Preventing Crime in Parking Lots and Structures
- By Ellen Kollie
- January 1st, 2008
“Almost everything you read about parking and CPTED
has been known since the 1970s and followed since then to some extent,” said Mary S. Smith, P.E., senior
vice president/director of Parking Consulting for Indianapolis-based Walker Parking
“It hasn’t changed much since then, and the parking consulting world knows
about it and most architects know about it.”
Smith is referring to Crime Prevention Through
Environmental Design (CPTED), an architectural concept that maintains that
facility design can be used to eliminate or reduce criminal behavior and, at
the same time, encourage people to "keep an eye out" for each other.
CPTED has four pillar strategies: natural surveillance, territorial
reinforcement, natural access control, and target hardening. These strategies
can be applied to any facility construction or renovation project, including
campus parking lots and parking structures.
this first design concept, we’re looking at how visible are the activities of
the intended users to other intended users, casual observers, or intended
observers,” said Robert A. Otterstatter, master trainer and law enforcement
liaison with Washington-based National Crime Prevention Council. “We know there
is less crime where there is greater visibility.” Natural surveillance in parking
is promoted by pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, open stairwells, and adequate
“Here, we ask how well the university displays its
territoriality over that parking garage,” said Otterstatter. “We know that any
location that is well marked that it is owned and cared for experiences less
crime than locations that aren’t.” In parking, territorial reinforcement is
promoted by features that define property lines and distinguish private spaces
from public spaces using landscaping, pavement designs, and gateways.
Natural Access Control
“This is controlling access to and egress from the
structure or lot,” said Otterstatter. “It often includes target hardening,
which is where the structure or lot is made more difficult to get into, like
through the use of gates.” Natural access control in parking is achieved by
designing sidewalks and entrances to clearly indicate public routes, and
discouraging access to private areas with structural elements.
This last design concept, as mentioned above, uses
features that prohibit access. In parking, this might include a security booth
and/or arms that raise and lower. “It also means that, when something goes
wrong or is broken, we immediately repair it,” said Otterstatter, “because it
signals to a would-be offender that the area is receiving attention and,
therefore, he is more likely to be caught.
“Replacing a burnt-out light quickly falls into
target hardening and natural surveillance,” Otterstatter pointed out. “So
there’s lots of crossover in the four principles. I look at them from the
perspective of a user and how safe the user feels. My fears as a parent may be
different than those of my daughter the student, so it’s important to ask users
about their fears.”
Start with the Design
If you want to apply CPTED principles to your next
parking project, choose a designer who’s willing to work with you. “There are
some hard nuts to crack with the design community until they see the liability
issues,” noted Timothy Crowe, criminologist and author of Crime Prevention Through Environmental
Design, which gives design strategies.
Crowe also warns that you
can’t do a quick study, make some compromises, and finish your project. Rather,
be prepared to invest a substantial amount of time into studying your issues
and the best way to solve them for maximum safety.
Because CPTED is architecturally based, what is
designed into the parking lot or facility is considered passive security. “It
makes people feel safer and discourages criminals through visibility,” said
Smith. She should know, having authored Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design in Parking Facilities
in 1996 for the Department of Justice. “Since then, no one has done it better
than she,” confirmed Crowe, adding that there were no standards for parking lot
safety and security until that point.
But, what if you want to reduce crime in existing
parking areas? It can be accomplished through active security, Smith noted.
Active security is anything that provokes a physical response, such as
intercoms, security patrols, and video cameras. “An active system is often
required because of a CPTED failing,” she pointed out.
Before running out and purchasing video cameras,
conduct a safety study. Individually look at each parking area and the problems
that occur there, understanding that not every area has the same problems. This
involves collecting police reports, criminal data, and documentation of the
incidents in each area. “Talk with your crime analyst, if you have one, and
find out what was reported that wasn’t criminal, like loitering,” said
Otterstatter. Finally, talk with users about what they’ve experienced and how
they feel about the area.
Next, apply a problem-solving model to determine
what types of security are needed. Otterstatter uses a four-step model called SARA, which stands for Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment. (SARA can also be applied to
Scanning is looking at the broad
scope of problems that are occurring in the parking area. It includes gathering
information and setting baselines. Analysis
is looking at the overall problems, like break-ins or users not feeling
comfortable. Response is considering
limitations to making improvements, like budget. “It’s important to balance
what can be done with what makes the biggest difference,” said Otterstatter.
The fourth step of SARA, Assessment, is continually reviewing the first three steps and
making additional appropriate responses based upon what is learned in scanning
and analysis. “The beauty of SARA is that it’s fluid,” Otterstatter pointed
out. “If I uncover information further down the line, like in the response
step, I can go back and gather more information before creating a response. If
I discover I didn’t make a difference or didn’t make the difference I wanted, I
can go back to a previous step to get to the right response.”
Whether new construction or renovation, Smith offers
three pieces of advice regarding CPTED principles in terms of campus parking
lots and facilities. First, the principles are important and should be given
the highest priority: “Pay attention to it and, as a university, state that
it’s very important to do it,” she advised. Second, the staff that is directing
the parking designers should insist that the police are involved and their
advice sought. Finally, if necessary, a security consultant should be hired.
things being equal, campus parking areas tend to be a higher risk than office
buildings. A person intent on committing a crime knows there’s a better chance
of finding someone to attack in a campus parking garage than in an office
Mary S. Smith
crime-reduction, save time and money on the back side by investing time and
money on the front side.”
Robert A. Otterstatter