Inadequate Parking Lot Security

William J. Birks, Jr., CPP, CSC, Safety and Security Expert

Case Summary:  A woman drove her car into the parking lot of a major retailer.  She secured a parking space abutting a pedestrian walkway which ran perpendicular from the store’s entrance, down the middle of the parking lot.  As she exited her car and turned right onto the walkway, the woman was unaware that she was being observed by two men who were “cruising” the lot in a previously stolen automobile.

As she approached the end of the walkway, a car passed in front of the woman and made a right turn, against the traffic pattern.  A man in the passenger’s seat jumped out of the car as it slowly rolled to a stop.  The man quickly approached the woman from behind, just as she arrived at the end of the walkway, and lunged at the handbag she was carrying over her shoulder.  The force of the attack caused the woman to be pulled backwards and onto the ground.  He continued trying to pry the purse away from the woman, but she would not relent.

As the fruitlessness of his endeavor became apparent to the assailant, he retreated back to the car from which he exited.  The car sped away, leaving the woman on the ground suffering from multiple injuries requiring emergency medical attention.

Expert Analysis:  Research revealed that parking lot incidents were not uncommon to this retailer; rather, parking lot incidents represented the majority of the reported on-premises incidents of this retailer at that time.  Moreover, the retailer possessed significant prior knowledge of these types of incidents, as well as the elevated potential for aggravated assault. 

The retailer accepted responsibility for securing their parking lot and employed the services of a contract security service in an attempt to reduce these types of occurrences.  The selected provider was contractually mandated by the retailer to provide “continuous patrol” of the parking lot area.

A review of testimony and video of the incident concluded that, in using one security patrol vehicle, the contracted security service provider could complete one round of the premises every fifteen minutes.  The review also revealed that approximately three minutes of each round was dedicated to patrolling the area behind the retailer’s building.  When scheduled breaks were factored into the equation, the front parking lot was void of security protection approximately twenty-five percent of each hour.

The woman subject to this incident was assaulted in the front parking lot during one of those unprotected times, when the roving security patrol was patrolling the area behind the store.  Based on the provided materials, it was clear that the retailer failed to provide an adequate number of security patrol and vehicles for the size, and known risks, of the premises.

Result:  Case settled.

Categories: Case Studies | Safety and Security | Security Expert | William J. Birks, Jr., CPP, CSC

Tags: Aggravated Assault | Parking Lot | Premise Liability | Retail | Security Patrol | Theft


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