Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The "Environment Conducive to Criminality"

In most states in the U.S., landlords/proprietors have some basic obligation to provide a reasonably safe and secure environment for tenants, patrons and other invitees.  This obligation may arise from specific laws/statutes, or from general laws/statutes relating to negligence, or from case law. 
In any event, the obligation to provide a safe environment virtually always uses the concept of reasonable security based on foreseeability as the test for adequacy and sufficiency of security when some incident occurs.  In simple terms, this means that a landlord/proprietor must take the precautions that a reasonable person would take under the same/similar conditions and circumstances after giving due consideration to factors affecting the premises (namely:  the inherent nature of the premises; the history of problems at the premises; the history of problems in the area immediately surrounding the premises; and any industry standards that may exist relating to the premises).  This definition thus presupposes that some “one-size-fits-all” approach to security will usually not be adequate or sufficient since circumstances are different at every premises.  But the single factor which exists in the majority of times when some security incident occurs at some specific place is what I refer to as the “environment conducive to criminality.”
Let me here make a disclaimer:  There is no such thing as absolute security (meaning continuous, constant, total, complete and unqualified protection and safety of a given asset) – any security system or strategy can be compromised given sufficient motivation, opportunity and resources.  So, since security breaches can occur even when adequate and sufficient security exists, then the primary purpose of any security strategy is to control as many variables as possible to limit the opportunity for criminal acts to the extent reasonably possible, i.e., make it as difficult as possible for crime to occur successfully. 
Except for crimes of passion (which generally occur spontaneously), criminals usually seek 2 conditions when deciding how/when/where to commit a crime:  environment/circumstances which allow greatest probability of the criminal act succeeding; and environment/circumstances which allow greatest probability of committing the criminal act without being stopped, caught or identified.  This means that criminals generally choose the circumstances and places which provide the greatest opportunity for successful accomplishment of the crime – they choose a place which has an “environment conducive to criminality.”

As noted above, every place is different and has different conditions to consider when determining security needs.  But regardless of place or conditions, an “environment conducive to criminality” usually has some common traits:
  • no formal or careful consideration has been given to security needs (nothing has been done to assure that appropriate security measures have been implemented commensurate with foreseeable threats)
  • no formalized security plan exists (security measures, if any even exist, have been chosen and applied haphazardly with no formal strategy or objective)
  • area has easy access (a place which has a perimeter which cannot readily be secured or which has access controls which can be easily defeated)
  • area is unkempt (making it difficult to determine if something is missing or providing places to hide or move furtively)
  • area is dark (a place where crime can occur undetected and persons cannot be readily seen or identified)
  • area is not routinely surveilled either by technological means (such as cameras) or persons (a place where crime can occur undetected and persons cannot be readily seen or identified)
  • area has no regulatory or warning signage prominently displayed (information is not provided to advise patrons of proper or prohibited behaviors, to publicize security measures as a deterrent to inappropriate/criminal activity, and/or to warn of the penalties for engaging in inappropriate/criminal activity)
  • there is no ready security response when problems occur (no plan is in place or competent personnel available to deal with inappropriate persons or activities)
  • employees, even those ostensibly having security responsibilities, are not selected or trained properly (personnel are not competent to identify suspicious persons or respond to inappropriate/criminal activity)
  • records/documentation related to security are not maintained (history of security issues is not kept or reviewed to ascertain that security measures are adequate and sufficient)
  • security is not given adequate management attention (nothing is routinely done to assure that security measures are adequate and sufficient for current or changing security needs)
In summary and conclusion:  When a place fails to identify its security needs and fails to take reasonable steps to provide reasonable security, the result is usually a place where persons go to engage in inappropriate and criminal activities with little concern for being stopped, identified or caught  – a place with an “environment conducive to criminality”.