3 women posted about being followed while shopping to warn others be aware of their surroundings

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Three different women in the Midlands have written about scary situations while shopping - and all of the posts have garnered a ton of shares on social media.

And the theme in all of these posts: please be sure you're aware of your surroundings.

The most recent post was written by Emma Kate Smalley on March 5. Smalley, an 18-year-old Midlands native and USC student says she and three of her friends requested mall security to escort them to their car after they alleged a man was following them around various stores at Columbiana Centre.

"In most instances like this, my friends and I would call the guys out, but we realized that this was dangerous and sketchy," Smalley said. "It's better to be safe than sorry! I wanted to share this post so that girls can be aware that this DOES happen, even at a mall that most people think of as safe."

Her post says:

ATTENTION TO ALL GIRLS IN THE COLUMBIA/IRMO AREA: today I went to Columbiana mall with 3 of my friends. After about 30 mins of being there, I notice two men blatantly staring at us. I don't really think anything of it at first.

This is one of three posts that talk about a man following women around. In two other posts, one woman says she was followed at two separate locations on Bush River Road and Garners Ferry Road.

One post was from March 1:

Another post was from March 4:

When we reached out to Columbiana Centre, they issued the following statement:

The safety of our visitors is always of the utmost importance. We encourage all of our guests and tenants to follow the "if you see something, say something" rule. Our security team is always available and we are thankful these girls knew to reach out for assistance. Any activity that threatens the well-being of our visitors will be taken very seriously.

Columbia police say they do not have any record of these instances reported, but did offer these tips to shoppers that they should follow to secure their safety. Because there are no incident reports, there is no description other than what the women described in their posts:

  • The most important tip to remember is to call 9-1-1 for emergencies or contact mall/shopping center security immediately.
  • In the City, the is also a non-emergency dispatch number: 252-2911. Citizens can request an officer meet with them.

In Parking Areas

  • Never park in an isolated area.
  • (At night) Park in a well-lit area as close as possible to mall entrances.
  • Make a mental note of where you parked your vehicle.
  • Never leave valuable packages in your vehicle.
  • Store your packages in the trunk of your car.
  • When leaving your vehicle, make sure all doors are locked and windows closed.
  • Have your keys ready when returning to your vehicle.
  • If you have car trouble, remain in your car and use a cell phone to call for assistance, or return to the mall and notify security.

As You Shop

  • Walk confidently and be alert to your surroundings
  • Shop with a partner or friends when possible
  • Don’t burden yourself with too many bags or packages
  • Don’t display large sums of cash
  • Use checks or credit cards whenever possible
  • Carry your handbag or purse close to your body with the clasp or flap toward you.
  • Never leave your purse on a store counter, on the floor in a restroom or in a dressing room.
  • Don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket.
  • Report suspicious persons or situations to mall security. This also includes if patrons feel uncomfortable while shopping.

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