Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to thefts of and from cars in parking facilities, the mechanisms by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different measures. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Recommended Responses
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
1 Hiring parking attendants Improves surveillance of facilities, especially at entrances and exits …the facility's perimeter is secure, so those who enter and exit must pass the attendant, and the attendant booth is designed to facilitate surveillance Expensive; usually justified only in large facilities; effective in reducing theft of cars-less so for theft from cars
2 Improving surveillance at deck and lot entrances/exits Increases thieves' risk of detection entering and leaving …the facility's perimeter is secure Methods include improving the lighting, removing signs and other obstructions, and encouraging vendors to set up shop near entrances and exits
3 Hiring dedicated security patrols Increases thieves' risk of getting caught in the act …patrols are frequent but random, and guards are trained to deal with thieves and can communicate by radio with police Expensive; may be feasible only for a large facility or group of facilities; bike patrols seem especially useful
4 Installing and monitoring CCTV Increases thieves' risk of getting caught in the act; filmed incidents can aid investigators; reduces fear among facility users …the CCTV system is tailored to the facility; the monitors are constantly watched; the system includes public address capability; and the lighting is adequate Even quite sophisticated CCTV systems are becoming inexpensive; many specialist vendors exist; dummy cameras should notbe used
5 Improving the lighting Improves natural surveillance and reduces fear …many thefts occur at night or in poorly lit parts of the facility All parking facilities should be well lit; relatively high running costs
6 Securing the perimeter Stops thieves from entering lots on foot; prevents thieves from driving cars off lots …exits and entrances are manned, and fences cannot be easily scaled or breached Installation costs can be high, but maintenance costs are generally low; in many cases, existing fences have gaps that should be blocked
7 Installing entrance barriers and electronic access Prevents thieves from entering by car or leaving with a stolen car …the facility's perimeter is secure Most effective when combined with improved surveillance of entrances/exits
8 Adopting rating systems for security features Comprehensive package serves to control access and improve surveillance …a group of facilities is to be upgraded Requires police to inspect facilities and issue certificates of compliance; may require local ordinances to enforce
9 Arresting and prosecuting persistent offenders Intended to deter thieves …a small group of offenders is responsible for a large share of the problem; the jurisdiction has a community prosecution unit; and judges are alert to business owners' concerns about the crimes' economic impact Few car thieves worry about punishment, but one important study found some benefits in arresting persistent offenders
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
10 Conducting lock- your-car campaigns Intended to reduce theft opportunities   Such campaigns have public relations benefits, but evaluations have found little discernible impact on the problem
11 Warning offenders Intended to raise thieves' fear of apprehension   Offenders believe they will not get caught if they take precautions
12 Promoting car alarms and other "bolt-on" security devices Intended to increase thieves' risk of getting caught and the difficulty of committing theft   The main result of this measure may be to displace thefts to unprotected cars in the facility; consequently, there is little overall benefit for police
13 Using decoy vehicles Intended to entice offenders and assist in their arrest …arrestees are interviewed to gain knowledge of motivations for and methods of theft Popular with police and the public, but may be of no more value than conventional stakeouts
14 Redirecting joyriders' interest in cars Intended to challenge attitudes and provide offenders with opportunities to engage in more constructive activities   Evaluations of these schemes have found little success in reducing joyriding