Mr. Zajic

Security & Safety

Securing Hotel Parking Lots

By Alan Zajic, Independent Security Consultant, AWZ Consulting

Co-authored by Derk J. Boss, CPP, CSP, CFE

As with any business in the world today parking areas are a necessary and vital component that has a tendency to be underestimated as it relates to guest or employee protection. Every hotelier is aware that parking lots generate a large expense in maintenance, lighting, cleaning and the associated landscaping and accesses. Everything has a direct cost and security is no exception.

The hotel ownership and executive management must balance those costs against revenues and realistically apply reasonable security measures into the overall business plan. Questions are always pondered and evaluated as to the cost and necessity of traditional security measures to include if "boots on the ground" are needed or required in a hotel or transient rental environment. There is not a simple yes or no answer to the question absent a professional analysis.

If an economy hotel with a low ADR as compared to the area competition does not provide security officers is that acceptable? Many operators feel that if they are not providing security services and have a lower rate as a result that it insulates them from liability which is incorrect. Every state has various statutory and common law provisions regarding the duty that a hotel has to provide reasonable security measures to provide some form of protection to people from foreseeable harm. Your attorney is best qualified to assist you in understanding what is required.

Conducting the Risk Assessment

The professional and accepted manner to assess what security measures should be deployed in a hospitality environment is to conduct a Risk Assessment. If the facility has a qualified security manager or director who knows how to conduct one it can use that person as the ranking security official. Many corporate security departments already have personnel who address risk and manage overall security policy. For those operations who do not have the benefit of a corporate security or risk department the task may involve retaining a qualified security consultant to conduct one for you. You can be assured that if you are sued for an incident in a parking lot one of the legal questions propounded to you will be did you complete one or hire an outside security consultant.

The Risk Assessment takes qualitative or quantitative information and identifies risks associated to the facility and ranks them by priority as to the likelihood of a negative event occurring on the property. The process then seeks to determine the likelihood that criminals will successfully exploit a particular vulnerability or compromise a security measure.

As it relates to any environment including parking lots and garages there are what are referred to as actual, inherent and potential risks that should be evaluated which is commonly referred to as the threat assessment. The vulnerability assessment is the process where an analysis is completed of the weaknesses and opportunities for criminal activity. Both of these are incorporated into the Risk Assessment process.

Once you understand what the threats and vulnerabilities are for your hotel you can design appropriate countermeasures that will take into consideration the costs involved, the practicality of the countermeasure and the reasonableness of the protective measure. There are many guidelines that address the Risk Assessment process. One that is readily available is from ASIS International which is the largest security organization in the world with approximately 37,000 members. The General Security Risk Assessment Guideline clearly identifies the process and process of conducting one. (www.asisonline.org)

An interesting series of studies by Liability Consultants Inc. found that parking areas had the highest potential for litigation based on crimes that had occurred there. (2004 Liability Consultants, Inc. Major Developments in Premises Security Liability III) Assault and battery, sexual assault and robberies occurred in high numbers in parking areas. The study also identified lack of presence and policy and procedures as the top deficiencies raised in inadequate security cases against hotels. (www.liabilityconsultants.com)

The Risk Assessment does not need to be complex or cumbersome and can demonstrate that certain deployments of security measures are not required.

Security Officers

Once the Risk Assessment is completed the next step should be to determine what measures are being taken by competitor or similar properties in your locale, regionally and nationally. A proprietor should be aware of what security measures are being utilized in their locale by making infrequent observations of other hotel properties

The deployment of security officers is expensive and requires management and oversight of their activities. Once you determine the need to actually put officers on your facility, the parking areas are critical to be regularly and constantly patrolled by them when they are on duty. The number of hours and specific times should come from the Risk Assessment.

A small to midsized hotel does not have to necessarily directly hire officers to perform security tasks. Managers, maintenance employees and housekeepers should all have training to observe and report anything unusual or suspicious when they are in the parking areas. A management or maintenance employee can be directed to patrol the parking lots at least once per hour and a log of who completed the patrol and what observations were made will prove extremely valuable in the event a claim and subsequent lawsuit is filed.

There are options if a hotel is going to deploy security officers to patrol or be stationed in parking areas. The use of contract security companies is common and cost effective if managed appropriately and detailed post orders (the specific instructions) are completed and agreed upon when the contract for services is entered. Proprietary security officers or employees identified as security can be used and must be carefully considered due to the cost of equipment, uniforms, radios and training. You cannot just put a uniform on an employee and call them security if you do not give them appropriate training for the task they are assigned.

All employees should have some form of security training and responsibility. The training should be well documented and enforced by management to be effective and to prove the process in a court of law if required.


Understanding the types of lighting, projection, illumination and what is required can be very confusing to a hotel management team. The first thing that should be done is to check with your local building department to determine what are required codes regarding illumination, foot candle measurement or type of lighting. That would be the minimum requirement a hospitality facility would be required to have by local law. There is a basic concept in crime prevention that lighting does deter crime.

The easiest way to determine what lighting you have and what is required is to request that from your vendor who provide lighting on parking lot poles or other lighting on the facility. If you utilize in house maintenance staff you may need to retain a specialist who can assist in the process. At minimum someone on staff should conduct a light check each evening and identify any burned out lights observed and follow up to make sure they are replaced as soon as possible.

