What Can We Do About Parking Lot Security?

Posted by Chris O' Rourke on August 5, 2019

Many businesses and properties with parking lots have a real problem. More than 1 in 10 property crimes occur in parking lots or garages per the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Moreover, they were the No. 3 location for violent crime in 2017 as reported by the FBI Crime Data Explorer.

Here’s the kicker. That means an estimated 1,400 attacks take place in parking lots every day. Unfathomable yet true.

It's more than enough to justify the need for parking lot security for apartments, shopping centers, offices and other businesses.

Why Parking Lots and Garages Are a Problem

Parking lots and garages provide suspects with many opportunities to commit a crime. It's not just people's safety at risk. The garage is also a hotbed for vehicle theft and vandalism. These spaces contain a wealth of vehicle options in a setting where a suspect has a good chance of getting away with crime. They look for vehicles and car parts that are worth a lot of money. Others break into vehicles to steal what's inside.

Crime that occurs in a parking lot or garage can become a liability issue for apartments and businesses. People can sue the property owner for not creating a safe environment. Criminals can also sue if they get hurt on the property. Unbelievable but it happens.

Parking isn't a dangerous activity. Many parking lots and garages were designed without security in mind. Therefore, properties need to invest in parking lot security. The right one depends on the needs and design of the space.

Tips to Enhance Parking Lot Security

An effective parking lot security solution contains many layers. The more layers you have, the harder it is to break through all the layers and successfully get away with committing a crime.

Some elements cost more than others. Nonetheless, you want to factor in their benefits and return on investment. Here are nine things you can do to enhance your parking lot and garage security, some very affordable and some more involved.

1. Risk assessment

The reason you want to start with a risk assessment is to identify strengths and weaknesses in your security, document the layout of the property and any current security features you have, and prioritize solutions. While it'd be nice to do everything, the budget does not always allow it.

A risk assessment also looks at who comes and goes on the property. Is it just residents? Employees? Customers? Vendors? You want to consider every possibility because you don't want to make it harder for prospects to visit.

Documenting the layout of the property will inform decisions on where you'd place security features. For example, if you decide to use live video monitoring, you can use the map of the property to identify the best places to post the cameras.

2. Lighting

One of the most affordable and effective options for security is lighting. It helps pedestrians and drivers see and prevents suspects from finding dark or shadowy hiding spaces. Something a lot of people don't think about is painting the walls white. It magnifies lighting. Also, check the lighting levels in stairwells and elevators.

It's not just about having light, but also using the right color and the right amount of lighting. Dim lighting can make people uncomfortable and bright lighting can be harsh and have the opposite effect on security. With its bright white illumination, security pros often use metal halide lighting in parking areas.

Another important consideration is light spacing. Lighting spaced too far can create shadowy areas. Aim for overlapping lighting to minimize shadows. Remember to look at lighting on the outside of the parking garage and the dumpster. No one wants to walk in the dark between the building and the vehicle. You also don't want strangers dumping their trash into your dumpster.

3. Landscaping

Landscape design may create a warm and inviting setting, but it can also provide suspects with hiding spaces and hidden access to the building. You work hard to get your lighting just right, so don't let landscaping mess that up.

This doesn't mean you should avoid having high, dense trees and shrubs. Rather, invest in smart landscape design that deters criminals.

Design is part of the landscape equation. The other half — and equally important — of the landscaping equation is regular maintenance. Keep bushes, trees, and shrubs trimmed to ensure sidewalks remain clear and that they don't block views or provide entry to buildings.

4. Signs

You've seen "Beware of dog" signs. Do they make you extra cautious? While many of us know that sometimes there's really no dog, it's not a risk most of us will take. Many homes post alarm company signs on the front and back of the house as a deterrent. "Video surveillance" signs posted around the business property work the same way.

5. Security gate

Installing a security gate at the entrance and exit of a garage adds another layer of security, especially if the only people who park there are authorized to be there. The gate would require a badge or card that people can swipe at the gate to open it. Some properties use access control systems that seem to work well for them.

Of course, this won't work if you have a lot of visitors and no special parking areas for them. An alternative is to have them use a speaker to indicate who they are and why they're there. Beware that not everyone can use the speaker because they may be deaf, hard of hearing, or unable to speak.

6. Pairing

Encourage people to never walk to the parking lot alone, especially in the dark. If you have an office building with security guards, they can be escorts to and from vehicles.

7. Emergency phones

Even though most people carry a phone, emergency phones can speed response times. You don't have to take out your phone, unlock it, and dial 911. With emergency phones, you can just pick up the handset. Some have a panic button that immediately sounds an alarm and directs security guards and other personnel to the emergency.

You can install one on each floor of a parking garage. Ideally, you want an emergency phone within someone's sight from any spot in the parking lot.

8. Security guard patrols

A security guard patrolling your site can be ready to react and respond to an emergency especially if the property has an emergency phone system. They can also escort employees and visitors to their cars, so no one walks alone.

While they offer some advantages, they aren't cost-effective, and they can be a liability. Most properties have more than the parking lot to worry about. A security guard will typically patrol the entire property, not just the parking lot. The time they spend watching parking areas is small. Thus, they won't have constant eyes on the parking area or the entire property like a video camera can. Suspects watch the security guards and pounce when they've left the area.

Becoming a security guard does not require anywhere close to the amount of training a police officer must undergo. That said, they may not always respond appropriately for the situation, which could become a business liability.

9. Live video monitoring

More apartments, shopping centers and offices are installing cameras to monitor activity in parking areas. Just the sight of cameras can scare off potential criminals. When you couple "area under video surveillance " signs with cameras, it can decrease your risk, but not completely.

The problem with relying on cameras without remote video monitoring is that it could lull people into a false sense of security. They may think that someone is watching and if something happens, it'll be captured on video. That's how unmanned cameras can turn into a liability. Besides, cameras alone don't always deter fearless suspects.

A way to reduce liability with cameras is to use live video monitoring with an audio deterrent. The trained operating monitor uses the audio speaker to alert the suspect someone is watching. This often sends trespassers running before committing a crime. Even if the system doesn't contain an audio feature, the operator can contact the police and if necessary, will stay on the line until they catch the suspect.

You can enhance live video monitoring with the following:

Moreover, remote video surveillance can do much more than watch the parking lot and garage. It can also deter dumpster diving, help companies improve workflow and processes, monitor for safety hazards, and more.

Implementing Parking Lot Security

Considering that more than 10 percent of crimes happened in parking lots and garages over a four-year period, it's critical to implement parking lot security. It helps protect your property, employees, tenants and customers.

While remote video surveillance could work alone, you want to give would-be criminals the fewest opportunities. That's why you want to do a risk assessment and evaluate the layout of your property. This informs the security plan, which covers lighting, landscaping, and all the other covered security options you want in your comprehensive security solution.

The best components to include in your parking lot security plan depend on your property. You can work with a security adviser who can do an evaluation and make recommendations that fit your needs. If you'd like more information about our proactive security solutions, please contact us.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Security Guards & Savings, Video Monitoring