The United States has suffered a disturbing rise in violent crime since 2020. For the first half of 2021, for example, the number of homicides rose by 16% from that same time in 2020 and by 42% since 2019. Aggravated assault rose by 9% and gun assaults increased by 5%. Unfortunately, many of these crimes have occurred on someone’s property.
Negligent premises security
Victims of a violent crime on someone’s property can hold the property owner legally liable for negligent security. Property owners or tenants are negligent if they do not meet their duty of care of providing a safe environment for their customers, clients, residents or visitors.
Examples of safety lapses or negligence include:
- Inadequate lighting
- Absence of security guards
- Security personnel who do not perform their jobs competently
- Deficient locks or other security equipment
Property owners have different standards of care, depending on their type of business or what occurs on their property. A retail store, for example, may have a lower obligation of care than a facility that is always open, such as a hotel or nursing home.
By taking these prevention measures, property owners may reduce their liability for a crime on their property. Failure to take these and other precautions, however, could increase owner liability.
Reasonable precautions usually include:
- On-site security personnel who are trained on the latest policies and procedures.
- Up-to-date and operable security equipment.
- Training all employees on security and addressing potential dangers.
- Regular inspections of illumination, stairs, windows and doors.
- Properly maintained landscaping to reduce hiding places.
- Awareness of neighborhood crime and safety and incorporating concerns in property security.
- Resolving problems that caused other crimes or incidents on the property.
Negligent security cases may involve substantial investigation and settlement costs for property owners. However, most cases settle and do not go to trial.
Inadequate parking lot security cases in Georgia, for example, led to substantial jury verdicts. CVS and Kroger were liable for $43 million while Dekalb County was liable for $69.6 million.
Attorneys can help victims of crime gather evidence and consider their rights. They can represent their interests in negotiations and court proceedings.