuables, and make a quick getaway.

Park near foot traffic.

Try to park near an elevator, entrance, or stairs, so your vehicle is near foot traffic. Burglars want to get in and out without being noticed, and they will try to avoid areas where they could be caught by pedestrians.

Before leaving your car:

Leave only your key with an attendant.

If you’re in a lot with a valet or parking attendant, only leave your ignition key. Don’t leave any keychains with your name, address, or other personal information.

Hide valuables.

Don’t leave any valuables in plain sight when you park. If you have shopping bags or a laptop in your car, hide them under the seats, put them in the trunk, or take them with you. Don’t tempt thieves by putting your valuables on display.

Don’t forget your cell phone.

It’s easy to forget a charging cell phone on the seat of your car or in the cup holder, but it’s an invitation for a burglar to break into your car. Before you leave your car, make sure you have your cell phone on you.

Carry a noisemaker.

Always carry something that can make noise to draw attention to you in an emergency. If you live near a parking garage, or you park your car on the street in front of your house, this can be your security system key fob that has a panic button on it. Or you can use the clicker for your car and set off your car alarm.

Don’t leave important documents.

It may be convenient to keep your registration or title in your car, but these documents can be used for identity theft. Plus, if a thief steals your car, having those documents makes it a lot easier for them to sell your car.

Next time you’re stressed out trying to find a parking spot in a crowded parking structure, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you’re parking in a safe space. Take inventory of your surroundings, and do everything you can to ensure the safety of your vehicle and belongings. Do you have additional tips for parking garage safety? We’d love to hear them in the comments.

Photo courtesy of edlifeguard09 on

Written by Hillary Johnston

A proud mother of four, Hillary is passionate about safety education. She holds a degree in Public Health and Disaster Management. Learn more

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