How to Protect Your Parking Structures

Visibility, lighting, access control, electronic security technology, effective signage and good patrol techniques are the basic elements of a secure parking garage.

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Parking structures can be a great boon to any campus. If done improperly, it can turn into a boondoggle. Looking beyond efficient land use, parking structures have also been the source of numerous problems. Avoiding such problems will require judicious planning and a concerted effort to fitting all pieces of this complex puzzle together in the right order.

There is one great truth that all campuses can agree upon: land is expensive. Anything that can provide more space in a smaller footprint will be greatly appreciated, particularly in expensive urban environments. Thus it follows that a world once dominated by vast parking lots will ultimately yield to the creation of above-ground or underground parking structures.  

Parking structures can be a great boon to any campus. If done improperly, it can turn into a boondoggle. Looking beyond efficient land use, parking structures have also been the source of numerous problems. They can be hot spots for criminal acts that range from vehicle break-ins to sexual assaults. Hollywood echoed this perception with the release of their parking structure horror film, “P2”. Avoiding such problems will require judicious planning and a concerted effort to fitting all pieces of this complex puzzle together in the right order.

The security plan should seek both the feeling and reality of safety and security. Legitimate users of a parking facility who do not feel safe will seek their services or employment opportunities elsewhere. Institutional bottom lines will drop accordingly.  

Parking structures should deter crime by making criminals feel trapped, out of place and on display. Failure to stop criminal acts will result in injuries, lawsuits and other direct assaults on institutional health. This article will explore a variety of security options and design features that will lower the risk of crime in any multi-level parking facility. It’s a win-win opportunity, where doing the right thing is also good for business.

It would be nice if every campus could start from scratch with the sufficient budget to create the ideal parking structure. Most institutions, however, will need to live with older designs. This article will divide its focus to explore ideal design elements for new structures along with the tools needed to upgrade existing ones.

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Incorporate Visibility in Structure Design
Maximum visibility is the key to parking structure security. Planners should discourage any design feature that creates blind spots or potential hiding places. “Maximum internal visibility” must be the mantra of any team tasked with the design or improvement of parking facilities. 

New Construction:

  • Favor designs that maximize interior visibility
  • Favor support columns over retaining walls
  • Avoid architectural features that block the view of adjacent stalls, lanes or levels
  • Eliminate blind spots and potential hiding places
  • Favor open stairways over enclosed stairwells
  • Opt for external glass walled elevators offering a view into the cab
  • Avoid designs with blind alcoves and secluded or recessed areas
  • Avoid designs with long blind hallways
  • Avoid hiding places and secluded areas around the exterior
  • Create opportunities for surveillance into and out of the structure
  • Create legitimate activities inside the structure such as glass walled office spaces
  • Favor high ceilings for better lighting and visibility, particularly on the first floor
  • Limit surrounding landscaping to low growth plants no higher than two feet
  • Select trees that will not block area surveillance or light distribution
  • Clear visual obstructions along transit routes leading to and from the structure

James L. Grayson
Jim Grayson is a senior security consultant. His career spans more than 35 years in law enforcement and security consulting. He worked for UCLA on a workplace violence study involving hospitals, schools and small retail environments and consulted with NIOSH on a retail violence prevention study.Grayson’s diverse project experience includes schools, universities, hospitals, municipal buildings, high-rise structures and downtown revitalization projects. He holds a degree in criminal justice and a CPP security management credential from ASIS. He is a nationally recognized speaker and trainer on a wide range of security topics.He can be reached at jimgrayson@mindspring.com. Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.
Contact James L. Grayson: jgrayson@hai-security.com
View More by James L. Grayson
Access Control, Contract Security, Features, Parking Security, Training, Video Surveillance

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