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In this article, premises security expert, Donald J. Decker, CPP, CPM, provides an introduction to CPTED as it applies to parking lot and parking garage security.

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design: Parking Lot and Parking Garage Security

The hospitality industry provides for the safety and security of its patrons and employees on its premises. This responsibility extends to all parts of the premises to which patrons and employees may be expected to go and to those parts of the premises that the business has led the patrons and employees to believe they can go. Security is one of the most important issues confronting the hospitality industry today.

Parking lots and parking garages are facilities used by businesses to accommodate the vehicles of their patrons and employees. These facilities take up a large amount of area, but have low levels of activity compared to the business they support. There will only be a small percentage of people in the parking facility compared to inside of the building of the business. As a result, parking facilities have become likely locations for criminal activity. Facilities that experience a lot of property crime create a heightened risk for violent crime.

There are some general problems inherent in parking facilities that make the security of patrons and employees challenging. A criminal’s vehicle most likely will not be noticed in a parking facility. Also, parked vehicles provide a hiding place for a criminal and can block the distribution of lighting to the area that a criminal may be located. Security is more problematic for parking garages. Parking garages allow more vehicles to be parked on the same amount of land. The ability to see and be seen in one’s surroundings, known as natural surveillance, is reduced in parking garages. This is because parking garages can be partially or fully enclosed, elevated above ground, having multiple levels, or have ramps that provide access to the multiple floors of the facility.

“For a security measure to be preventative, it has to be designed to physically stop a potential criminal from committing a crime.”

An effective way to determine if the security in a parking facility is adequate is to conduct a security survey. A security survey identifies the vulnerabilities of a facility by determining what threat exists against the present site security. By conducting a security survey, the owner and/or manager is proactively analyzing the property for crime foreseeability. Crime foreseeability is the reasonable expectation of a criminal act to occur. If a crime is not foreseeable, it doesn’t mean that the crime isn’t possible. It means that the crime was not reasonably foreseeable at that time, at that location, and under those conditions.

There is no perfect security solution when determining how to address the security of a property. Flawless crime prevention is not reasonably obtainable and not required, but providing reasonable security is.

Reasonable security measures should deter or prevent criminal activity. For a security measure to be a deterrence, it has to have a psychological effect on a potential criminal. It discourages the potential criminal from committing a criminal act. Examples of deterrents are adequate illumination of a parking lot, closed circuit television (CCTV), and signs posted indicating security guards patrol the area. For a security measure to be preventative, it has to be designed to physically stop a potential criminal from committing a crime. Examples of preventative security measures are a locked door and a security guard stopping people from entering an area.

Security measures can be active or passive. Active security measures are the result of direct human involvement and the use of specialized equipment. Examples of active security measures are actively monitored CCTV and security guards. Passive security measures are the security measures that incorporate the concepts of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). CPTED incorporates psychological barriers for deterring a potential criminal’s behavior. By properly utilizing the concepts of CPTED, deterrence of criminal activity can occur.

CPTED Concepts:

1. Lighting

Lighting is an important security measure in a parking facility. Adequate lighting is a deterrence to criminal activity. It can contribute to the other CPTED concepts and active security measures.

2. Natural Surveillance

Natural surveillance is a concept that applies to everyone that is in or near a parking facility. Not only does it apply to people in the parking lot or parking garage, it applies to people outside of the parking facility or inside the business associated with the parking facility. The ability of people walking by a parking lot or looking out the window of a business to view the activities going on inside the parking facility enhances the security of the facility. In some parking facilities, adequate natural surveillance may be all that is needed to provide reasonable security.

3. Access Control

Access control is an important means of reducing criminal opportunity. Access control is gained through controlling the entering and exiting of pedestrians and vehicles. Proper security of the perimeter of the parking facility enhances access control of the facility.

4. Signs and Graphics

Signs and graphics that are properly located in a parking facility can help pedestrians find where they want to go and minimize their chances of becoming a victim of crime. Additionally, a sign indicating the area is under surveillance or there are security patrols of the area may be a deterrence to a criminal. A graphic is described as a symbol that sends a message in a picturesque manner. An example is a CCTV camera indicating the area is under surveillance.

5. Natural Territorial Reinforcement

Natural territorial reinforcement provides a distinct boundary between public and private areas. The purpose of these boundaries is to send a message to a potential intruder to avoid this area. Natural territorial reinforcement is achieved by landscaping, signs, and fences. It is important to remember to allow for the natural surveillance of the area from the outside; keep landscaping at the proper height and have fencing that is open in its design.

Additional Concepts

In addition to the preceding five concepts of CPTED, the following two concepts have evolved and are also considered part of CPTED:

1. Maintenance of the Area

The maintenance of the area is important to suggest to any potential intruder that the area is well cared for and crime-free. Garbage or debris, left in the area, suggests that the area is not cared for and there is no one responsible for the area. Abandoned vehicles should be removed from the area. It is important to portray the image that someone cares for the area and is responsible for it.

2. Support by Legitimate Activity

There may be areas that are difficult to protect because of their location. These areas can benefit from the placement of a legitimate activity. These legitimate activities can include having a Police substation or a maintenance shop or offices located in the immediate area. Active security measures can complement the overall CPTED features in a parking facility. Active security measures can help compensate for a deficiency of CPTED features. An example of this is a parking lot that is a dead end and there is no natural surveillance of the parking lot from the building. Natural surveillance of the parking lot area becomes less and less as a person walks farther away from the building towards the end of the parking lot, where fewer people have parked their vehicles. The lack of natural surveillance can be addressed by CCTV and/or the presence of security personnel patrolling the parking lot.

Active Security Measures Include

1. Security Personnel

One of the best crime prevention methods is the presence of security personnel. It is important that the security personnel be recognizable and visible. They should be properly equipped to perform their duties. Security guards should conduct proper random patrols of an area. This would prevent the predictability of the whereabouts of a security patrol by a criminal.

2. CCTV

CCTV provides surveillance that can detect criminal activities and record the camera footage. Conspicuous CCTV can be a deterrent to a criminal. There are some difficulties in monitoring parking facilities because of shadows, spaces between parked vehicles; and columns, ramps, and walls in parking garages.

The effectiveness of security measures decreases without a meaningful response to a situation. Proper policies and procedures have to be in place, so appropriate personnel respond to the situation.

The hospitality industry has a responsibility to provide for the reasonable safety and security of its employees and patrons. Parking facilities have become one of the most likely locations for criminal activity on a commercial property. Proper CPTED concepts can provide a deterrent to criminal activity. Active security measures can help compensate for the lack of natural surveillance and access control. Policies and procedures should be established for a proper response to any safety and security incident.

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This article was originally published by Hospitality Lawyer in December 2012

 

Featured Expert

Donald J. Decker, CPP

Don’s expertise includes violent crime cases and premises security safety. He is a certified security guard instructor. His professional career includes over 30 years as a state trooper, liability and fraud investigator, and private detective. He is well-versed in the requirements to provide secure environments for people wherever they live, work, or congregate. Don has trained and evaluated others in the performance of their duties. He has testified in both federal and state courts.