The downtown skyline is beckoning you forward. The city is buzzing. Maybe you’re a local. Maybe you’re in town for business and want to see the nightlife. Or maybe you’re heading to a big ball game. Whatever the case may be, heading into a downtown city centre is always fun, but it’s accompanied by some hassle — figuring out a parking situation.

There are a number of variables that have to be accounted for. How much is parking? Is the location close to your destination? Will parking spots be available? And most importantly, is this parking space safe? Will you have to worry about auto-theft?

Theft is a crime that can happen anywhere, and it’s often a “crime of opportunity,” meaning burglars take advantage of a weakness or vulnerability they see. When it comes to a crowded downtown space with many people and events, the camouflage of activity could conceal a burglar and give them an opportunity to strike.

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How to Prevent a Downtown Break-In

In most major cities, garages or parking lots will be available that provide stationed security personnel who are watching vehicles and accompanied by security equipment. Start by finding a location that offers these things and 24/7 parking surveillance. Some downtown services even have escorts that can take you to your location.

Spend the Money

Spend the money for a safe and proper parking location. It’s never worth parking in a dangerous location just to save money. This risk can cost you more in the long run if something unfortunate happens.

Keep Note of Where You Parked

Always take notes of where you parked the vehicle, including the floor, street, and any relevant location information. This will ensure that you aren’t wandering around and don’t appear lost or vulnerable to other people

Report Suspicious Activity

If you ever see anyone acting suspicious, contact security personnel or law enforcement and let them know what you’ve seen. This simple gesture could be the difference of a break-in or not.

Security Call Buttons

Make sure to utilize security call buttons and know where they are located in the event of an emergency. Look for these tools whenever you enter a parking structure or are walking to your vehicle.

Watch Out for Parking Offenses

One of the biggest bummers is to return to a vehicle only to realize that you have been ticketed or towed. Parking spaces in downtown of most cities can be difficult to find, and sometimes it’s confusing to understand if a location is suitable for parking or not. Make sure to abide by all of the parking rules in the area to avoid being ticketed or getting into any trouble, and take notes about where you parked, what time your meter runs out, and any other important information pertaining to your vehicle. Here are a few situations to be on the lookout for:

Things that are against the rules:

  • Blocking a driveway or fire lane
  • Parking on a sidewalk or another neutral ground
  • Parking within 15 feet of a fire hydrant
  • Parking within 20 feet of a corner or a crosswalk
  • Parking in a loading or service zone
  • Times for certain meters or locations
  • The amount of time that you end up parking
  • Parking more than 18 inches away from the curb
  • Don’t park in a handicap spot

Check on special times for parking that might be specific to holidays, special events in your city, et cetera, so you aren’t scrambling to find parking last minute and end up settling for a poor spot. (This is especially important if you’re in a new city or on vacation.)

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Consider Other Transportation Options

The quickest solution is to avoid driving downtown altogether. Most major cities have transportation options that take people directly downtown, and with the advent of ride sharing options like Uber or Lyft, people can avoid the hassle of taking a car downtown. Check in with your city to see what kind of ride sharing or public transportation options are available, or look into getting a ride with a friend or family member. (Public transportation options like buses, taxis, subway, et cetera may also be available in your city.)

Remember: Never drive drunk and make proper plans if you know that you will be driving

Back to the Basics

Whether it’s home safety or vehicle safety, it’s all about the basics. Covering all of the essentials is the best place to start to be secured. Make sure you always lock the vehicle and roll up the windows, even if you’re only exiting for a few minutes. Don’t ever leave the keys in the ignition or the motor running, even if you’re only a doing a task that will take a short amount of time. Some further general tips:

Tips to not have an entire vehicle stolen

  • Never leave keys inside your vehicle.
  • Install kill switches for steering wheels and column locks to deter theft.
  • Don’t hide a key in a magnetic key box. If you can find it, so can a burglar. Many online resources tell car owners where magnetic keys are for specific vehicles.
  • Don’t put any personal information on your cars or in your car. If either is stolen, you’ll lose your information.

How to avoid theft of items inside the vehicle:

  • Don’t leave valuables with personal information out.
  • Don’t move valuables to the trunk or other areas of the car while you’re in public, so would-be burglars don’t see what you have. Move items before you leave the house, or lock items in the glove compartment.
  • Get a car alarm. This is a sure fire way to attract attention towards anyone who is trying to break into your vehicle.
  • Put your vehicle in the garage if possible, but still lock doors and other points of entry.
  • If you’re out and about, always park in a well lighted and high traffic area, and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Don’t risk hiding items in an SUV. They can be easier to break into because there is no trunk. This means that the driver generally just hides things out of sight and burglars know the common places to look.
  • Don’t leave belongings in the car overnight. A lot of burglaries occur at night when the vehicle is parked outside of the home, or when a vehicle is parked in a parking lot and unattended for long periods of time.
  • Keep the car clean, because even items that aren’t valuable can be mistaken as valuable (like an empty shopping bag, boxes, et cetera).

With these basic tips in mind, your safety will be ensured no matter what city you’re in.