Most negligent security cases boil down to two major issues that involve foreseeability and preventability:
- Was the event foreseeable?
While not all crimes can be reasonably anticipated, many can and are. The history of a particular area can be an incredibly accurate predictor of future criminal activity in that same area. A corollary to this concept is that criminal/security-related events that occur in one type of property (based on a variety of circumstances) may be more likely to occur at similar types of properties – in different locations. For example, a single developer/owner may own several apartment complexes located in different towns, but of the same or similar design structure, security features, and that cater to folks with similar price sensitivities. If a pattern of break-ins occurs in one location, I would argue that it would be negligent and careless for the owner/developer not to take preventative action to reduce the chances of similar activity occurring in their other locations.
Our firm digs deeper and will pull police-incident reports, crime grids, police calls for service reports, subpoena internal property owner reports, security/maintenance company reports, investigate ordinance violations, etc… A respected study conducted by Spelman et al, Crime Analysis concludes that police-calls-for-service reports are a highly accurate predictor of future criminal activity. Pulling police reports involving similar crimes at the location-in-question will allow us to interview plenty of other people (i.e. prior victims, witnesses) that are motivated to talk to plaintiff’s attorneys to force defendants to finally take action to prevent the offending activity to occur in the future.
- Was the event preventable?
Crime-prevention experts are likely to rely on the Routine Activity Theory and Rational Choice Theory.
- Routine Activity Theory states that crime occurs at a place when there is an intersection of: (a) a motivated offender; (b) a likely target; and (c) the absence of any deterrent, such as a guard or detection device.
- Rational Choice Theory simply states that criminals commit their bad acts when the perceived benefits outweigh the perceived risks. So someone with an interest in preventing criminal activity should look to: (i) increase the perceived difficulty of carrying out a crime; (ii) reduce the perceived reward of that crime; and (iii) increase the perceived risks involved. The idea is to, when possible, manipulate the environment to reduce or increase such factors as applicable.
The Illuminating Engineering Society publishes lighting standards for apartment/condominium residences + garages + other commercial structures. There are also the General Security Risk Assessment Guidelines published by ASIS
- the leading security-industry organizing body that publishes standard practices relating to: security-officer training and selection guidelines, facilities-security guidelines, background-screening guidelines, workplace-violence-prevention guidelines, etc…
Crime prevention involves hiring an expert with an eye toward strategically placing or protecting ingress/egress points, landscaping, lighting, fencing, etc that maximizes visibility and communicates control of an area of concern. It is a commercial-property owner’s responsibility to consider these variables when risk factors present themselves.