Premises Security at Multi-Unit Residential Facilities - Expert Webinar [VIDEO]

The standard of care for security at condominium and apartment complexes (multi-unit residences) is informed by the specific characteristics of a property. Factors such as the location, type of premises, and the history of relevant criminal activity all play a role in determining the appropriate level of active and passive security measures.

In this webinar video, premises security expert Michael Gerard discusses the process for establishing the standard of care in cases involving assaults and home invasions. His discussion will include different aspects of security: foreseeability, physical and procedural security measures, and security personnel.

Premises Security at Multi-Unit Residential Facilities - Expert Webinar [VIDEO]

This video was recorded from the webinar on Thursday, February 4, 2021.

Security is a method of protecting people and property from criminal acts through the use of procedural, physical or technical resources. What then is the accepted legal duty of a landowner or management company when it comes to security at managed multi-unit residential facilities? At minimum, they are to provide reasonable precautions or security measures for tenants, guests, and employees. This principle is widely accepted.

It is well established in the security field that managed residential properties can be an attractive target for violent crime and property crime. These crimes range from security threats to people (assaults), threats to property (burglaries), and also life-safety threats, such as slip and falls. Much of a security expert’s forensic casework involves injuries and fatalities that have occurred from acts of violence at multi-unit residential properties. The specific incident locations vary from internal hallways to parking lots, recreation areas, fitness centers, and within a resident’s apartment.

Security programs for multi-residential and apartment buildings involve physical security measures, policies, rules, and regulations, designed to prevent unauthorized persons from entering, unauthorized removal of property, and general crime, violence, or disruptive behavior. When an incident has occurred, the adequacy of security should be addressed on a case by case basis, by evaluating criteria to determine if security was reasonable. These criteria include:

  • Foreseeability or likelihood of crime occurring
  • Likelihood that security measures will prevent crime
  • The measures in place at the time of the incident

One method used to establish whether the owner met the standard of care is to determine if the crime was foreseeable, and if reasonable security measures would have been provided for the protection of residents and guests. A premises security expert can conduct an analysis of whether the crime was reasonably foreseeable. Crime foreseeability is determined by evaluating the type of facility, crime demographics, and location.

The type of facility will make a difference in the level of security measures that are reasonable. For example, while senior citizens may be especially vulnerable, overall crime may be low at a senior property. An “open” complex, those without access control measures such as common entrance locks, and exterior fencing and gates, is more easily accessed by non-resident pedestrians and vehicles. A facility with access control measures in place may have a lower risk of outsiders getting in so long as access control is functioning and enforced.

Crime demographics compiled from police incident reports over the last two to five years prior to the incident can be a critical tool in determining both the frequency and pattern of relevant crimes. The use of police reports can ensure that the crime reporting is accurate and classified correctly. For this type of analysis at a residential complex, relevant crimes are primarily assaults and acts of violence. Some venues will take into consideration property crimes as “threshold crimes,” such as a significant number of car burglaries in the parking lot, with the theory that they can escalate to other crimes.

A high level of prior crime activity at a property can be very effective in demonstrating that a property is at a higher risk of crime if presented clearly. Likewise, a lack of crime history can be a compelling indicator of a lower risk of crime at a particular property. Apart from police reports, there are less reliable sources of crime data experts sometimes utilize including:

  • Police calls for service: Do may not capture outcome of call, although this data can support actual crime data, it can lack detail.
  • Social disorder models: These are based on theories and assign scores. One such model is the Crimecast CAP Index. This is an attempt to predict crime and does not account for, existing crime prevention measures or the uniqueness of the premises.
  • Radius search tools: Does not necessarily account for density, property type, and zoning.

Location is yet another factor in determining whether a criminal act may have been foreseeable. The focus here is the location of the premises. Where is the premises positioned within a city, neighborhood, or other relevant area? Locations of concern within the premises itself may be a private area or public common area such as a lobby. The location can be influenced by the level of crime in the area as well.

Considering the three factors of type, demographics, and location, an expert can likely complete an analysis and establish the level of foreseeability to identify the amount and type of security measures required to meet the duty of care. These security measures may include the policies and procedures of the property, physical security measures such as surveillance cameras, lighting, access control, and security personnel. Lay people may not understand how effective a particular security measure is or what is adequate or reasonable. A thorough study and presentation is often necessary to demonstrate whether the industry standard was met in that instance. Typical security Policies and Procedures at rental properties may include;

  • Background checks of perspective tenants
  • Tenant conduct and eviction guidelines
  • Tenant reporting of security issues
  • Key control standards

From a forensic standpoint, an expert would first examine what policies and procedures were in place, whether those policies were adequate, if management followed them, and whether staff members were trained in them. The review would likely include internal policy documents, rental applications, background check documents, tenant communications, and any other records available.

Physical security measures will vary depending upon the type of facility, risk of crime and location and may include lighting, surveillance cameras, access control measures and security guards.

PREMISES SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS

The factors discussed here will be considered by an expert when evaluating whether the provided security measures met the standard of care for reasonable premises security for multi-residential housing. 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 of premises type, crime demographics, and location, 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.

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