Negligent security is a form of premises liability, in which an owner or operator of property can be held liable for injuries that occur on their property. Most negligent security cases boil down to two major issues that involve foreseeability and preventability:
(1) 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. 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.
(2) 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 likely target; and (b) the absence of any deterrent, such as a guard or detection device; and of course, (c) a potential offender.
- 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.
Crime prevention involves hiring an expert with an eye toward strategically placing or protecting ingress/egress points, landscaping, lighting, fencing, that maximizes visibility and communicates control of an area of concern. The idea is to, when possible, manipulate the environment to reduce or increase such factors as necessary.
It is a commercial-property owner’s responsibility to consider these variables when risk factors present themselves.
Jason Neufeld, a University of Miami School of Law graduate, is an associate with Neufeld, Kleinberg Pinkiert, PA (www.nkplaw.com) If you would like to speak to an attorney, please call 1-800-379-TEAM (8326) and ask for Jason Neufeld, or email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.