The challenge of securing parking lots: How policies, procedures and technology can enhance safety for all


By Rolland Trayte, FutureSentry

Parking areas are challenging spaces to secure because they vary greatly in size, geographic make-up, location and risk profile. Parking lots provide vehicle and customer access to area businesses and are often times one of the most traveled areas in a city or business district. Therefore, security managers must take the appropriate steps to make parking areas as safe as possible as an enhanced approach to security and safety in these areas only works to boost economic activity.

Unfortunately, there are very real reasons to feel unsafe in parking lots or garages because these spaces, due to their nature, are ideal places to commit crimes. Security guards are often charged with patrolling and monitoring parking lot activities, but this approach has its limits as it is not possible for security personnel to be everywhere at one time. Parking lots must be managed and monitored 24/7 to provide residents, employees and customers with a feeling of security, and advanced technology solutions can augment the capabilities of traditional security guards to increase safety and deter crime.

When evaluating enhancements or changes to existing security programs and technologies at parking areas, it is important to conduct a thorough review of the background issues and the environment that is contributing to security concerns. How are these issues currently being addressed by security patrols and technologies?

Security managers should review incident reports and benchmark incidents at one area with comparable facilities. Are your garages more successful at deterring crime than others? An assessment of each parking garage’s physical and operational characteristics must also be completed. All of these steps will help determine what mix of security personnel and security systems are most beneficial for your facility.

Detection Through Intelligence
Innovations in motion sensors and advanced algorithms enable the development of a new kind of automated detection technology that mimics the actions of traditional security guards. These systems are applicable in a variety of environments but are especially well suited for parking lots. These systems leverage built-in intelligence to automatically identify potentially dangerous targets within 1,000 feet and once detected, track objects to deter criminal behavior. Once it detects motion in a user-defined area, the system illuminates activity with a high-intensity LED light, and rotates to and from the detected activity. Once motion is no longer detected, it will conduct an area-wide search. If no additional movement is found, the system will conduct regular patrols of an area, scanning for unusual behavior, detecting criminal behavior before loss or damage occurs.

The system, described above, engages in the same motions and movements of a patrolling security force to enable security personnel to focus on other tasks, such as ID badging, inspecting vehicles or observing suspicious behavior. Business operations and security are maximized while maintaining a secure perimeter, and this is especially true in parking facilities with limited budgets.

Safe Passage
The most common crimes that occur in parking facilities are theft and vandalism but other more violent attacks, such as abductions and carjacking, are also real risks. To limit the occurrence of such incidents, facilities must have a solid security plan in place that incorporates personnel and technology, and evaluates environmental design.

Lighting is another important factor in keeping facilities secure. Proper lighting not only helps people feel safer, but it can also deter crime dramatically. Lighting is commonly used to enhance safety by increasing visual range during night hours and ensure a minimum level of visibility. Furthermore, lighting also has value as a deterrent to crime. It can be challenging to effectively illuminate small areas or corridors, such as those between parked cars. Since an automated detection solution tracks motion within 1,000 feet, it leverages the power of its built-in LEDs to shine light on those confined areas when it detects motion.

An automated detection solution can also be used to in place of a having security personnel escort customers or employees to their cars in the evening. The system tracks the person’s movement, shining its high-intensity lights to the detected area. Not only is the system illuminating the person’s activity to keep them safe and increase visibility, it deters potential criminals from approaching the individual. Therefore, the technology is useful at both providing peace of mind for shoppers and employees, and keeping criminals at bay. Combined with the additional feature of two-way audio, the system is a customer service tool as well as a security tool.

A True Solution
Although video surveillance plays an important role in monitoring activity and reducing crime in parking lots, it is only truly effective when it is being monitored in real time. Without 24/7 monitoring, it is not possible to respond to an emergency situation.

Automated detection systems work independently to continually monitor activity in high-risk areas. When cameras are leveraged alongside an automated detection system, the solution can be used for both proactive and reactive purposes, including investigations and crime reconstruction. The integration of high-resolution or HD surveillance cameras enable security teams to gather high levels of detail, while IP cameras enable remote monitoring of the system, providing even more ROI.

Another benefit of integrating cameras with an automated detection system is that it provides guards with an avenue in which to make an assessment of a situation before responding. This provides an additional layer of situational awareness.

The issue of parking garage security and the level of inappropriate and illegal activity that occurs on these premises continue to receive considerable attention. Facilities must establish security policies and practices as a way to enhance the business and entertainment environment, and mitigate the negative impacts of crime in parking areas. Automated detection technologies provide continuous patrol of a parking lot or garage, acts as a significant deterrent to criminals, and provides reassurance to customers and employees. Overall, a multi-layered approach to security that includes experienced personnel, innovative technologies and strong procedures will create a safer and more secure environment, and reduce undesirable activities.

Rolland Trayte is president and COO of FutureSentry. He can be reached at


Mr Trayte - we are in total agreement w/ your assessment of Parking garages. Which as a company is our niche. What we would like to point out is the way some of these facilities are looked at by the owners/mgmt firms.

Their first focus is the Revenue machines. So with each point: Activity / Lighting / Safety each should be follow by Revenue area. We of course understand the position, similar to any other business, focus on the cash first.

Though it may look "cost" effective to replace Physical present w/ Virtual Assistants, unless the other issues (lighting, detection, etc..) are properly integrated to work together your still at ground zero.

Yes, of course I would enjoy more camera's, it's my business. But Lighting should be the # 1 issue. Everything works better after that....

Thank you again for an engaging article on Parking facilities...