Best Practices for Parking Security

Do’s and Don’ts of Parking Garage Safety


Avoid These Potential Vulnerabilities

X Shadows created by low lighting, dark paint, or confined spaces – this creates places for perpetrators to hide and poor visibility for users.
X An absence of panic buttons, emergency phones, or surveillance – if an emergency occurs, how will someone ask for help?
X Poorly marked exits, row and floor numbers, parking spots, and driving lanes – don’t forget to minimize the potential for accidents by helping people and cars to move safely in and out of the space.
X An unkempt, dingy, or dirty appearance – a poorly maintained parking area is more vulnerable because offenders will think that it’s unattended.


Create a Sense of Openness

Paint floors, ceilings, and support columns with a light, reflective, or glossy paint – this will help to bounce light.
Install lighting fixtures that provide bright light with wide coverage and good color rendering – regardless of the light source, users should be able to easily recognize colors, shapes, and people from a distance.
Mark any driving hazards with bright paint colors – no need to sustain structural damage when an eye-catching shade can help guide users
Use prominent signage that is easy to read and remember – when people are distracted by finding their way, they are at a greater risk for an accident or assault because they aren’t attuned to their surroundings.

Without any data to trend, however, you’ll have a major blind spot when it comes to your parking shortcomings. You have to understand what conditions can produce an incident before you make changes to lighting, surveillance, or access control.

If you haven’t already or it’s been a number of years, conduct a premise liability assessment, recommends Ahrens. This security risk analysis will document potential areas of liability that could stem from the maintenance, operation, or design of your parking area. Some of these issues could be tied to poor upkeep, lack of a security presence, inadequate personnel training, failure to act and respond to incidences, or conflicts between policies and procedures.

“I can’t stress this enough – you should be doing security surveys every quarter or once a year at minimum,” says Robinson. “You need to confirm that everything is as secure as you think it is. Daily sweeps are even better. You need to be in the habit of identifying your safety gaps.”

You can also review incident reports or the calls for service logs, Ahrens adds. This assumes, of course, that you are keeping track of these occurrences in the first place. If you aren’t, your first priority is to establish a reporting system.

Robinson, for example, receives daily copies of the UNT police reports so he can see what type of incidents have occurred in parking areas. His goal is to spot small problems and address them before they escalate.

Don’t Ignore the Broken Window Theory
Stained concrete, rusted metal, faded parking lines, litter, and chipped paint – a dingy garage or lot appearance may lead perpetuators to think that security is just as lax as maintenance.

Well-lit spaces are a major deterrent to crime because good illumination eliminates hiding spaces and increases people’s awareness of their surroundings. The right lighting conveys a sense of safety and watchfulness that could make an individual with criminal intent hesitant about the risk of getting caught.

“While a formal light assessment is a plus, you can simply walk through your parking areas and see with your own eyes if illumination is poor,” Ahrens notes. “Look for fixtures that are burnt out or dirty, cast a yellow light, or create shadows.”

Take a note from big box retailers, advises Robinson. Bright area lighting keeps a store’s appearance inviting for customers as well as maintaining a high level of visibility for security. Schools, offices, and healthcare facilities can benefit from this same approach.

If your lot or garage still uses metal halides or sodium pressure lamps, consider switching to fluorescents or LEDs, Robinson recommends. These fixtures deliver white or blue light, which is perceived as friendlier than orange hues. They also offer better glare control and coverage. As an added benefit, you’ll reap energy savings while ensuring parking spaces look inviting and approachable.

Good janitorial practices can also make a big difference in appearance, Robinson notes. Have a maintenance plan in place to address cracks in the concrete or asphalt, refresh striping, and power wash spills. Trash bins should be emptied routinely, stray litter rounded up, and graffiti immediately eliminated. Any residual salt or sand from winter should be removed as well.

None of these individually presents a safety concern, but taken as a whole, this kind of clutter can indicate that there’s a lack of ownership with the parking area. A clean garage or lot sends the message that property management is routinely making the rounds, which increases the likelihood that a crime could be witnessed.

Monitor the Flow of Traffic
A parking attendant booth, cameras, and automated barriers – each of these security features can work in concert to limit who is allowed to park on your property.

To expand your monitoring capabilities, first take a hard look at access control.

Garages or lots open to the public may simply use an automatic barrier gate and ticket system, such as what is commonly used at airports. While access isn’t necessarily limited, each financial transaction can create an audit trail for reference.

To ensure only approved users can enter, you will need to implement a system that authorizes access based on a recognized credential. This may take the form of PIN codes, ID badges, or card readers.

If you currently use magnetic or proximity cards, it may be time to update to smart cards or biometric identification. Near-field communication (NFC) devices, which use radio frequencies, are also growing in popularity as they are increasingly embedded into smartphones.


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