Women and parking garages, in a city, at night. My thoughts on personal safety.

Open stairwells like this are safer than enclosed stairwells, where you must open a door to enter it. Try to avoid older garages with enclosed, sealed-off stairwells.

Open stairwells like this are safer than enclosed stairwells, where you must open a door to enter it. Try to avoid older garages with enclosed, sealed-off stairwells.

It's risky. 

I'm pretty down on valet parking and all the things that can go wrong... but there is one major benefit, and this is PERSONAL SAFETY.

If you are in a city, alone, in an unfamiliar neighborhood, and you won't be leaving until after dark, or when the daily beehive of city activity has drastically subsided, then I recommend you pay the extra money and use a valet service.

This allows you to wait in a much safer place while the valet runs into the garage to retrieve your vehicle. 

Cities have criminals, drug addicts, and mentally ill people. You don't want to meet one of them while you are alone and cornered in a garage stairwell or elevator where people won't be able to hear you scream.

But if you will be parking in a garage, here are some suggestions:

  1. Don't have a scarf around your neck. This is a very popular fashion trend among women and men, and I imagine that makes it a lot easier to choke somebody.

  2. Put the phone away. Don't listen to any music. You need to be able to hear what's around you.

  3. Take off the heals and put on your running shoes. First, I think you women are crazy to wear heals like you do. You're poor feet! (I don't know how you all can stand it.) But more importantly, you need to have maneuverability and speed for just in case.

    If you don't have or can't buy pepper spray, keep one of the heels in your best hand for swinging or throwing.

    If there is an attacker, run. But if you're about to get cornered, throw one of the shoes into his face as hard as you can and run. Save the last shoe for in case you get cornered. If it's clear this could be life or death and this is not just a sad person inappropriately asking you for food or something like that... if it's clear that you are in danger, then slam that heel into the attacker's eye as fast as you can and escape. Any scrape of the eye will halt the attack for at least a few seconds. A major strike to the eye will stop it completely. When you take that swing, make it count, because it could be the only swing you get. If you miss, don't hesitate in slamming your knee into his balls. And don't miss this time. It will take 2 or 3 seconds for the pain to become incapacitating. He'll be out of action for at least 20 seconds. Run!

  4. I hate to say this, but if this an an above-ground garage, you should probably park near the entrances and exits on the first floor.

    As a former valet, I know these are high turnover parking spots with a higher likelihood of dings, dents and scratches, and the chances for theft and vandalism are higher when parked in these more accessible spots, but personal safety matters the most. I want you to swiftly get in your car, lock it, and get on your way.

  5. If you have a work companion or friend nearby, by all means ask them to escort you.

  6. And if you are parked on a higher or lower floor, ask the attendant to escort you to your car.

    I recommend you research this. Some garage employees may be required to stay in their booth. Others will gladly welcome the opportunity to escape the monotony of sitting in a confined area for so long.

    You might even ask to speak to the garage manager during the day to inquire about how they background check their employees, how long the employee working tonight has been working for them, and whether it is okay to ask for an escort to your car. And if you don't like the answers, then consider moving your car to another garage.

    It's not weakness. It's being smart.

Tipping a couple dollars would be a nice gesture for any parking attendant who provides that service.

Where I worked, things happened in the garage. On weekend nights we had a loud, drunk younger crowd hanging out in the garage sometimes, because of a popular nearby bar. There was a homeless person or two sneakily setting up camp in the upper floors of the stairwells. There were petty criminals scoping for opportunity. And the occasional street bum looking for used cigarettes in the big outdoor ashtrays.

Even for 6'2" 185 pound athletic me, being in my own garage that I was in and out of all-the-time, where I knew every square foot of this structure, there were times when that garage was spooky, times when the elevator door was opening and I didn't know if I would have to immediately fight somebody who might be lying in wait to rob me. I was always alert to this possibility.

In another garage where I usually parked my own car — an underground garage — there were TONS of hiding places, and it was a quiet place with usually nobody else around. When I was going back to my car in that garage, sometimes leaving late at night, after 11pm, I often carried a sturdy $120 umbrella that was made for self-defense, because hoping that everything would be alright is not a good strategy. 

Quiet garages are risky garages.

My message is: USE A VALET SERVICE if you are parking in a city at night, especially when the area is unfamiliar. And if you will not be using such a service, think it through. Take precautions to increase your level of safety. Because crime does happen in these places, as you can see from the links below.

Even in daytime attacks happen. In one instance below, it even happened to an off-duty (male) police officer who was carrying a gun.

Parking garages are risky places.