• Center for Problem oriented policing

Summary of Responses to Thefts of and From Cars in Parking Facilities

The table below summarizes the responses to thefts of and from cars in parking facilities, the mechanisms by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different measures. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Recommended Responses 
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
1Hiring parking attendants Improves surveillance of facilities, especially at entrances and exits…the facility's perimeter is secure, so those who enter and exit must pass the attendant, and the attendant booth is designed to facilitate surveillanceExpensive; usually justified only in large facilities; effective in reducing theft of cars—less so for theft from cars
2Improving surveillance at deck and lot entrances/exitsIncreases thieves' risk of detection entering and leavingthe facility's perimeter is secureMethods include improving the lighting, removing signs and other obstructions, and encouraging vendors to set up shop near entrances and exits
3Hiring dedicated security patrols Increases thieves' risk of getting caught in the actpatrols are frequent but random, and guards are trained to deal with thieves and can communicate by radio with policeExpensive; may be feasible only for a large facility or group of facilities; bike patrols seem especially useful
4Installing and monitoring CCTV Increases thieves' risk of getting caught in the act; filmed incidents can aid investigators; reduces fear among facility usersthe CCTV system is tailored to the facility; the monitors are constantly watched; the system includes public address capability; and the lighting is adequateEven quite sophisticated CCTV systems are becoming inexpensive; many specialist vendors exist; dummy cameras should not be used
5Improving the lighting Improves natural surveillance and reduces fearmany thefts occur at night or in poorly lit parts of the facilityAll parking facilities should be well lit; relatively high running costs
6Securing the perimeter Stops thieves from entering lots on foot; prevents thieves from driving cars off lotsexits and entrances are manned, and fences cannot be easily scaled or breachedInstallation costs can be high, but maintenance costs are generally low; in many cases, existing fences have gaps that should be blocked
7Installing entrance barriers and electronic access Prevents thieves from entering by car or leaving with a stolen carthe facility's perimeter is secureMost effective when combined with improved surveillance of entrances/exits
8Adopting rating systems for security features Comprehensive package serves to control access and improve surveillancea group of facilities is to be upgradedRequires police to inspect facilities and issue certificates of compliance; may require local ordinances to enforce
9Arresting and prosecuting persistent offendersIntended to deter thievesa small group of offenders is responsible for a large share of the problem; the jurisdiction has a community prosecution unit; and judges are alert to business owners' concerns about the crimes' economic impactFew car thieves worry about punishment, but one important study found some benefits in arresting persistent offenders
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
10Conducting lock-your-car campaigns Intended to reduce theft opportunitiesSuch campaigns have public relations benefits, but evaluations have found little discernible impact on the problem
11Warning offendersIntended to raise thieves' fear of apprehensionOffenders believe they will not get caught if they take precautions
12Promoting car alarms and other "bolt-on" security devices Intended to increase thieves' risk of getting caught and the difficulty of committing theftThe main result of this measure may be to displace thefts to unprotected cars in the facility; consequently, there is little overall benefit for police
13Using decoy vehicles Intended to entice offenders and assist in their arrestarrestees are interviewed to gain knowledge of motivations for and methods of theftPopular with police and the public, but may be of no more value than conventional stakeouts
14Redirecting joyriders' interest in cars Intended to challenge attitudes and provide offenders with opportunities to engage in more constructive activitiesEvaluations of these schemes have found little success in reducing joyriding