Feeling safe in carparks

Keeping watch: The Ladies Parking area in Mid Valley Megamall comes with two security guards.

IT IS coming up to Christmas time again and as usual, there is a massive amount of shopping to be done.

Retail therapy takes in a new form altogether, as I do frequent trips to malls to stock up on gifts, treats and decorations for the celebrations.

In my most recent trip, quite by accident more than anything else, I stumbled across the Ladies Parking section in Mid Valley Megamall. For those of you who have been there, you would know that Mid Valley has about several carparks to facilitate the zillion people who head there on a daily basis.

These days I go to carparks with some trepidation. Having read numerous reports in the papers, and even more on Facebook and Twitter about women who get raped, mugged and assaulted in carparks, I tend to approach them with all my senses alert.

I try my best not to stay in malls late at night, because walking through an empty carpark to my car, quite frankly scares me.

To be honest, anyone with any modicum of sense in them would pay heed to be wary, as the less salubrious members of society seem to think women alone in carparks as fair game for their nefarious activities.

When I stumbled across the Ladies Parking section, I was somewhat intrigued. Located within one of the various carparks in Mid Valley, it is a self-contained section with its own barriers. There were two security guards stationed there, and upon seeing me in the car alone, they let up the barrier and let me in. I parked my car, and it was a short walk to the escalators leading to the mall.

I noticed the other drivers in this section were all women. Some were groups of women, others were mothers with their young children, and some, like me, were women on their own.

Psychologically, parking in the Ladies Parking spot had a positive impact on me. I felt safer.

Surely no one would try anything with two security guards looking on. Also, as it was close to the entrance to the mall, I didn’t have to walk long in the underground maze which carparks usually are.

The only thing which I was surprised about was the lack of information on this section. There weren’t signs outside the ring roads surrounding Mid Valley to indicate this special parking zone.

I also had no clue how many parking bays had been designated Ladies Parking sections, and so wondered how many women would be lucky enough to grab them in any given day.

I do think it is a great initiative. Considering that women are the greatest retail therapists known to man (I’m sure men would agree with me here), I imagine that mall management and carpark operators are financially motivated to provide a safe environment for women.

It also makes initiatives such as the “Car Park League Table”, to be implemented by the Home Ministry, make more sense.

The reason being that there are specific measures carpark operators can take to create a safer environment for female shoppers. I am only surprised that it isn’t “marketed” more.

The way I see it, my preference would be to frequent malls with secure carparks.

Speaking to friends, I found out that Publika in Solaris Dutamas also has a Ladies Parking section.

I wonder how many other carparks, not just in Kuala Lumpur, but in major cities around the country, have similar measures.

I am also reminded of something I did last year after watching a late night movie with my son. The movie ended about midnight, and all of Mid Valley was pretty much deserted.

We headed down to the carpark, paid for our ticket and exited into the bowels of the parking bays. It was completely empty save for a lone car or two.

We had to walk quite a distance to our car, and as we were doing so, I found myself getting really nervous. My son and I ended up gripping each other’s hands and literally ran to our car. Only once we were in, and the doors were locked, was I able to breathe normally again.

I am sure you are aware of the phrase — perception is reality. That night a year ago, I had a heightened perception of fear of crime in a carpark.

Having read and heard stories of women being assaulted in carparks, I didn’t want to be another statistic.

A year on, the idea of the Ladies Parking is a great step in the right direction. Now, my fear perception has dipped, as I can see how simple measures just make me feel safer.

I think it would be great, even a financial imperative, for carpark operators to consider this strategy. Making an environment safer for their customers can only benefit them. And for the rest of us, we get to breathe a lot easier as we get on with our lives and errands.

So, it is with great interest that I await the release of the “Car Park League Table”. I want to know which are the safest carparks in the country, simply because I plan to frequent them.

How about the rest of you out there? What kind of measures do you think carparks in Malaysia should implement to make the whole shopping experience safer for the rest of us?

Sheila Stanley is writer, TV producer and media & communications consultant based in Kuala Lumpur. You can share your carpark stories, fears and hopes with her on Twitter @sheila_stanley; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sheila.stanley1 or e-mail sheila106@live.ie

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