Parking facilities by their very nature are challenging to make into a secure environment. They are land-use with a single purpose, and they do not easily allow for mixed uses that might encourage territoriality. They contain large walls, structural columns and multi-levels, which create poor visibility and make them vulnerable to crime. Subsurface or underground parking facilities are often part of a foundation of a building, have little to no outside exposure for visibility and can be an easy target for terrorism (World Trade Center 1993, Madrid Airport parking lot 12/30/06). Large open parking lots are difficult to control access. Open parking lots make an inviting environment for car thieves and purse snatching and car burglary. Parking structures, whether they are surface lots, above or below ground, are perceived as dark, isolated and dangerous environments.
The primary goal of designing safe garages and parking facilities is to create an atmosphere that makes potential criminals feel that they will be observed, and improve the chances they will be challenged. The eventual goal is for the criminal to realize that the gain is not worth the effort.
In order to accomplish these goals, it is necessary to careful application of the principles and practices of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED).
Standard of Care
Parking facilities have many factors that create opportunities for high-risk criminal behavior. The reasons for this high risk is because there is generally a low level of activity in parking facilities, with lots of hiding places and areas of shade and dark shadows. Parking facilities usually have multiple means of entry and thus provide many easy means of escape after a crime.
For some time, the national standard of care for safe parking facilities was based on the position that parking facilities should conduct a security assessment for considerations including: criminal history of the site; landscaping issues; lighting issues; attendant facilities for revenue collection and supervision; restroom access; stairwells and elevators for vertical access; signage and graphics; surveillance capabilities; access control equipment; and policies and procedures for the operation and staffing of the parking facility.
The first point to consider in planning of a safe and secure parking area is the layout. Good design will allow for smooth traffic ingress and egress. Location of entrances and exits is a design factor that can assist in blocking or creating opportunities for outsiders to gain access to the parking area.
Access control and territoriality principles translate into good perimeter control. Perimeter definition and access control deters unwanted pedestrian-level access to the lot or garage. Perimeter control can be fencing, level changes, ground floor protection and other architectural and environmental barriers that channel people to designated entry points onto the property and into the lot or garage, and discourage persons from hiding outside and inside the property or buildings. Fencing around the perimeter of the parking lot or garage will discourage trespassing and unauthorized access and deter a criminal looking for an opportunity. Fencing can be symbolic barriers and be 3-4 feet picket fencing, or in remote areas it could be as high as 7-8 feet (depending on what building and zoning codes will allow in your area).
Ground-level protection on a garage should be designed to resist unauthorized access on the ground floor, but also not be designed in a way that serves as a ladder to climb up to a second floor. Screening that reaches from floor to ceiling is preferred to solid walls, as the screening allows natural surveillance and the ability to call out for assistance and be heard. The screening provides visibility into the structure from the street and that can serve as a deterrent to criminal activity.