What is an Operator’s Role in Facility Security?
By Kathy Phillips
What role do parking lot owners have relative to security for non-owned operations?
Certainly, valet services do not have a primary or direct role in securing a facility, and a parking lot attendant is certainly not a licensed security guard. However, you and your employees may have a role in helping to reduce vandalism and/or theft.
Security studies reveal that 80% of criminal acts occur at the respective parking lots of shopping centers, strip malls and business offices. Therefore, it is the responsibility of parking lot owners to ensure reasonable care, security services, cameras and surveillance, and lighting. Even piped-in music has been proven to help.
But what role do parking operators play? What liability, if any, do you bear? And how can you assist your business partners in an effort to deter crime, improve security and provide a safe atmosphere for your customers?
Most significantly, parking lot valet and attendants, while not licensed as security and therefore not directly liable, can help to create a safer, more secure environment by addressing some simple but significant signs.
Instruct your employees to look for or report the following to the owners:
• Dark hidden spots within the parking structures, garages, etc.
• High shrubs, trees and/or foliage that create issues with visibility or reduce lighting.
• Graffiti on the premises or on neighboring businesses.
• Loitering or evidence of loitering due to concentrated trash, cigarette butts, empty alcohol or other containers.
• Unusual or suspicious activities on or near the property.
You have no doubt taken steps to prevent fraud and curtail robberies at your locations: installed video cameras, purchased the latest registers and secured your cash in a new safe.
Yet there is another scheme to keep a watch for — skimming. Employees and third parties could use credit card skimmers to steal from you and your customers. Skimming is a crime that involves grabbing the data off a customer’s credit card at the point of sale and using that data to manufacture counterfeit credit cards.
How to minimize the risk of being skimmed
Here are three simple tips:
1. Be aware of the security around the point-of-sale terminal. Use serialized security strips over all access doors on the terminals you wish to protect.
2. Make sure the terminals are left in a secure location. This might include bringing credit card terminals into a secured office during non-operational hours.
3. Record the serial numbers of all terminals. Frequently inspect to ensure all serial numbers are correct.
What should you do if there is an incident?
1. Take the terminal offline to discontinue any more transactions.
2. Have a technician identify the device, but do not remove or touch it. If there is no device, get it in writing from the tech and restart the dispenser.
3. Call the police to inspect. Remember, this is a crime scene, and the perpetrators are probably doing the same thing to other retailers in the general area. Let the police handle this; also, the Secret Service and FBI are frequently involved in large cases. After the investigation, ask for a dated police report.
Take preventive measures to protect your clients and your business
If it hasn’t happened to you, you most likely have heard of a valet service having a car stolen. How can you prevent it from happening to you? The best way is by following specific preventive measures. These suggestions will help you develop a preventive process:
1. Prior to hiring, perform background checks on your prospective employees. Take precautionary steps to ensure that they are clear of any criminal background and, when possible, get references. Although background checks are only a step in the screening process, they can provide important information on whom not to hire.
2. Even non-registered criminals when presented with an opportunity, can find it difficult to resist the temptation of an expensive vehicle, particularly with many people struggling financially. Therefore, instruct your employees to follow a careful ticket procedure. Consider the valet ticket is the same as a car key.
What happens if your client loses a valet ticket inside the restaurant? Can someone else take it to the attendant, get into a car and drive away? Unfortunately, in many cases, yes. Oftentimes, all that is needed to claim the car is the valet ticket. This is a major flaw in the ticketing procedure.
Even in the fast-paced environment of a valet service, it is a good idea to train your employees to obtain the customer’s name and write it on the ticket kept at the valet’s location. Obtaining the driver’s identity at the drop off and validating it upon the return is as simple as jotting the last name of the customer on the back of the ticket and asking the driver’s name before handing over the keys.
3. Consider added theft prevention by recommending to your guests that all remote controls, keys, and items containing personal information be either removed or secured within the vehicle. There have been reported cases of robbery where the means of entrance was a combination of a home address on a letter and a garage door opener. These items, although normal to have in a car, might prove a big problem for you down the road. How about posting a sign at the valet station suggesting that personal items, such as mail, extra keys, garage openers, etc., should be locked or secured prior to relinquishing a car.
Kathy Phillips, CIC, CPP, is First Vice President of Alliant Insurance Services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article Abstract from October, 2010