Take 10 Steps to Prevent Loitering
If you're having problems with groups loitering in your parking lot, common areas, or elsewhere on your property, you're not alone. Nonresident loiterers have been a long-time complaint for tax credit site managers. Loitering has the potential to incite vandalism, burglary, muggings, drug dealing, and other serious crimes, so you need to take a tough stance to stop it now. How? By creating a no-tolerance policy that is consistently enforced.
We spoke with security consultant J. Patrick Murphy, president of LPT Security Consulting, to get his advice on the key steps for stopping loitering at your site.
10 Steps to Take
Step #1: Post No Trespassing signs. The first step in solving a loitering problem is to post “No Trespassing” signs. “Signage needs to be prominently displayed at every entrance, around recreational areas, such as pools and tennis courts, and in the common areas,” says Murphy. Check local laws to see whether city or state ordinances need to be cited on the sign. He also recommends including the phrase, “This property/facility/building is for residents and their guests only.” That gives site staff the basis for questioning an unaccompanied nonresident, Murphy says.
Step #2: Establish—and publish—rules for guests. Establish community guidelines that outline the site's policy concerning guests. “Your policy should clearly state that the parking lot is not the place for gatherings or parties. There are places dedicated for that—either in the resident's unit or specific areas,” Murphy says.
“Having a policy will limit, to some degree, where people can hang out. That will give you an easier approach to those who are hanging out in the parking lot, on the breezeways, or in the stairwells,” he says. “As you implement this policy, and it's reinforced time and time again, it creates less work on the part of site staff because they have fewer places they have to monitor.”
Step #3: Communicate with residents. Reinforcement begins with communication. “Talk to your residents in meetings,” Murphy says. “If you're not communicating with them, they won't know about the policy.” Constant communications also help to set a culture of concern and caring.
Step #4: Approach the resident. If a group is loitering in the parking lot or another area on the property, approach the resident, not the trespassers. If the resident brings up his right to be on the property, you can refer him back to the community policy.
Step #5: Install adequate lighting. Poorly lit areas attract groups—and those groups can be involved in something that is not productive for the site, Murphy says. Make sure that the lighting in your parking lot is bright enough to discourage nighttime loitering.
Step #6: Define site boundaries. Set your site's boundaries by installing fencing or something else that defines your property line. “It can be as simple as a three-foot-tall chain link fence. It doesn't have to look like a prison yard,” Murphy says. “But the idea is that it sets the boundary for the trespasser. Every 25 or 50 feet down the fence, post a ‘No Trespassing’ sign. That gives law enforcement more leverage to cite a trespasser.”
Step #7: Remove public pay phones. There is no reason to have a pay phone on a low-income housing site, says Murphy. “I'm strongly against pay phones on properties. It allows a potential attacker to hang out—it gives him a legitimate reason to be standing there.”
Murphy points out that pay phones are typically located in the site's mailbox area, which allows criminals to target residents who may be picking up checks from their mailboxes.
Step #8: Get the police involved. If you notice a nonresident who repeatedly loiters or who is a troublesome visitor, the police can give that individual a trespass notice that bars him from the site. If he trespasses again, he can be arrested.
Check your state law to find out how trespass notices work in your area. You can also contact your local police department, which can discuss the process with you, says Murphy.
Step #9: Consider a curfew. Setting a curfew is an excellent way to control trespassers at night, Murphy says. “The only ones who are going to be outside are the bad guys.” If the idea of a curfew seems extreme to you, keep in mind that the trespassers are the ones who commit the crimes the majority of the time.
Step #10: Invest in controlled access. You may decide to look into a more expensive option to improve safety and security: a controlled-access system. Murphy recommends first speaking with an independent consultant about some of the issues involved with controlled access, such as delayed access to units by emergency services. “A consultant will help you to define your requirements and assess the process before you approach a vendor,” he says.
Search Our Web Site by Key Words: loitering; trespassers; crime; security