Fear of Parking

By Randy I. Atlas, CPP


CCTV cameras should be placed in areas with constant light (daylight or luminaries) to provide proper illumination for the lens. Low-light cameras can be used, but they are more expensive and represent a tacit admission that lighting conditions might be poor.

Cameras should be placed to achieve an unhindered view of the area. On surface parking lots, cameras should have good lines of sight and cover as much ground as possible. The cameras should be protected within dark polycarbonate domes. Cameras with this feature are less likely to be vandalized. The dark domes also help obscure where the cameras are directed.

CCTV systems in parking facilities need to be monitored in real time and digitally recorded for playback and enhancement. Cameras should be color, rather than black and white, to make it easier to identify specific vehicles and persons, especially in the playback mode. The use of color can make a significant difference if a crime occurs and the garage operators want to recover important evidence.

Panic-button call boxes should be integrated with the video surveillance system, allowing a camera to be activated when a call box is pushed. CCTV systems can also be integrated into the access control system so that license plate numbers can be entered into a log when vehicles enter or exit the parking facility.


Without good lighting, CCTV systems become relatively useless and natural surveillance is impaired. Lighting in garages is addressed in detail in the IESNA G-1-03 security lighting guidelines.

The guidelines generally recommend lighting levels of 5 to 6 foot-candles in gathering areas such as stairs, elevators, and ramps. Walkways around garages should be about 5 foot-candles. A minimum of 3 foot-candles should be used in open parking lots, such as in retail shopping areas, as well as in parking lots for hotels, motels, and apartment buildings.

Entrances should have 10 foot-candles of lighting or twice the level of lighting in the surrounding area to make them stand out and increase visibility. Perimeter fencing should have at least one-half foot-candle of average horizontal illumination on both sides to reduce hiding spots.

The height of the light fixtures makes a difference in the ability of pedestrians to see past the shadows caused by the cars and other obstructions naturally occurring in parking lots. Typical light poles are 30 to 45 feet high and cast a wide swath of lighting, but they create deep shadows between cars. Lighting that is in the 12-to-14-foot range casts light that will go through the glass of cars and reflect off the cars, which can dramatically reduce shadows and dark spots. Ideally, an open parking lot should have a combination of high and low lighting to provide maximum coverage and maximum visibility, with minimum shadows and hiding opportunities.

The interior of parking garages should be painted in light colors to increase reflectivity of the luminaries. Luminaries should use polycarbonate lenses for vandal and break resistance. Maintenance protocol should be established to ensure that damaged lights are repaired and that burned out bulbs are replaced in a timely manner; there should be a schedule for replacing existing bulbs based on their known life expectancy.

One innovative measure taken by a garage in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was to paint the ceiling in white circles that reflected the light from the luminaries. The ceilings of this garage were higher than most, which allowed better light distribution by reflection and refraction of light.

Guardhouses and paths to garages must be illuminated to provide clear and unobstructed mobility paths. Lighting should be approximately 3 foot-candles to allow visibility of persons from at least 30 feet away, with an average-to-minimum uniformity ratio not to exceed 4:1.

When selecting bulbs, garage owners or operators should be aware of the color rendition of the type of lighting selected. The color rendering index (CRI) is used as the measure for the light source to accurately reproduce the true color of an object.

The current lighting source of choice by most CPTED practitioners is metal halide because of a lamp life of approximately 20,000 hours and a CRI of 90 out of 100. Their bright white sparkling light accurately portrays the color of cars, clothes, and people.

Low-pressure sodium vapor (LPSV) lamps typically last about 50,000 hours and are the most energy efficient lamps, but a CRI of 0 makes everything yellow or brown. This means that LPSV lamps are less than ideal for crime scene details. LPSV lamps have been used extensively in Canada and by some cities in the United States on highways and bridges, and in airport parking lots. LPSV are also used in industrial applications for night parking. But these parking applications do not have the same crime prevention issues as the typical commercial parking facility.

Some garages do not have cameras, so they do not need to worry about color rendition for recording images. If they do want to record camera footage, however, the type of source light is an important decision. Garages and parking lots have commonly used high-pressure sodium vapor (HPSV) lamps and mercury vapor lamps because they are commercially available, used commonly on roadways and highways, and less expensive than metal halide.

Their lamp life is, however, not as long as metal halide and color rendition does not provide the full color spectrum of metal halide. When long bulb life and full color spectrum are important, HPSV and mercury vapor lamps are not as good a choice as metal halide, especially if the garage is using color CCTV, which does better with full spectrum light.

There is not one right lighting solution for all facilities. The CPTED approach allows for diversity in lighting, based on a risk and threat assessment and a clear understanding of what experience the garage owner seeks for the user.



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