Securing Lots & Garages

By Fennelly, Lawrence J.; Lombardi, John H. | Journal of Property Management, May-June 1997 | Go to article overview

Securing Lots & Garages


Fennelly, Lawrence J., Lombardi, John H., Journal of Property Management


People are robbed, assaulted, even murdered in parking lots and garages. Cars are stolen, vandalized, or looted. Motor vehicle-related incidents of all sorts can also occur - e.g., hit-and-run accidents, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI). The list can go on and on. That is why it is important to be aware - and make your residents, your tenants and their employees, and your own employees aware - of potential problems and to take action to make your parking areas more secure.

Security Issues

The security requirements of a parking facility will depend on its location and hours of use, the people who will use it, and whether it is an open lot or an open or enclosed garage. Residential lots may require 24-hour patrols, but access should be limited to residents, prospects, property employees, and an occasional service person. Office buildings and shopping centers may be open for only 16 hours a day, but are much more difficult to monitor because of the various entry points available and the broad range of users.

Physical Structure

Creating physical barriers that prevent criminals from entering a parking facility and from driving cars out can make the task of security an easier job. Parking areas should be fenced and should have the least number of entry points as is feasible. Office garages and lots might channel all entrants through one or two routes. Of course, security issues must be balanced with access and safety, but by creating a channeling route to parking, even in an open lot, entries and exits can be monitored more effectively. Other access routes can be made inaccessible with bars (in the case of enclosed lots), fencing, or raised berms that stop car access. Limiting the ways in which people can enter and leave parking facilities makes security monitoring more feasible. While more than one or two doors may be required in enclosed garages for safety reasons, these should be designated for emergency exits only, and exit alarms should be installed. Doors themselves should be metal and have tamper-proof hinges to prevent unauthorized entry.

Residential properties should also limit the number of entrances and, if the property is not gated, all entry roads should be routed near the management office for safety. Designate special parking for prospects and guests so that strange cars will not go unobserved in general parking areas. However, avoid personalizing parking with names, apartment numbers, or titles in either commercial or residential properties to discourage vandalism and break-ins.

Limiting access is more difficult at retail properties because of the desire to make the center as accessible to the public as possible. However, even in a mall setting, entry can be limited in some areas. Restrict access to loading areas so that merchandise cannot be carried out of stores the back way. Such restrictions may also reduce pilfering from delivery trucks. If possible, consider limiting parking accessibility around theaters, restaurants, and other areas that are open later than the mall as a whole. In this way, the entire lot does not have to be monitored after hours.

The security measures that can be used in a corporation's private garage would be too restrictive for a regional mall. Nevertheless, the goal in all cases is to deter criminals from entering a parking facility and thus avert criminal incidents. Security measures themselves are not infallible - some criminals will stop at nothing to commit a crime - so awareness and follow-up are critical components of a parking security program.

Access Control

If feasible, both entrance and exit points need to be controlled, even if no charge is made for the parking. A limited system might be employed for night-time access if daytime activity requires generally open access.

Card-activated gates are the most common and most effective form of access control, although coded keypads with PIN (personal identification numbers) can also be used. …

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