The national news is frequently occupied with stories documenting incidents of crime including theft, vandalism, and even violent attacks occurring in parking garages and lots across the country. According to the latest National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 1 in 10 property crimes including motor vehicle theft and property theft occur in parking lots or garages. Perhaps more alarming, from this survey, it was reported that 7.3% of all violent crimes occur in these locations. In fact, some believe this violent crime figure is conservative, with one on-going study on premises security liabilities conducted by Norman D. Bates, president of Liability Consultants Inc., estimating that as many as 40 percent of rapes and assaults take place in parking lots.
Security is one of the most critical issues facing the owners and managers of car parking facilities today. With their concrete walls, dark stairwells and flickering, fluorescent lighting car parking lots are amongst those locations most feared by women in particular. Car parking garages, and lots, by their very nature, make them an attractive target for criminal behaviour. Most car parking facilities are open to the public, so anyone can enter the premises and an offender’s car is not likely to be to be noted as strange or out of place in such a location. Parked cars, as well as structural columns and stairwells, typical of multi-level lots, can also offer perfect hiding places for criminals. This problem is further accentuated by bad lighting typical of such facilities, which can cast harsh shadows and contribute to a sense of insecurity.
There are a number of steps private owners, as well as local government officials can undertake to improve security in their parking facilities to deter crime and make individuals feel safer, in addition to reducing their own potential liability. Light fittings, which are designed to distribute an appropriate amount of light evenly and which are maintained are a key security feature necessary in any parking facility as good lighting helps to create a comfortable environment that attracts customers and makes them feel safe and secure. Careful placement of signs, as well as color coded memory aids, can help customers move quickly in and out of the parking facility, making them less vulnerable to attack. Parking facility operators may also consider installing a visual monitoring system with personalized audio warnings to deter criminals in high risk or enclosed areas such as stairwells, elevator lobbies or restrooms. Such audio visual monitoring systems can also be used to remotely accompany employees, or other parking lot users entering the premise, by alerting them to any dangers which may lie ahead.
In parking facilities where such necessary security improvements have implemented, it has been demonstrated that customer use has actually increased as customers feel safer and more secure. Such an increase in customers will undoubtedly equate to increased profits in the future, further justifying any investment made in protecting such a premise and creating a secure and unthreatening environment for customers.