If you ever fly into a city at night you can see the dramatic differences of lighting when you compare a hotel parking lot to a car dealership as opposed to typical street lighting. The professional consultant can obtain light meter readings and compare them to the local codes for you to assure the lighting is not sufficient or too bright for the intended use. Having a professional conduct a light meter reading immediately after any significant parking lot event is also very valuable if allegations are made regarding insufficient lighting.


The use of CCTV in hotel parking lots has grown dramatically in recent years due its perceived ability to deter and detect crime, and its relative lower cost as compared to a 24/7 human security team. Not all criminals are deterred by cameras. The design and installation of a CCTV system should be performed by an individual within the organization who possesses the necessary background and skill set to do so, or an outside consultant.

The selection of the appropriate technology and equipment, and its placement is critical to the system's ability to protect the property. Digital systems are fast becoming the standard. The cost of a digital system is becoming more and more reasonable, and new technology such as IP and megapixel cameras can actually reduce the overall cost of the system by eliminating wiring and the number of cameras necessary, as well as providing extremely clear imagery.

Providing effective CCTV coverage of the parking lot requires proper planning and consideration of the conditions the system will work in, and how the system will be monitored. Camera coverage of the entire area should be seriously considered. If you are unable to cover the entire area, then the identification and coverage of critical areas such as: entry/exit points to the lot and property buildings, areas hidden from view, and remote areas, should be covered.

Lighting is also very important. Placing a camera in a dark area won't do any good, if you can't see the image live or after an incident. Ensure you use the appropriate technology for the situation such as infrared or even night vision cameras to monitor the area. Criminals are extremely adept at locating the one area that isn't properly covered and/or is using ineffective equipment. Make sure you don't have such a hole in your defense.

The installation should be a hybrid of fixed cameras and pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras depending on the facility design. The fixed cameras will cover the designated areas on a dedicated basis, and the PTZ's are used to patrol the lot, and are brought to bear during a live incident. If a CCTV system is installed, it should be monitored by a trained employee at the location or at the very least, from a remote location, again by a trained employee. Little is accomplished (and little, if any, security provided) when an expensive CCTV system is installed but not monitored. In some hotel environments interior monitoring is required by night desk personnel. A simple log of frequent viewing of the cameras located in the parking areas will also go a long way to prove someone was monitoring. A CCTV system recording however does have investigative value from a documentation standpoint post incident.

The cost of the system and how it will be monitored must both be considered in order to provide effective security of a parking area.

Local Law enforcement

An often underutilized tool available to hotels is your local police department which normally has a crime prevention specialist that can help you with basic crime prevention concepts to include Crime Prevention through Environmental design (CPTED) principals in lighting, CCTV, natural surveillance, perimeters, landscaping and much more at no cost to you. A simple request can save expense and document by letter a proprietor's desire to improve the security of their premises.

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This article was co-authored by Derk Boss. Mr. Boss is currently Director of Surveillance for Casino Aztar in Evansville, Indiana. He is also a respected author, instructor, and speaker, specializing in the fields of surveillance training and methodology, gaming protection, loss prevention, and the detection of internal and external theft and fraud. Mr. Boss has appeared as an expert on several television networks, including the Travel Channel; and his technical articles have appeared in dozens of professional journals, including Security Management magazine, which is published by ASIS International. ASIS International is the largest organization for security professionals with more than 36,000 members worldwide. As a speaker, he has been featured at several international conferences, including the Global Gaming Exposition, Gaming Operation Summit, and Biometric Summit. Currently, he serves on the Gaming and Wagering Council for ASIS International and is the chairman of that council; and president of the International Association of Certified Surveillance Professionals, another respected organization of gaming surveillance personnel. In addition to being a licensed private investigator with close to three decades of experience, Mr. Boss has served as corporate vice president of surveillance and compliance officer for American Casino and Entertainment Properties; director of surveillance for Bally's Gambling Hall (Tunica, Miss.); director of surveillance for Aztar Corporation's Ramada Express (Laughlin, Nev.); director of surveillance for Tropicana Las Vegas; surveillance manager for Ramada Express (Laughlin, NV); and surveillance agent for Del Webb Corporation's Nevada Club (Laughlin). Mr. Boss is a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Protection Professional (CPP), and Certified Surveillance Professional (CSP).

Alan W. Zajic, CPP, CSP, CFE is a Nevada licensed, Board Certified independent security consultant specializing in hospitality, gaming, nightclubs and retail security environments primarily in Nevada. He has over 35 years of practical hands on experience in security and surveillance operations to include Security Director for the Sahara Tahoe and High Sierra resorts in Lake Tahoe as well as corporate security for Del E. Web, Corp. in Nevada. Mr. Zajic is a member of ASIS International where he holds the designation of Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and is currently a Council Vice President with oversight of the Hospitality, Entertainment and Tourism Security Council, Gaming and Wagering Protection Council and the Investigations Council. He is actively involved in the Northern Nevada and Las Vegas Chapters as well as the international security community. He was awarded the ASIS International “Outstanding Council Chairman of the year” for 2010. Mr. Zajic is a member of the International Association of Certified Surveillance Professionals (IACSP) where he holds the designation of Certified Surveillance Professional (CSP) and is a member of the International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC). He is also a subject matter expert and Track Advisor for the American Gaming Association. Mr. Zajic can be contacted at 775-835-0500 or alanwzajic@aol.com Extended Bio...

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