FBI reports show parking structures and lots are the third most common site of murders and assaults in the US, yet most risk management professionals agree that parking lots are one of the most overlooked risk exposures for businesses and property owners. Why?
Most businesses and property managers are too busy running their operations and overlook the hidden hazards and exposures in their parking lots until a major incident takes place. Unfortunately, one incident is all it takes to make you wish you had been more diligent about security, which is why a physical security audit is strongly advised.
A parking lot security audit allows you to evaluate your parking lot’s safety and security measures by determining how closely they adhere to best practices. While it is best to coordinate a security audit with a certified security and systems integrator, here are five areas (plus one that most security professionals overlook) to review while conducting a parking lot security audit.
1. Identify Your Safety and Security Risks
Parking lots attract criminal activity because of their inherited design flaws and lack of security measures. Predicting crime in a parking lot is not an exact science, but there are methods and principles that security and property managers can use to understand the risk of crime better.
Conducting a proper risk assessment can help obtain a clear picture of the security and safety challenges that you may be facing.
Risk analysis is a process with multiple steps that intends to identify and analyze all of the potential risks and issues that may present security threats to your parking lot. This should be an ongoing process that gets updated when necessary.
Risk assessments are oftentimes accompanied by a risk matrix to prioritize hazards and controls.
A detailed risk assessment can provide you with the information you need to evaluate and strengthen your parking lot security. A proper risk analysis provides you with:
🗹 Insights on your areas of vulnerabilities and potential improvement areas.
🗹 A clearer picture of your current security posture.
🗹 Documentation that can be used for the development and justification of cost-effective countermeasures.
2. Inspect Your Parking Lot Security Management
Parking lot security management refers to the measures and systems you have in place regarding the security and safety of your parking lot. While most businesses and property managers outsource security services, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the security operations of your parking lot.
Visual checks are used in security audits to assess how effectively (or ineffectively) present security measures are operating. Additionally, security audits can reveal the effectiveness of your security procedures.
Questions to consider when reviewing your parking lot security oversight:
- Has a risk assessment of the parking lot/facility been performed?
- Is a management system in place to ensure security features are implemented and maintained?
- Do security measures match the expected risk level of the facility?
Common Security Risks for Parking Lots
Commercial parking lots provide criminals with multiple opportunities to target. In addition to the obvious security risks, such as graffiti, vandalism, and vehicle theft, other risks are not as obvious but just as important. Some of the more common risks that are not immediately apparent include the following:
Common security risks for commercial parking lots include:
- Crimes of opportunity: These are crimes where the criminal takes advantage of a particular situation, usually without planning to carry out illegal conduct beforehand. For example, an employee parking their vehicle in an isolated area and leaving their car windows open with a laptop on the dashboard.
- Car theft: Parking lots are a target because many different vehicles are frequently left unattended. Criminals steal cars for numerous reasons, including for temporary transportation or to steal car parts for resale.
- Violent crimes: Assault, carjackings and strong-arm robberies are just a few examples of violent crimes that take place in parking lots. Since most people in parking lots are strangers, these offenses are not unusual. A violent criminal can effortlessly blend in with the population without standing out.
3. Test Your Parking Lot Perimeter Security
Perimeter security isn’t just about protecting the buildings on your property. It also addresses the areas outside the facility, including the parking lot. Generally, the more layers of security, the greater the protection, but additional measures without proper assessment can introduce complexities that undermine your security posture.
For example, suppose you add perimeter security cameras without conducting an assessment. In that case, you could easily overlook bright or poorly lit areas, which will reduce the effectiveness of your cameras.
A perimeter security test allows you to test all physical security controls including fences, access points, security cameras, security guards, and other security measures.
Questions to consider when testing your parking lot’s perimeter security include:
- Is the parking area restricted, requiring a badge or code to gain access?
- Are certain areas restricted and doors locked to limit access to vulnerable areas?
- Are stairwells enclosed and alarmed, and intended for emergency egress only?
- Are there restrictions limiting large vehicles or trucks to controlled areas?
