Mundane Movements: Parking Lots, Part 1: Positioning and Movement INTO the Store

This post is universally applicable to the person who wants to decrease a criminal’s ability to close space and gain positional dominance via maneuver and avenues of approach, while simultaneously increasing their own ability to maintain reactionary space, preserve positional dominance and set them self up for an uneventful departure after the shopping is done.

The goal is to make predatory movements more obvious. We are looking for odd behaviors from unknown contacts. For instance, someone rapidly changing direction when you do, stopping when you do, or anything else that makes your spider sense tingle. The better we can observe and control our positioning in the public space, the more obvious a predatory movement will appear.

‘Nowhere’ isn’t the name of a bad part of town where all the crooks live, it’s where people come from when we lose our situational awareness and are task fixated by the myriad distractions we encounter daily.

With some simple games and positioning techniques, you will see more than the average iPhone fixated member of our society. You will be the harder prey, and the predators will choose to hunt those that don’t see it coming. The most likely time for an ambush (according to my private security detail friends) is when you’re either parking or leaving in your vehicle. For parents (Joe Six-Packs) like us, I would go on a limb to say that leaving is the most vulnerable time we spend in the public space. In order to have a safer departure, we can position our vehicles upon arriving at the parking lot to set ourselves up for success.

Nothing is as common place as the leisurely walk you take to the grocery store to fill your shopping cart up with the diapers, milk, and eggs you need for the week. Contemplating the next meal, it’s easy to let your mind wander. With a little one in the buggy, it’s also easy to be focused on them while trying to dodge traffic in a busy parking lot. Depending on where you live, you might find yourself shopping at a big box grocer, a gas station, a mom and pop store, whatever. You might park in an open parking lot, a dank parking deck, or next to a gas pump. I’ll lay out some best practices on positioning and parking to maximize your reactionary gap and therefor maximize the time you have to make decisions. Regardless of where you are forced to park, the guidelines are similar.

  • Picking a parking spot. This topic could be divided into several scenarios (light conditions, area of town, parking structure, etc). But really it’s not necessary. The goal should be to park in such a way that positions you as far from hard corners (e.g. dumpsters, corners of gas stations, cement pillars, stairwells) as is reasonable. When possible, you want to keep the ‘angle of threat’ to a minimum. That is, if you park far enough away from a gas station that you can see both sides of the building within your peripheral vision, you’re in good shape. You want distance from large visual obstructions that would limit your view of the area immediately surrounding your car (box vans and the like).
  • I prefer to park NEAR a cart corral now that I shop with my son regularly. The corral disallows another vehicle to park next to me, AND it is a quick walk to drop my cart off without leaving my son unattended, or making him walk with me across a busy parking lot.
  • When feasible, ‘combat park’ your vehicle. That is, back into your parking space so that when it’s time to leave, you’re driving straight ahead and can do so quickly (H/T Marc S.) Going forward is always easier than backing up, and quicker too!

 

  • Reminder:  I’m a realist. Ideally we would drive around the parking lot scoping for a perfect spot and mean-mugging all the people who make us feel uneasy, but eventually we just have to follow some guidelines and get on with our lives. Do your best with this and at least make it part of your considerations for day to day life. Some days there won’t be any spaces near light posts or shrub dividers. That’s OK. Use some of these guidelines. Just being aware of these principles will give you a distinct advantage.
  • Entering a store (specifically a gas station), always park at the pumps whether you need gas or not. By positioning here, you can see all of the hard corners of the building, the dumpsters, and any loiterers that look out of place. Also, Avoid RedBox DVD rentals on the outside of convenience stores. These seem to be the new ATM robbery zones. Task fixation will allow someone to ‘come out of nowhere’ and take your money, or worse.

quickmart front

Upon entering a store, make a direct line to the deepest corner of the store. Turn around and take a quick view of who is there, where they are, and what they’re doing. Don’t need to be obvious, just give it a few seconds. You’ll notice quickly if something is out of place. Look for the main bad guy and possibly a seeded back-up guy. They’re cowards and often run in pairs. Make it a game and eventually it won’t feel like a chore. Then, shop as normal.

BACK STORE

 

  • When parking in a large open parking lot, some similar rules apply. When possible, park near light posts (especially in the dark) as well as cement/bush dividing areas. You’ve eliminated an easy approach from a flank and you will quickly realize if someone is circumventing the natural obstacle to close distance with you. You also will have the time to maneuver yourself to keep cars between you and an unknown contact. You have all but eliminated 180 degrees of approachable avenue and increased your reaction time as well as your ability to determine if someone is up to no-good.

shrubpark light

This post is more generic in that it applies to anyone. Not just parents with children. The same principles should be used regardless of who you have with you. Having your partner (spouse, significant other) with you makes these logistics much easier. More ‘switched-on’ observers help to increase avoidance and de-select you as potential prey.

