Companies focus on securing their buildings, of course. Security ensures the safety of their employees, customers, and other visitors who spend a lot of their time in the main building. As a result, parking security can be lacking. It needs every bit as much attention as the building.
Every week, 666 violent crimes take place in the parking garage. Additionally, almost 2,000 violent crimes occur in a seven-day period on a street, sidewalk, alley, or highway. This includes the area between the parking lot and the building.
Combine these and they're responsible for 25 percent of all violent crimes according to FBI's Crime Data Explorer. The FBI defines violent crimes as homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.
Property crimes, on the other hand, include arson, burglary, larceny theft, and motor vehicle theft. These numbers are much higher than violent crimes. In 2019, more than 1,000 incidents of property crimes happened in parking garages every single day! For the same period, the FBI reports an average of 640 property crimes took place each day in the street, alley, highway, and sidewalk.
In short, parking lots were the No. 2 location for property crimes in 2019. All these numbers provide plenty of justification for businesses and commercial properties to take parking security seriously. Notice the data only refers to property and violent crimes. It does not count accidents and hazards.
This isn't the last of the problems associated with parking garages. An opinion poll from National Safety Council has found that 66 percent of drivers make phone calls while driving through parking lots! They also said they will text, program GPS systems, use social media, manage emails, and take photos, or watch videos. All while driving in a parking lot.
If these numbers aren't enough to reinforce the need for parking security, then maybe this U.S. law will. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act of 1970 29 USC 654 states every employer:
Property owners and managers have a responsibility to create and maintain a safe environment. The question is how far do properties need to go with parking security? What needs to be done to minimize liability?
What can property managers do about parking security? They certainly can't change driving habits. This is where the dos and don'ts of parking security come in.
Let's start with the parking security don'ts.
The lack of good lighting and reflective paint is one of the biggest problems with parking garages. People don't feel safe. It also emboldens intruders because they know it will be harder to spot them.
If an emergency happens, what can people do when there are no panic buttons or emergency phones? Most parking garages don't have someone monitoring the gate. Even if they do, they're not likely to hear anyone call for help or leave their station unguarded.
Dummy or unmonitored video surveillance won't catch emergencies. That's why it is critical to have video surveillance cameras with monitoring. The use of artificial and human intelligence can monitor the garage around the clock. Artificial intelligence in a video surveillance system has advanced enough to alert someone when it detects movement, a specific scenario, or an emergency.
Imagine going in circles in a tall garage and not knowing what floor you are on. By the end of the day, you can't remember exactly which floor and where on the floor you parked. There are no markings to guide you or jog your memory.
Now for the parking security dos.
One of the cheapest and most effective options for parking security is lighting. It prevents suspects from finding shadowy or dark hiding spaces. Lighting helps drivers and pedestrians see all around them. The right kind of lighting does make a difference. Ensure you have proper lighting in the stairwells, elevators, and any walkways.
Something most do not realize matters in lighting is the color or hue. It is not so much about brightness. It's possible to install lighting that is too harsh and cause glare problems. A surprising tip for lighting to create a brighter space without the glare is to paint the walls. It magnifies the lighting.
Your best bet is to talk to a security expert. It doesn't take much to get the lighting wrong. You don't want to overspend by installing too many lights either. You may hear the term "metal halide" tossed around. Security pros often use it because of its bright white illumination.
Another important consideration is the spacing of the light. Spacing the lights too far can create shadowy spots. A slight overlap of the lights will minimize that.
Many parking garages are gray from the concrete. This creates a dark environment. As mentioned before, painting the walls white helps improve lighting. Ideally, look for a light, reflective, or glossy paint. A garage feels very closed in. You can make it feel more open and inviting with a proper paint job.
Columns should stand out not blend in. Remember vehicles are different sizes. Some are low on the ground while others are higher up. Ensure the columns contain paint that can be easily spotted. Paint any other structures that could be missed by drivers or pedestrians. This will save on costs associated with accidents.
How many times have you wandered all over a parking lot trying to remember where you parked? The smartest parking lots and garages have signs that are easy to find and remember. Some parking garages contain a giant number in strategic places to help drivers know what floor they are on.
Additionally, they'll use letters and colors to help people recall where they parked. An interesting fact is 8 percent of the male population is colorblind. So, you don't want to rely on color alone, but it's a helpful memory tool.
For instance, the second floor could have a big blue-colored No. 2 painted in multiple places. The top parts of the columns can also be painted blue. This will help the driver remember on what floor the car is parked. Then, to direct the driver to the right area on the floor, use names or letters of the alphabet painted on the columns. Don't use numbers because those represent the floor or level.
One of the most effective proactive parking security tools is video surveillance. If you opt for that, you'll want to post "Area under surveillance" signs with a picture of a video surveillance camera. These signs can be a deterrent.
It's important to search for the right video surveillance system to optimize parking security. Security Magazine shares the story of an owner of a commercial parking firm. His firm manages almost 100 parking lots in the U.S. and Canada. The company's original video surveillance system relied on cameras and VCRs that stored 30 days' worth of activity.
The owner wanted to update the system to a more modern and robust video surveillance technology. He heard about a new video surveillance option that can deter crime, help with liability claims, and identify license plates. He implemented an updated video surveillance system that closed the gaps with the manual system.
Video surveillance can help resolve liability claims. Say a driver forgets to put the car in park. The car ends up rolling and hitting another vehicle. Video surveillance can help catch that. The driver can't blame the property or get away with it. It can also records vandalism, theft, and fake vehicle damage.
Here are some parking lot videos to give you an idea of what video surveillance can do:
Video surveillance is more powerful when you integrate video analytics and human intelligence. Cameras have AI that watches for specific scenarios. As soon as it catches one, the system alerts the security operator. Depending on the activity, the operator can respond to the audio speaker or call emergency personnel.
If a parking garage has a gate with an access control system, integrating it with video surveillance technology can enhance parking security. Integrated security makes it possible for security systems to work together. If an incident happens, the security analyst can match the time stamp from the access control system with video surveillance.
In adding video surveillance to your parking security program, you can reduce your liability, risk, and insurance premiums. Additionally, it multiplies property and parking security and safety for customers, residents, and employees.
The best components to include in your parking security depend on your business and the property. You can work with a video surveillance company's security adviser who can do an evaluation and make recommendations that fit your budget. If you'd like to talk with our security specialists about customizing a system that fits your needs, please contact us.