Car parks are an integral part of the services rendered by shopping centres to millions of customers and patrons. Because carparks are usually at the fringes of the shopping centre complex, they can be points of weakness in security and are potential places for criminal activity that result to serious injury or damage to property, and subsequently permanent black marks to a shopping centre’s good reputation.
An estimated 4% of crime occurs in parking garages and carparks, including theft, assault, rape and drug dealing. With as many as 80,000 of Australia’s over 20 million people at potential risk, it is therefore in the best interest of shopping centre managers to ensure the security and safety of their parking spaces.
Car park lighting and paint design are some of the most cost-effective ways to increase security and safety for shopping centre clients. A well-lit car park with wide open spaces and bright, reflective paint greatly reduces potential hiding places for unscrupulous characters. If the car park design is able to maximize natural lighting, there is the added benefit of cost reduction in clear, sunny weather. Car parks that force clients to turn on their car’s headlights – especially during the day – is a bad sign and should be considered for immediate redesign.
White wall paint, clear reflective markings of designated parking spots and white light with the appropriate brightness to enable people to see the backseat of their cars, as well as identify others from 15 meters away are the minimum requirements for consideration of a car park as “safe”. Other design elements, like glass walls, glass elevators and two-way mirrors around corners or staircase landings are also desirable add-ons to make car parks less conducive to skulking troublemakers.
Bright and visible signages not only serve to reduce traffic accidents inside a car park; they also aid shoppers in finding their way. When shoppers are less worried or distracted about finding their vehicle, they can be more attentive to their surroundings and are able to spot potential dangers that would otherwise have slipped past them. Signages can also warn clients of potentially dangerous spots on the car park area and remind them to be alert and defensive.
When it comes to limiting access points, shopping centres are at a bit of a disadvantage. Limiting access to shopping centre carparks can be impractical and counterproductive to profit because it is in the best interest of shopping centre management to give its clients fairly easy access to their vehicles, especially when they have to carry bulky or heavy items. In addition, potential criminals don’t always enter via the car park entrance; they can enter via the shopping centre entrance and wait around the car park for potential victims.
One way to limit access to car parks is to enforce a strict ticketing system, whether paid or free. This means that car parks issue tickets upon entrance to the area. Tickets are inspected upon entrance to and exit from the shopping centre and only clients or patrons with possession of a parking ticket are to be allowed in the car park area. It is a crude and tedious system, but it can be a very effective deterrent to criminals whose favourite tactic is to wait at car parks to pounce on unsuspecting victims.
Video surveillance equipment is an integral part of any modern security system. With most modern systems capable of a host of functions, like motion sensing, IR and low-light detection and automated alarms, the only question is whether a shopping centre has enough cameras to monitor vital areas and enough personnel to be able to detect potential security breaches and respond to them accordingly.
Areas like stairwells and wall corners are traditional spots of potential ambushes or stalking so surveillance equipment must cover such areas. Surveillance equipment should also cover areas that are off-limits to anyone except shopping centre personnel like electricity or water access ports.
Emergency alarm or call posts may seem like a relic of the past, given that almost everyone has access to smart mobile phones. But in the event of emergencies (or the event that a customer’s access to his or her phone has been cut) alerting security personnel to danger or crime with the push of a button is a valuable option to have. Most people caught in dangerous situations are almost certainly on the verge of panic, and for such situations pushing a big, red button that requires just a second to do may be all their racing minds could process.
Security personnel are and will always be the core of any security system or plan. They act as both deterrents to threat and responders to any potential crisis. Security personnel that are visible, well-trained and in sufficient numbers can deal with all but the most determined of criminal elements. If the shopping centre has an abundance of security personnel, escorting patrons and clients directly to their vehicles is a near-flawless way to guarantee safety and security.
A secondary layer of safety and security can be found in maintenance personnel. Having maintenance personnel regularly present in a car park – whether to take out the trash, clean the lights, trim bushes or renew the paint – will also give would-be criminals pause in their attempts. Additionally, a well-maintained, clean, and vandalism-free car park gives the impression that shopping centre managers have zero tolerance for negligence of responsibility – which, logically, must extend to handling security, as well.
It is easy to overlook parking areas when talking about shopping centre security since shoppers do not spend much of their time there. But statistics say you should be equally vigilant in these areas. By ensuring these security features are covered, you’re letting your patrons know that you value their safety as soon as their vehicle enters your premises.
At Prosek Security, we provide security services to retail businesses that cover all high-risk areas including parking lots. Get in touch with our team now to know how you can improve the security in your shopping centre car parks.