Parking Lot Video Surveillance
Well-designed integrated video systems play a critical role in your parking lot’s security effectiveness. Security cameras can empower your team with the video intelligence they need to maintain a strong security posture.
AI security cameras designed for monitoring parking lots are becoming increasingly popular because of their performance and effectiveness when it comes to parking lot security. These specialized network IP cameras perform advanced analytical functions such as:
- Detection: Advanced models are equipped with sophisticated video analysis functions and face recognition.
- Counting: From real-time vehicle counting to accurate estimates of people in a specific monitored area, this AI feature is powerful for parking security.
- Recognition: License plate recognition (LPR) technology provides frictionless access for staff, visitors, and transient parkers.
Since studies have shown that surveillance cameras can reduce crime by 50% or more, it’s important to perform regular video surveillance audits. Ideally, you want to partner with a professional security integrator that can assist through the process but here are some questions to consider when reviewing your video surveillance system:
- Are security cameras properly placed and functional?
- Are cameras monitored by qualified persons?
- Are recordings reviewed and archived for a minimum of one month at a secure location?
- Are security personnel trained on how to monitor and respond to security incidents at the facility?
4. Evaluate Your Parking Lot Signage and Lighting
Parking lot security signs and lighting work hand in hand and help promote security awareness. In order to evaluate your parking lot signage and lighting, you need to be familiar with your current layout to identify vulnerabilities and areas for improvement. In addition, installing lights and signs on your parking lot requires careful thought and planning.
According to the Department of Energy, lighting accounts for 17% of primary energy used in commercial buildings and almost 18% of their carbon dioxide emissions. The good news is that with smart integration, you can leverage your resources to drive energy efficiency and strengthen your security.
Which parking lot do you think is more likely to have criminal activity?
Since there are many factors to consider when it comes to lighting and signage placement, the best option is to work with a security professional that can design an effective lighting layout that aligns with your security vision.
Here are some questions to consider when reviewing your parking lot video surveillance system:
- Are signs and graphics provided to allow users smooth mobility?
- Are signs posted with clear rules to remove ambiguity concerning speeding, skating, littering, loitering, etc?
- Are emergency communication devices strategically located in the parking area to help users summon assistance?
5. Review your physical security systems
So far, we’ve covered four critical areas you should review while conducting a parking lot security audit:
- Identifying your security risks
- Inspecting your security operations
- Testing your perimeter security
- Evaluating signage and lighting
While these are all important areas to review, the final, (reviewing your physical security systems) is perhaps the most critical area because it will show you the strengths and weaknesses of your organization’s physical security posture.
Parking lot physical security involves using multiple layers of interdependent systems that include everything from CCTV surveillance and protective barriers to gate control systems and security guards. Additional parking lot physical security tools include:
- Vehicle Access Control
- License Plate Recognition
- A.I. Security Cameras
- Fixed Box Cameras
- Network Intercoms
- Sound Detection
- Remote Video Monitoring
For a more efficient organization, automation and system integrations are key. However, how do you handle all of these systems without being too overwhelmed? The solution is security system integration.
By reviewing your physical security systems, you can assess how well your security systems work together and ultimately create a robust and cost-effective system that lays the groundwork for efficient automation, streamlined operations, and scalable solutions.
Physical security systems function best when used in coordination with all of your security resources, including personnel, systems, and devices. The challenge for security leaders and property managers is that often, devices are deployed without considering integrations, resulting in decreased efficiency and reduced overall functionality.
Parking lots’ inherited architectural problems and absence of security measures make them attractive targets for criminal activities. A proper risk assessment will give you a clear picture of any security and safety issues you may be dealing with, and what direction to move in to improve existing security systems.
In general, the more layers of security protection you have, the fewer criminals will target your parking lot. However, if measures are installed without sufficient assessment, they may create complexity that weakens your security posture.
Our team at 3Sixty Integrated offers a range of parking garage solutions to help minimize risks and maximize your security investments. With over 20 years of experience, we have become experts in the design, installation and maintenance of custom security solutions to keep your organization and assets safe and secure. Let’s start a discussion and begin the process of securing your parking lot.