As parking lots and garages overflow in the lead up to Christmas, many retailers, facility managers and security personnel are turning their focus inside to combat holiday shrink from activities like shoplifting and return fraud.
But it’s also a good time to re-examine the security of your parking facility—specifically whether you’re doing enough to protect customers, staff, guests and property.
Big Security Concerns
South of the border, Wal-Mart’s struggles with parking lot crime have been well documented. In fact, security is such an issue that labour activists are now pressuring the retail giant to make its stores and parking lots safer. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of petty crimes occurred at Wal-Marts this year, in addition to an average of one violent crime per day.
This problem isn’t unique to one location or even one company. But the fact that more crimes are occurring at Wal-Marts than similar retailers shows that every environment presents its own unique security challenges.
So what can you do to improve your parking lot’s security and avoid the kind of bad press faced by Wal-Mart?
Video Surveillance: The Right Way
According to a study on parking preferences, security outweighed location convenience when deciding where to park. In particular, respondents valued security measures like visible surveillance cameras, proper lighting and intercoms to connect with attendants.
Implementing an effective video surveillance solution in your parking facility requires the right products and the right placement.
Well-placed cameras not only deter crimes and aid in apprehension, they provide a sense of security for customers and employees.
From a practical point-of-view, achieving that optimal positioning of your surveillance equipment is important for preventing glare from the sun or from your facility’s lighting. In an effort to create a safe, well-lit space, some facility managers can become overzealous with lighting and end up compromising security by degrading their surveillance video.
That’s why lighting and video surveillance play such an interconnected role in parking lot security.
Low Light? No Light? No Problem
Of course, modern security cameras make it possible to capture clear video even in very low light. This is particularly useful in parking lots and garages due to the many physical obstacles and architectural features that create shadows.
During the holidays this can be compounded by decorations and seasonal displays, especially at large shopping centers. If you plan to deck out your facility this holiday season, remember to do a live check of your surveillance feed to make sure there are no obstructions.
Working Hard Day and Night
Not all outdoor cameras are equipped to handle low-light, so be sure to look for products with day and night functionality and features like built-in IR illuminators and an auto-iris lens to automatically adjust to changing light conditions. These specialized features ensure that you’re getting picture with high clarity and contrast, 24 hours a day.
When facial recognition isn’t enough, a license plate camera can provide the missing intelligence needed to apprehend a criminal. These security cameras are specially designed to capture license plates in sharp detail, even at speeds over 100 mph and from hundreds of meters away.
They can also be useful in detecting parking-lot hit and runs, or to capture anyone trying to skip out on paying for parking.
If you decide your parking lot could benefit from license plate recognition capabilities, it’s important to choose a camera capable of performing well in your environment. Some features to look out for include:
- Weather-proof or weather-resistant housing
- Minimum IP66 rating
- Day and night performance
- IR-cut filter and IR illuminators
- Wide dynamic range (WDR) enhancement for clear picture even in extremely bright dark conditions
- Open-source software to allow interoperability with other security components
- High-contrast and clarity imaging for precise picture
- Built-in heater and fan to enhance performance in extreme weather
What Else Can You Do?
Many factors go into making a parking lot or garage secure beyond installing surveillance cameras. You can take several simple but important steps to make your facility more secure this holiday season:
- Stay on top of maintenance to create the impression of care and to deter would-be criminals; graffiti that’s been there for a long time is just one telltale sign of neglect
- Implement panic buttons or intercoms to give people access to live help
- Remind customers and guests about not leaving valuables in their vehicle, especially during the busy holiday shopping season when they’re more likely to let their guard down
- Maintain high visibility with proper lighting; this means not just installing enough lights, but positioning them strategically to reduce shadows
- Don’t allow landscaping features to reduce visibility or provide cover for criminals
- Clearly advertise your security efforts with visible surveillance cameras and supporting signs
- Avoid excessively bright lighting that could compromise the integrity of surveillance video
For customized advice tailored to your facility, contact an ABC Security representative today. We supply, install and maintain a wide range of products to help you increase security and reduce liability.