Store stalkers and parking lot creeps: How to stay safe, protect yourself

(Graphic: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It is a terrifying situation that too many people face—store stalkers and parking lot creeps.

Experts say that in a year, an estimated 14 out of every 1,000 people are victims of stalking.

Self-defense instructors Cat and Liz Fitzgerald showed News 2 what to do if someone is following you around in a store.

In the demonstration, Liz sees a man walking a little too close to her and he is acting suspicious.

“Hi how are you,” Liz Fitzgerald says to the man.

Liz gave the man a strong look and acknowledged that she saw him. That is what you should do, but as our experts explained, in a real life situation people often do the opposite.

“The tendency for people is to get smaller and to look down and to hide. If someone is following you or you think someone is watching you, then they already see you. There is no point in hiding. In fact, stand up, look around. Look alert. Be aware of your surroundings,” said Cat Fitzgerald.

We took the exercise a step further. In this scenario, Liz walked to her car and the perpetrator had a weapon.

(Photo: WKRN)

“Lady, give me your money,” said the man.

“Okay, okay. I’m giving you my purse,” Liz replied.

Liz threw her purse away from her and in a different direction, forcing the criminal to make a choice.

“Do I want the money, or do I look at that and look back at you and you know everything that you need to know?” said Cat Fitzgerald.

Our experts said that’s when you’ll know if you should prepare to fight with everything you’ve got.

“Once the encounter actually passes the interview process and becomes a physical altercation, then you fight for your life,” said Liz Fitzgerald.

According to the National Center for Victims Crime, 6.6 million people are stalked every year in the United States. One in six women find themselves in a situation similar to the ones the Fitzgeralds’ demonstrated.

They say knowing what to do could keep someone from harming you.

When it comes to a carjacking situation, experts offer this advice:

1. Just Give Thieves What They Want
If a carjacker approaches you and demands to take your car, let him.

2. Park Close to Parking Garage Exits, and Back Into Spaces
A quarter of all carjackings occur in parking garages or parking lots, or near commercial areas, according to a National Crime Victimization Survey.

3. Your Phone Is Your Enemy
Walking to your car, phone in hand, or even just sitting in the driver’s seat with your phone might turn you into a target because you’re not paying attention to your surroundings.

Click here for classes on how to handle various situations, including home intruders, stalkers and self-defense.