The next installment of this topic will include how to get back to your vehicle after the shopping is done.

If you find any useful info in this rambling, please share it with your friends and encourage them to share. I just want to get this information out there because I want people to think and keep themselves and their families safe.

NOTE: Inspired by material from (Craig Douglas, Claude Werner, The Total Protection Interactive Hive-mind)

DefensiveDaddy

 

Securing Your Guns from Unauthorized Access

  1. All guns are always loaded.

  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

    —Jeff Cooper[2]

Reciting the four universal firearms safety rules should be part of your subconscious routine every time you see or handle a gun. No exceptions. I personally like to throw in two extra rules when I’m teaching people.

  1. Never try to catch a falling gun. (heard from James Yeager at Tactical Response)
  2. Prevent access to your guns by unauthorized persons. (heard from Claude Werner at The Tactical Professor)

Let’s concentrate on the last rule there. Who are we trying to prevent from accessing our guns and how do we prevent unauthorized people from accessing them? Obviously, we want to keep criminals away from our guns. But there are a few other groups of people that we want to deny access to guns that you should consider. How about our children, nosy neighbors, or our nosy neighbors’ children?

CNN Study – Kids access to guns is a preventable problem and 2 year old shoots himself

The easiest and most robust solution there is getting a large gun safe and anchoring it into the cement in the basement. This works wonderfully for storing guns for which you have no immediate need (i.e. not our go-to home defense weapons). But how do we keep home defense guns quickly accessible to us and not to them? I’ll list several options, some better and some way worse than others.

  • Elevated position. This is the worst of the bunch, by a long shot. If children are your only concern, it’s still the worst. The problem is that, yeah, they might not be able to climb up there and reach your gun yet, but when they can, it could be too late. Don’t do it once the kid can walk. I had a scary three seconds about ten months ago when my little guy was pulling himself up to standing that made me realize that if he can see the gun, he’ll find a way to try to touch it. Never again. Here’s some footage to demonstrate the point (thanks Chuck H. of the Topeka Police for posting this)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fnsf6i9FzA?rel=0&w=420&h=315]

This is probably high enough to keep him away for another year. But I don’t count on it.
  • Stack-On PS-520 Super-Sized Personal Safe with Electronic Lock
    This has been a very workable option for me for the last 2 years. I have an easy to remember code (different from the PINs that my son might watch us type at the grocery store) and I currently store this safe near the bed. I have also stored it in the coat closet near the entry of our previous home. I don’t have this lagged down, as I’m not as concerned with a thief breaking in and running away with this safe. It only contains my home defense setup (upcoming post on this). I can quickly roll out of bed and get my gear and enact my home defense plans. I preventatively change the batteries once a year and remind myself with a google calendar reminder.
IMG_4490
The only addition I need to make is a battery powered dome light on the outside of this safe so that I can fully see the keypad in the dark. I’m pleased with this safe.(key code version).

Gunvault SpeedVault SV500 gun safe
(key code version). This is my next purchase. I’d like to secure it on the first floor in a place that myself or my wife can access as we answer the door. I don’t own this yet, but I’ve been told that you can easily defeat the biometric version with some simple tools, so avoid that one.

I think this is a brilliant safe. Securing against a wall in a closet, or on the back of a cabinet, it should be a real winner.
  • GunVault NV300 NanoVault with Combination Lock
    This is the best $30 you can spend. You can use this as a travel safe when you visit hotels, in your car, or even in a drawer if you only need to secure a pistol. I programmed a palindromic number (same forward as backwards) so that under stress I could open the safe regardless of orientation. It has been a great all around value.

IMG_4487

  • On your person!!! This is what I do until I go to sleep at night. My ‘house gun’ is a Ruger LCP with a crimson trace laser, clip-draw , and a Hogue Handall. I don’t like the idea of having to request that a home invader standby while I open my safe, so I just carry a gun at home. Makes sense to me. If you read lots of defensive gun use stories online, you’ll see many examples of when a man has to engage a home invader empty handed and his wife runs to get the gun and has to make a near contact shot on the bad guy. There’s lots of considerations in this scenario that we can talk about soon.

That’s it for now. If you have any suggestions on securing long guns from kids, and keeping them quick to access, please let me know. I’ve been toying with some design ideas that I am considering building since no good solution seems to exist.

Edit To Add: Found this on Amazon. ShotLock Shotgun Solo-Vault This looks like it might be the ticket for a quick access shotgun if that’s the direction you want to go.