The concept of adequate and inadequate security falls under the legal topic of premises liability. The law requires business owners to provide “adequate security” to protect patrons from criminal activity on its property.
The definition of adequate security varies by state. Each state may pass laws to define the concept and its specific criteria. In the state of Mississippi, a business needs to provide security guards, surveillance cameras, windows with security features, emergency alarms and an adequate warning system.
In addition to specific state requirements, a business must also meet those of federal law. A good rule of thumb is to ensure meeting those expectations created by common law or case law.
In the US, businesses should also provide or complete the following to ensure adequate security:
- collect and report to proper authorities any and all illegal/criminal activity on or near its premises.
- provide proper lighting in parking lots and access points.
- conduct background checks on employees and job applicants and employees, especially if the position deals with children, the elderly or at-risk individuals.
- provide adequate, required employee training in the area of recognizing and reporting suspicious activity.
- provide employee supervision adequate to ensure the employees recognize, report and do not engage in suspicious activity.
Some types of business require more security than others. Generally, serving alcohol increases the security requirement. Bars, casinos, lounges and nightclubs require greater security than a furniture store. The expectation for shopping mall and department store security has risen in recent years though due to the rise in number of child abductions. Malls often now feature an internal “Amber alert” type system and lock down protocols if a child goes missing.
Businesses sited in areas with a high crime rate also carry a higher security requirement. Commensurately, an area with a lower crime rate carries less of a security requirement. The location of the crime matters, as well. A higher security expectation presides over incidents in the lobby, for example, over those in a dark alley behind the building.
With respect to its security force, a business has procedural requirements in the eyes of the court. These include:
- patrol frequency,
- lock down schedules,
- cash handling policies,
- self-defense training,
- formal procedures for incident reporting.
A person who suffers a crime or injury from a crime may sue the business where it occurred. The court generally applies a “reasonableness” standard, meaning a business needs to provide an appropriate amount of security for its type and location. When a court finds a business provided inadequate security, it may award damages to the person injured by the crime. The court may also issue an injunction mandating security policy changes.
Legal requirements change through legislation and case law. Business owners should consult an attorney who specializes in premises liability to ensure your business provides adequate security. Patrons of a business who have suffered a crime or injury from a crime should obtain legal representation from an attorney specializing in premises liability. In Mississippi, contact ‘Maggio | Thompson Personal Injury Attorneys for help.