Security Assessment: Apartment/Condo Walkthrough - Expert Overview

In this article we look at some of the important items that should be evaluated when getting started on a premises security case. Whether you’ve been retained on behalf of the plaintiff or defendant, understanding these issues can help to ensure your strategy aligns with the facts of your case.

Security Assessment: Apartment/Condo Walkthrough - Expert Overview

Prior to joining Robson Forensic, I enjoyed a 20-year career in law enforcement and ran a security consulting firm that worked with residential, commercial, and institutional properties to assess existing security measures, and develop policies and procedures. There are a multitude of reasons why a business might contract with a security expert, but often it is because they recently experienced an incident or near-miss. In my role as a security consultant, the goal was to prevent future incidents, but the assessment process can reveal a lot of insight to how a forensic investigation of an incident is conducted.

The experience of conducting the initial consult as a security expert is similar to your experience as an attorney during the first walk through of the property on a security case. There is a lot of information that can be gathered if you know where to look, and which questions to ask.

FIRST IMPRESSION OF THE PREMISES

When evaluating the security at a particular location, it is important to make a holistic assessment of the property. If you haven’t reviewed the incident history it may be too early to determine which level of security is adequate for the environment, so you want to note the relevant details:

  • Lighting – What is the state of illumination in and around the complex? If it’s possible to walk the property at night, take note if any bulbs are out or if there are poorly lit areas.
  • Access Control – How does the public gain access to the property, and how do people move internally? Do gates/doors lock? Are locks in working order? Are access points propped open?
  • Camera Systems – Is there a camera system in place? Are the cameras conspicuous and is it possible to identify areas of the property that are and are not monitored? Who has access to the security footage and what is the timeframe of digital recovery?
  • Signage & Warnings Is signage in place that communicates the rules and regulations of the complex? Is signage provided in languages to communicate with the community served?
  • Security Personnel – Are security guards present on the property? During which hours do they patrol? Are guards armed or unarmed? Does signage provide an effective way to contact security?
  • Housekeeping – Does the property give the impression of being maintained? Are the grounds generally free of litter and graffiti?

The condition of the property communicates its vulnerability to crime. While the initial walkthrough represents only a snapshot in time, these observations may be helpful in shaping your discovery process and evaluating testimony.

INCIDENT HISTORY INFORMS THE STANDARD OF CARE

The initial walk through can provide a powerful impression, but it’s important to reserve conclusions about the standard of care until after an assessment of the property has been conducted.

The history of the property and the surrounding area should be evaluated for the level of prior crime. Reviewing a two-to-three-year window of police responses, property management logs, incident reports, and testimony from residents and employees typically provides for an accurate view of criminal activity and risk at the complex. By undertaking this analysis, it can also be discovered if criminal activity is an “inside” problem meaning residents and their guests, an “outside” issue involving non-residents, or a combination of both.

This information shapes the standard of care regarding what reasonable security measures should be provided for the premises. Combining historical activity with information on the type of property, its location, and expected uses, it is possible to establish a property-specific standard of care that would provide a reasonable degree of safety for residents, guests, and employees.

EXAMPLE OF SECURITY GONE WRONG

Having performed a multitude of security evaluations, I have seen firsthand the consequences of inadequate security. One specific example involved a residential complex that chose not to install cameras, and instead created a false sense of security by posting signage indicating that certain areas were monitored by CCTV. Following a serious assault in the parking lot, I was contracted by the victim’s family to perform an investigation. When my clients asked if I had obtained the video footage of the assault, they were outraged to learn that no such video existed. Given the details of this property and criminal activity in the area, the property manager’s decision to post false signs violated the standard of care. The conditions in this example not only led to the property manager’s termination, but also opened the owners to potential liability.

PREMISES SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS

There are several theories of liability when it comes to the adequacy of security measures at a residential complex. By conducting an analysis of the factors discussed here, a level of crime foreseeability can be established to determine reasonable security measures for the premises and to then inform an assessment of the security measures that were in place at the time of the incident.

For more information, call us at 800.813.6736 or submit an inquiry.

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