Gritty Crime and the Parking Garage
Parking vs. Pop Culture is a series of articles dedicated to significant parking references found in pop culture. The winner, either parking or pop culture, will be determined by whether the parking ended as a positive or negative experience in the particular pop culture reference.
In the movies and on television, parking garage drug deals, chases, murders and muggings are commonplace. You probably have such a cinematic incident in mind already. An entire book could be written on crime in parking facilities found in pop culture.
Let’s look at some examples in popular movies and on TV shows in just the past decade:
2001: In the Employee of the Month episode from HBO’s “The Sopranos,” a doctor is attacked, beaten and raped in a parking garage.
2002 : In the film “The Bourne Identity,” Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) escapes agents by hiding out in a parking garage.
2003: In the Mr. Monk Goes to the Ballgame episode from USA Network’s “Monk,” a CEO and his wife are murdered one night in a deserted parking lot.
2004: In the 2004 film “Collateral,” a contract killer chases a cab driver through a parking garage.
2006: In the Happenstance episode from “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” on CBS, a happily married mother, who was simply dropping off her dry cleaning, is fatally shot in a parking lot.
2007: In the Dumb Luck episode from TNT’s “The Closer,” a personal trainer is found dead in a valet parking lot.
2007: In the horror film “P2,” a businesswoman is pursued by a psychopath after being locked in a underground parking garage on Christmas Eve.
2009: In the Hopeless episode of “Criminal Minds” on CBS, a young couple are killed in a parking lot outside a restaurant.
2009: In the Memo from the Dark Side episode of NBC’s “Law & Order,” a young war veteran is found murdered in a university’s faculty parking garage.
2010: In the Special Delivery episode of “NCIS: Los Angeles” on CBS, a Marine with a high security clearance is found dead in a Beverly Hills parking facility.
2011: In the Key to the City episode of ABC’s “Detroit 1-8-7,” an assistant prosecutor is shot dead in a courthouse parking garage.
This selected list is just from the past decade, but crime scenes in pop culture have been around for as long as TV and the movies have been. From the ‘30s with Fritz Lang’s “M” to the ‘70s with the “Dirty Harry” movies, parking facilities and crime seem to go hand in hand.
There is an inside joke among parking professionals: If you want to put an end to crime, then simply close all parking facilities.
Take a minute to think about the last time a murder took place in one of the parking garages you operate or work in. For 99% of us, nothing comes to mind. We may have had a suicide jumper or been a victim to vehicle break-ins, but a violent crime as depicted in almost every primetime mystery television show? Nothing.
This is not to say that violent crime never takes place in parking facilities, because unfortunately it does. But thanks to pop culture, the public’s general perception is that one is more likely to be a victim of violent crime in a parking facility than in any other location.
Are we missing something? Could these scenes of crime taking place in parking facilities be as commonplace as pop culture depicts it?
A study conducted by Mary Smith of Walker Parking Consultants, using the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) shows that just 8.2% of violent crimes in 2005 occurred in parking facilities. As a comparison, 38% occurred at or near one’s residence. And the most likely place to be a victim of violent crime was in the public realm (i.e., in a transit station or vehicle, on a street near one’s residence, or at a playground, field or park).
The likelihood of being a victim of a violent crime in a parking facility is about two in a million. There is even more good news – violent crime in parking facilities is declining, and in 2005, it was down by more than 40% from the decade prior. Smith concludes: “One is about twice as likely to be a victim of violent crime in the destination served as compared to being in the parking facility serving the destination.”
We asked several parking professionals their opinions on why they think violent crime is down significantly from the past decade.
Barbara Chance of Chance Management Advisors, said: “Parking garages have had an undeserved bad name as locations for crime. Better garage designs by parking professionals (using principles such as those found in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design), improved and appropriate lighting, and more attention to the needs of pedestrians have helped to reduce crime and improve perceptions of the environment found in well-designed garages.”
Gary Means, CAPP, Executive Director of the Lexington & Fayette County (KY) Parking Authority, referenced a recent study in Lexington showing that there was actually less crime in downtown than in the suburbs.
“People who don’t frequent our downtowns generally have a sense that there is more crime downtown, especially in parking garages; however, that is typically not the case,” Means said. “In my opinion, better lighting and solid security measures are a must, but the real benefit is lots of public activity.
“Over the past decade, many downtowns have made a significant comeback in levels of activity, especially in the entertainment and nightlife areas,” Means said, “and I would see this as a crucial reason for a decrease in violent crimes in parking facilities.”
Even with violent crime in parking facilities at a decrease and the proactive measures parking professionals are taking to ensure customer safety and security, Parking still loses this round to Pop Culture. People will never stop watching TV or going to movies, and every time they do, they will be reminded of the sinister serial killer lurking in the dark, secluded parking garage.
So we have an idea: Let’s make a movie, produced by Parking Today, in which the parking garage wins. Our hero is a parking attendant, who after saving numerous careless victims of street crime, looks the victims in the eye and says, “Next time, park in a parking garage.”
Isaiah Mouw, who works for Republic Parking System, can be contacted at email@example.com. Ben Bronsink, Co-Founder of
snobbyreviews.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.