Be Aware of Personal Safety When Out Shopping

Two similar stories of women out doing their daily shop had two very different endings, highlighting the need for vigilance at all times to avoid being robbed.

Personal safety is not guaranteed, even in familiar surroundings

The first story is of a neighbour that had been shopping at our local shopping centre on a quiet Monday morning. She’d purchased her groceries and drawn cash from an ATM before heading for the parking garage to unload her trolley and drive home.

Our shopping centre is huge and very well policed, with security guards all over the place. So she didn’t think twice about the luxury car that followed the same route home as she did. She waved to the security guard as she passed through the boom into our gated suburb. The people in the car behind her did the same.

As she turned into her driveway, she found herself parked in by the same car. Two men leaped out, one holding a gun to her head, demanding that she get out the car. She did so, and watched them drive off with her car, house keys, driveway gate control, portable panic button and her handbag full of ID documents and money. It took seconds.

The car was recovered quite quickly, but as we all know, the real hassle is cancelling credit cards replacing ID documents, getting new locks fitted to the house, changing the driveway gate control frequency and so on.

Vigilance is crucial to personal safety

I wasn’t consciously aware of my neighbour’s story when I visited the same shopping centre last week, but it must have been somewhere in the back of my mind. I had a trolley full of groceries, which is apparently one of the indicators that you may be worth robbing. I was walking briskly back to the parking garage when I got an eerie feeling that I was being followed.

Your personal safety is up to youIt wasn’t anything obvious, just that the bloke behind me seemed to be keeping pace with me too closely. I deliberately stopped suddenly, pulling my trolley over to the side to try to wrong-foot him. He had no choice but to keep walking past, and then hesitated, trying to walk slowly so that he could get behind me again.

I ambled aimlessly in the general direction of the car park, stopping frequently for imaginary phone calls on my cell or to dig around in my handbag. Eventually he had to give up, turning to walk past me in the opposite direction, but not without giving me a deliberate glare as he passed by.

Advice on personal safety from SAPS

My local SAPS reports an increase in the reporting of this type of incidence and has the following advice:

  • Don’t draw large sums of cash from ATM’s if you can avoid it.
  • Don’t park in dark, unguarded areas.
  • When driving home check your review mirror constantly to see who’s behind you
  • If you think you’ve been followed, don’t turn into your driveway. Carry on to the nearest police station.
  • If confronted, do not resist or lose your temper just hand over your car keys and let them leave.
  • Then phone 10111 or your sector policing vehicle, or 112 from your cell phone.

To that I’ll add another personal safety suggestion: if you’re nervous, ask one of the shopping centre guards to accompany you back to your car. I would have done this if the person following me hadn’t given up as there were guards at the exit as well as patrolling the parking area.

Read more on ATM personal safety

Contributor: Lindy Barry

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