Crime can occur anywhere and there is no guaranteed way to prevent it. But property owners have the legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent assaults and other crimes on their property.
Victims may, in some circumstances, hold property owners liable for negligent security in a personal injury lawsuit if a violent offense occurred at their property. Property owners are negligent if they did not take reasonable steps to provide a safe environment to their customers, residents, or guests.
Negligent security may involve:
- Insufficient lighting, especially in parking lots, stairwells, and hallways
- Inadequate locks
- Unimpeded access
- Absence of cameras
- Broken security equipment
- Insufficient, poorly trained or incompetent security guards
- Poorly supervised employees
- Failing to take measures to prevent excessive drinking in the hospitality industry
The duty of care is not the same for every property and depends on the property or business. For example, a hotel or assisted living facility that is always open and has overnight guests have a higher duty of care than a retail store with limited hours.
Property owners may also face additional liability in certain circumstances. Failure to address previous crimes that occurred on premises or in their industry, ignoring warnings or failure to address risks from crime in their neighborhood may increase their liability.
To prevent crime and liability for offenses that occur, property and business owners must take reasonable precautions. These include:
- Employing on-site security staff and assuring they comply with current policies and procedures
- Keeping security apparatus in good working order and up to date
- Training all staff in security and procedures for dangerous situations
- Engaging in routine inspections of lighting, stairs, windows, and doors
- Controlling access
- Having properly maintained landscaping to eliminate hiding places
- Investigating all threats of crime
- Having an emergency call list
- Performing background checks on staff
Victims of violent crime may need legal assistance. Attorneys can help determine whether the property owner or business was negligent and file a premises liability lawsuit if appropriate.