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Parking lot safety is imperative for community rec centers. The average member could be inside your facility for at least an hour, and without the proper parking lot safety precautions, cars could be susceptible to break-ins or other crimes.

Taking steps to keep members’ cars — and any possessions within — safe while they’re in your facility is important for establishing a culture of risk management. And an easy place to start is providing sufficient light in your parking lot.

“Lighting is key, especially when the days get shorter and many of our members are visiting before the sun rises and after the sun sets,” said Mark Hulet, the vice president of operations and risk at the YMCA of Greater Kansas City. “Well-lit parking lots promote safety and reduce opportunities for suspicious activity.”

In addition to good lighting, the presence of security cameras, signage about said cameras and regularly patrolling staff members are proven methods for deterring parking lot crimes and creating a safe environment at your facility.

According to Hulet, facilities should emphasize education on good risk management practices. “Communicating best practices for parking lot safety to members and staff is important,” he shared. “We encourage members and staff to leave valuables at home or lock up their valuables rather than leaving them in vehicles.”

The Kansas City Y also promotes parking lot safety to members through a wide variety of channels, including facility signage, a membership handbook, and social media and website content.

Just as important as these preventative safety measures, however, is encouraging members and staff to take appropriate action when they see a potential crime in progress.

“We encourage members and staff to report anything that seems suspicious, and we empower staff to call 911 when something doesn’t seem right,” said Hulet.

As an added measure, the Kansas City Y has developed a relationship with local law enforcement agencies. Hopefully, these additional reinforcements won’t be needed, but if parking lot safety is in question, help from the police department can be very beneficial.

“Maintaining a good relationship with local law enforcement is helpful,” explained Hulet. “We have invited patrol officers to park in our lots when they need a break or to use the restroom as needed. It helps build a relationship, and adds an extra presence of law enforcement that promotes safety without having dedicated paid off-duty support or security.”

And leaning on the expertise of police officers is another invaluable resource for improving parking lot security. “Your police department can also do a walkthrough of your parking lot and building to identify areas to watch and ways to improve safety, as well as share information about other crimes happening in the neighborhood that could affect your Y,” said Hulet.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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