Five Tips for Maximizing Parking Lot Safety
As the holiday shopping season wanes and daylight hours are minimal, we are reminded of the importance of parking lot safety and the continued need to be vigilant in the coming months. Typically, there’s a spike in reported thefts during and shortly after the holiday season as residents carry merchandise to and from their cars. There are things you can do to minimize the likelihood of crime and accidents in your parking lot, and reduce your liability if a crime or an accident occurs despite your best efforts to prevent it. Here are five tips to follow that will help you accomplish both of these goals. Use these tips to assess your parking lot’s safeguards and to consider changes in the upcoming year in preparation for the next holiday season.
Tip #1: Set Up Regular Security Patrols of Parking Lot
Regular security patrols of your parking lot can be a great deterrent against crime, says Massachusetts attorney and liability consultant Norman D. Bates. Also, the person patrolling your parking lot can provide assistance to residents or guests who slip and fall or become the victim of a crime that couldn’t be deterred, he says.
There are several patrol options available. The type you choose will depend on your site’s budget, the size of your parking lot, and whether crime has been a problem there, Bates says. The best—but most expensive—option is to hire security officers to continually patrol your parking lot.
Another option is to ask local police to randomly patrol your parking lot. Often, the police will agree to do this for free. Or you can hire a security company to do drive-throughs, he suggests. If your budget is tight, you should at least have your maintenance staff do regular walk-throughs of your parking lot, he recommends.
Tip #2: Install Traffic Calmers
You can reduce the likelihood of crime and accidents involving speeding cars by installing traffic calmers in your parking lot, says security consultant J.R. Roberts. Traffic calmers—also known as “pavement modifications”—are physical changes made to a road that prevent cars from speeding. The speed bump is the most well-known traffic calmer, but speed humps and speed ridges (also known as “rumble strips”) are better suited for a site’s parking lot, he says.
According to recent studies, some sites have seen a reduction in parking lot crime after installing traffic calmers, Roberts says. That’s because the traffic calmers make it more difficult for criminals to make a fast getaway.
Also, strategically installing traffic calmers in your parking lot can help slow down traffic, which will help reduce the likelihood of car accidents. And if you install traffic calmers and someone is hit by a car and sues you for negligence, you can use the fact that you installed traffic calmers as proof that you took reasonable steps to keep your parking lot safe. It’s important to note, however, that traffic calmers could be trip-and-fall hazards. Paint them a bright color and put up signs mentioning their presence.
Tip #3: Use ‘Smart Landscaping’
Trees and shrubs that aren’t properly trimmed could be used by criminals as cover. Also, they could pose safety risks to residents and guests. For example, if a tree branch is hanging too low, a resident could hit her head on it. Implementing “smart landscaping” in your parking lot can help reduce the likelihood of crimes and accidents there and lower your liability if a crime or accident occurs. Some smart landscaping tips include trimming back tree branches and making sure shrubs don’t rise more than three to four feet from the ground so that criminals can’t use them for cover, Bates recommends.
Tip #4: Install Surveillance Cameras
Installing surveillance cameras in your parking lot can benefit your site in three ways: First, employees monitoring the cameras can take immediate action if they see a crime or accident in progress. Second, the footage can help police determine what happened and possibly identify suspects or vehicles, notes Bates. Third, you can use the footage to verify or discredit a resident’s or guest’s story if you’re sued, for example, after a slip-and-fall accident in your parking lot.
If you install surveillance cameras in your parking lot, have staff members or a central service monitor them, Roberts recommends. If you don’t monitor cameras properly and someone gets hurt in your parking lot, you could be sued and found liable for the incident.
Tip #5: Make Sure Parking Lot Is Well Lit
Making sure your parking lot is well lit is key to reducing crime and accidents there, says Bates. But too often site parking lots have the following lighting problems:
Dim lighting. The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) has recommended standards for lighting in apartment building parking lots. If the lighting in your parking lot doesn’t meet these standards, a resident or guest injured in your parking lot could use that fact against you, says Bates.
But don’t assume that your lighting is adequate just because your parking lot’s lighting meets the IESNA standards, Bates cautions. These standards, which have been lowered in recent years in reaction to energy crises, set the minimum requirements your lighting should meet, he explains. So in addition to meeting these minimum standards, use common sense and general observation techniques to determine whether any areas of your parking lot need to be better lit. For example, check whether there are any dark places where criminals could hide and whether you could read a car’s license plate from a reasonable distance.
Dirty lenses, and dim or burnt-out bulbs. Have your maintenance staff regularly check for dirty lenses and dim or burnt-out bulbs in your parking lot, Roberts recommends. Require your staff to respond promptly to findings or reports of dirty lenses or dim or burnt-out lights, he recommends.
Foliage blocking lights. Sometimes foliage from trees or bushes partially or completely blocks lighting. Require your maintenance staff to regularly check your trees’ foliage and trim it promptly when necessary, Bates recommends.
Norman D. Bates, Esq.: President, Liability Consultants, Inc., 591 Sugar Rd., Bolton, MA 01740; www.liabilityconsultants.com.
J.R. Roberts: Security Consultant, 23 E. Welwood Dr., Savannah, GA 31419; www.jrrobertssecurity.com.