How Safe Are Parking Lots?
Gil Fried, Professor, University of New Haven
The Bureau of Justice Statistics has indicated that more than 7% of violent attacks occur in parking facilities (Fickes, 2016). Whether tailgating, assaults or other issues, facility managers need to more proactively manage risks in parking lots. There are a number of liability cases where spectators have recovered for their injuries in a parking lot outside a stadium. In a recent case, a San Francisco Giant’s fan was attacked in the parking lot of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The game was a highly spirited opening game of the season between the two rivals. Mr. Stow was viciously attacked after the game when heading towards his car by some intoxicated thugs. The case drew significant media attention and resulted in a $13 million verdict against the Dodgers’ prior owner (Fried, 2015).
Over the past couple years, the number of incidents occurring in stadium and arena parking lots has dramatically increased in the United States. Some recent examples include:
- In August 2011 two men were shot and wounded in the Candlestick Park parking lot after a preseason night football game (Goldfine, 2011).
- In 2013, Jonathan Denver, 24, was fatally stabbed in a fight outside AT&T Park in San Francisco after a game between the Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers (Gomez and Melvin, 2013).
- In December 2013, in the same parking lot, a man died during a confrontation during the Chiefs’ game against the Denver Broncos. (Associated Press, 2014).
- Several weeks’ later at least three people were stabbed in a parking lot at the Denver Broncos’ stadium after a night game, allegedly stemming from a fight over a near fender-bender (ESPN 2013).
- Another fan, was shot in the head in Lot 10 outside AT&T Stadium around an hour and a half after the Dallas Cowboys lost to the New England Patriots. The shooting in 2015 was disturbing for a number of reasons, one being that the shooter was being encouraged by others to shoot (Hensley, 2015).
These examples show that fights or confrontations in a parking lot are not so unusual. Whenever there are numerous people moving around, excited or upset about a game’s outcome, possibly intoxicated, and faced with the prospects of waiting for up to an hour or more to exit a parking lot…tempers can be high. That is why any crowd management, risk management, or security plan needs to analyze conditions outside a stadium or arena as much as inside.
Some strategies to help reduce the risk of threats in parking lots include:
- Using crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) process to improve the line of sight, remove trees/bushes, buildings and other obstructions that makes it more difficult to see what is going on in the parking lot.
- Appropriate lighting is needed to minimize dark areas and improve visibility.
- Training all those who will work in the parking area to serve as eyes and ears to address all violations of policies, interact with fans to make sure they know there is a security presence, spot disturbances and intervene as quickly as possible, monitoring as much at the end of the game as at the start of the game, and watch for vandalism/theft issues as examples.
- Having enough people patrolling the lots in various vehicles such as on foot, bikes, golf carts, and other vehicles to effectively maneuver around vehicles and people.
- Have at least one elevated viewing platform for police or security if the lot is large enough to warrant such a structure.
- Have enough high-resolution CCTV positioned to effectively monitor the parking lot and record any disturbances.
- Schedule a pre-season meeting with all parties (officials, police, security, etc..) to get everyone on the same page, and have regular debriefings to discuss what is going right as well as what steps can be taken to correct any potential problems.
- Communicate safety strategies with fans through fliers, scoreboard, public address, and other means.
- Some parking facilities are experimenting with parking lots dedicated to families and women to help provide a safer environment (Mosebar, 2015).
There can be no guarantee that a facility will be 100% safe. If there have been past instances of assaults, crimes, etc… then a facility is on notice that such actions can occur. That is where facilities can face significant liability. Thus, sport facilities need to monitor what is going on in their parking lots and undertake some of the strategies mentioned above to reduce the chance of future assaults and possible liability. There is no magic formula as to what needs to be done, but the more strategies that are used and that can be proven, the better defense a facility can have if they get sued.
Bearman v. University of Notre Dame (453 N.E.2d 1196 (1983).
Fickes, M. (2016, September). 9 keys to building security. Buildings, 30-34.
Fried, G. (2015). Lessons from Stow. Connecticut Lawyer 26 (3) 18-20.
Goldfine, S. (2011). Security burns brighter at Candlestick Park. Security Sales & Integration 33 (12) 40-44.
Mosebar, J. 92015). Parking spaces. Security-Today 19 (9) 75-77.