Question The CCTV/Surveillance Expert: Parking Lot Video

Oct. 27, 2008
Factors to Keep in Mind

Q: What factors should be kept in mind when using a video surveillance system as a valuable tool in parking lot security in helping protect people and their possessions while they work or shop?

A: Parking lots have special security needs because they are oftentimes not well lit, subject to unpredictable weather and offer a myriad of hiding places in either a open lot or in a multi-level, covered parking garage. A video surveillance system can be valuable in helping protect customers, owners and employees of the facility.

About 80 percent of criminal acts at business complexes or shopping centers occur in the parking lot. The most common type of parking lot crime is theft, vehicle break-ins, muggings, and purse snatching, for instance. Yet there are also abductions, sexual assaults, murders and other brutal attacks that continue to occur in parking lots across the country. However, there are ways that a security dealer integrator can help customers strengthen security and deter parking lot crime.

If the cameras are visible, they can serve as a deterrent. Recorded images can later be used to help law enforcement identify criminals.

Not only does video surveillance in a parking lot help to prevent theft and other crime, it also improves the establishment's image. Installation of cameras in parking lots may increase the time customers shop at that facility because they feel safer and believe that their belongings are more secure.

The owner can also use the cameras to help avoid liability for accidents that occur in the lot such as hit-and-runs or slip-and-falls. Premise liability settlements are now in the millions of dollars because there seems to be an implied obligation on the part of the property owner to provide a safe environment .

A local Michigan police department reports that the majority of auto crimes the department sees are theft of wheels and tires rather than stealing the whole vehicle. Thieves can pull up next to a parked vehicle and using blocks have all the wheels off in a couple of minutes.

A camera capable of capturing license numbers could be very helpful here as the thieves usually drive into the lot and use their car as a shield to block the view of what they do. Also a camera containing analytics could detect a car parked in the lane instead of a slot.

Cameras should be installed near entrances and exits, so each visitor can be more easily identified later. Remember that video surveillance is not as effective without the proper lighting, and owners should be especially aware of this if their parking lot is most busy at night, is shaded or undercover. One factor deserving of particular attention is placing the cameras to avoid headlights shining directly into them and blanking out the picture.

Cleaning is another factor. Someone needs to clean the lens ports regularly especially in a garage or deck situation. Here is where you suggest a service contract.

Dave Shelton is president of D/A Central Inc., a 50-year-old systems integration company serving Michigan and the northern Midwest . D/A Central is also a member of SecurityNet Inc., an international network of systems integrators closely interacting to serve national-level clientele with local attentiveness at every location.