The Safer Parking Initiative is a crime prevention program being piloted in Edmonton by the Neighbourhood Empowerment Team. The mandate of the Initiative is to improve the reality and perception of safety and security in parking facilities, and therefore, deterring criminal activity and anti-social behaviour. Based on Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles and sound management practices, parking facilities are assessed for ways in which they may be vulnerable to crime and disorder. Recommendations are made to mitigate these risks and improve safety. This program has been operating in Vancouver since 2008 with over 50 awarded facilities, with an average 47% decrease in crime in their first year.
Many owners and operators also speak of the benefits in participating and investing money into their facilities. In the United Kingdom where the program originated as Park Mark, there are over 5,000 parking facilities participating after nearly twenty-five years of the program’s presence.
The Safer Parking Initiative assesses the safety of parking facilities and grants awards to facilities that meet regulatory safety standards. Once awarded, a facility is recognized through media and promotional opportunities. This exposure and notoriety can encourage new users and increase patrons’ perceptions of value for use – ultimately increasing profitability.
Background and History
In October of 2013, the Southwest Neighbourhood Empowerment Team was redeployed to the Queen Alexandra community; south of 82 Avenue to 70 Avenue and 104 Street westward to 109 Street. After analysing crime data, we easily determined that thefts from vehicles would be a main focus. Not only did this crime indicator continue to be a persistent problem in the city, it also increased 137% between 2012 and 2013. As we researched strategies to address the issue and began writing a SARA, we identified Park Mark, which aimed to reduce crime and fear in parking facilities.
Late in 2013, we connected with Park Mark operators in the United Kingdom and were redirected to Vancouver. Canadian Direct Insurance and the Vancouver Police Department had purchased the license to implement the program in 2007 under the name Safer Parking Initiative.
What is the Safer Parking Initiative?
Parking lot owners voluntarily have their facilities evaluated by a trained assessor who makes recommendations to improve safety based on the following criteria:
- Lighting and paint
- Maintenance and cleanliness
- Entrance and exit points
- Management practices
- Crime statistics and risk analysis
- Facility design
- Boundary and perimeter treatment
A facility that does not pass the initial evaluation is then coached towards accreditation by the assessor. Once accredited, parking facilities receive signage and are promoted by all media related to the initiative.
Safer Parking Initiative (SPI) Parking Lot Recommendations
Parking below or above ground in a multi-storied parkade is one of the major safety and security concerns in urban areas. Poor design, isolation, lack of lighting and maintenance lead to parkades being perceived as an area with potential safety risks. Managing risk and ensuring the safety of patrons is a significant concern for responsible parking facility owners and operators. Therefore, the following areas are important when seeking to obtain SPI accreditation:
Signs and Information
Large, bold signage should be displayed at the vehicle and pedestrian entrances of the parking lot showing its name and address. It is also recommended to have the name and address in large lettering in a highly visible area on each level of a parkade.
Wayfinding signage should be placed on all doors, elevators, or other entry/exit points leading to and from the parking area, allowing patrons to understand their location and better orient themselves when in a parking facility. This signage includes information about the floor level and section of the parking area, the street name or area the door leads to, and any other relevant information that will affect the patron when leaving and returning. The same signage should be placed in connecting hallways and stairwells to give clear directions to specific locations.
Signage for vehicles should be clearly visible, especially for the vehicle driver, and should include such information as the parking level, directions of travel, parking areas, and entry/exits. Directional signage should also be accompanied by arrows on the ground indicating direction of travel and whether it is one or two-way traffic to further help guide drivers throughout the facility. If necessary, speed limits and speed bumps should be placed on long thoroughfares to guide vehicle speed.
Ensure disabled parking stalls are clearly visible with both wall and floor signage so that enforcement can be taken for misuse.
Lighting is extremely important in parking areas. A well-lit parking area gives patrons and employees a clear view throughout the facility. Good lighting is bright and even throughout and eliminates any areas of shade in the deepest recesses of the lot. This creates a feeling or perception of safety for legitimate users while making people with intentions of engaging in disorderly or criminal conduct feel exposed. LED lighting works very well while remaining energy efficient. Lighting experts should be consulted when constructing new parking areas or making renovations to existing areas.
Painting in the Parking Area
White reflective paint is recommended on the walls, pillars, and ceiling of indoor and underground parking lots. This paint increases the effectiveness of lighting in a parking area. Reflective textured and light-coloured surfaces on the parking lot roadways also assist in brightening parking areas. Reflective or glossy paint is easy to clean following winter and is less likely to stain from oil spills and other messes. It looks clean, professional, and well-maintained giving a strong sense of ownership. It is recommended that structures such as pillars, columns, and protruding walls be painted bright yellow from the ground up four or six feet. This creates depth and contrast in an otherwise purely white background – helping to prevent minor collisions in lots.
Stalls must be clearly marked and numbered to assist patrons in locating their vehicles when returning to the parking area. Each level and section should be clearly marked to assist with wayfinding.
Stairwells and Hallways
Stairwells and hallways should be painted in bright colours and have bright lighting. Much like the parking area, white reflective paint is recommended. Stairwell floors should have an easy to clean finish along with a texture or covering to help prevent slipping. A bright paint on the edge of the steps and on the railings also assists in preventing tripping accidents. In stairwells, hallways, and alcoves with blind corners, convex mirrors should be installed to alert legitimate users and potential hazards when moving through them. If a stairwell is located on the exterior of a building, it is recommended that the walls facing out from the building be made of glass. Glass stairwells give excellent natural surveillance to people in them or on the street looking at them leaving illegitimate users feeling exposed.
Parking lots, specifically parkades, that are designed well have very good natural surveillance. The more open and well-lit a parking area is, the easier it is to spot potential threats or problems. Consider using designs when building new parking areas that have an open, clear view of the majority of the parking level. If there are blind spots on driveways or in stairwells, convex mirrors can be used to assist with visibility.
Security cameras are recommended in parking areas and stairwells along with signage that advises the equipment is in operation. This is, however, just a recommendation – it will not influence achieving SPI accreditation.
Doors not leading directly to the outside should be covered with at least 50% wired glass. Other doors should have smaller glass windows to allow legitimate users to see into an area before entering it to further increase safety and reaction time if there is a problem.
Elevator lobbies should be enclosed by glass if possible. This provides good visibility to patrons coming and going. This also allows light to pass through making the area brighter.
In the event that a parkade has automatic doors, it is recommended that they close within three to five seconds after a vehicle passes through. This prevents illegitimate users from following a car into the facility on foot.
Pedestrian access is sometimes difficult to control. Consider using a barcode scanner that legitimate users will obtain after paying for parking to control re-entry into the facility. If there is room, consider using painted or raised pedestrian walkways to keep pedestrians off the vehicle driveways.
Pay-stations should be oriented in a fashion that allows the user to observe the majority of the parking area or placed with a protective barrier to prevent potential attacks. Many pay-stations are placed against a wall leaving patrons vulnerable when paying for parking.
- The following are some added features placed in parking facilities for the comfort and benefit of patrons:
- Wall-mounted window washing stations
- Charging stalls for electric vehicles.
- Tire pumps within the parkade free for patrons.
- Quality bicycle racks.
- Emergency stations with a talk box linked to a security office.
- Colour-coded levels in the parking area and stairwells.
Constable John Beatson Reg. 3356
Edmonton Police Service