If you’re a woman living in Atlanta, or any big city for that matter, you’ve probably felt uncomfortable while returning to your car in a parking garage or dark parking lot. Even if you’re a man, these common settings of everyday life are inherently creepy places, isolating and full of blind corners.
You may feel paranoid or laugh at yourself once you’re back on the road, but sadly, it’s not all in your head. Incidents of parking garage violence do occur with terrifying regularity in the Atlanta area alone.
In March of 2018, a woman was carjacked in a parking structure while returning from her workout class in Atlanta. A group of attackers demanded her car keys at gunpoint. She handed them over and then ran, while one of the robbers shouted after her to stop. She escaped with only the loss of her car, but another woman who was attacked that same month in Dekalb County wasn’t so lucky. In the supposedly secure parking complex of her own apartment building, she was raped and robbed at gunpoint by an attacker who reportedly slid under the security gate after her.
Just six months earlier, a student of the University of West Georgia was kidnapped in a grocery store parking lot and taken into Atlanta in her own car, where her attacker raped her in a church parking lot. She managed to text her boyfriend, who sent police after her in what became a chase and ultimately a crash. She survived, and the suspect was apprehended, but one can only imagine what she went through.
Property Owner Responsibility
Like most crimes, parking garage violence is a complex issue with many contributing factors, but given how these crimes take advantage of their environment, it makes sense to take a serious look at the parking garages themselves.
Under Georgia law, property owners are responsible for damages or injuries caused by a failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises safe.
“Ordinary care” is of course a debatable term, but can include things like providing adequate lighting and security. Generally, when damages are caused by the crime of a third party, landlord liability depends on whether the crime could reasonably be anticipated and prevented.
Georgia’s own court of appeals has ruled businesses liable for parking area violence under some circumstances, including one case where a restaurant had continued serving alcohol to the attacker after he started harassing and threatening other patrons, and then attempted to destroy the record of doing so.
How to Protect Yourself
There are a few ways to reduce your risk of being carjacked:
- Park in a well-lit area whenever possible
- Carry commercially available pepper spray
- Keep valuables out of sight
- Leave your phone in your pocket or purse and remain alert
- Have your keys ready when you reach your car and get on the road quickly
If you are attacked, fight to prevent yourself or your children from being kidnapped, but do not fight over the car or other physical possessions. If an attacker asks for your keys, throw them away from yourself and run the other way.
If you’ve already been the victim of carjacking, contact an expert like those at the Stoddard Firm right away about your next steps in seeking justice.