When you dive into the FBI data on violent crime, it’s staggering how many violent crimes occur in the US every year. Even more shocking is that we often visit many of the types of properties where these attacks occur, without ever knowing just how dangerous these places are. Every year, people get attacked on business properties, and many of these people had no idea that the property where they were attacked had a long history of violent crime.

When we think about lawsuits brought against businesses, we often think about dangerous conditions on the property, like a jagged piece of metal sticking out the ground or a pool of oil in an aisle. It’s obviously negligent to ignore dangerous conditions on a property. So, if someone gets hurt because of some hazard on the property, it makes sense that the business owner, management, and/or the landowner might be liable for that person’s injuries. But what happens when someone is shot, stabbed, murdered, raped, kidnapped, or assaulted on a business property? What happens when the injuries stem from the actions of a criminal?

Well, businesses may be held liable under the legal theory of “negligent security” when someone gets attacked on a commercial property. In the same way a business can’t ignore a dangerous physical condition on the property, businesses can’t ignore criminal activity, attract crime to a property, and then try to get out of it when someone gets hurt. In this article, we’ll talk more about negligent security, and we’ll dive into FBI data and talk more about some of the more common commercial properties where criminals commit violent crimes.

What is Negligent Security or Inadequate Security?

Negligent security is a type of injury claim or claim for wrongful death that a claimant can bring when someone gets hurt or killed when a business or landowner failed to implement security measures where violent crime was foreseeable. Essentially, business owners and landowners have a duty to take actions to prevent foreseeable injuries. In the context of violent crime, the issue is whether the business owner or landowner took steps to increase security and prevent violent crime from occurring on the property.

The business owner or landowner doesn’t usually owe a duty to a trespasser. So, when a person is not lawfully on the property and then gets hurt, they may not have a viable claim. However, if the injured person or the person killed was a guest on the property, a patron at the business, or otherwise lawfully on the property, then the business owner/landowner owes that person a duty.

The issue of foreseeability is a big one in negligent security cases. Essentially, this issue boils down to whether the business owner/landowner had knowledge of prior crime in the area or on the property itself. The way our negligent security attorneys work to prove that violent crime was foreseeable is by pulling data that shows violent crime, like calls to the police, incident reports, crime data, and other information that can be used to prove that the property had a history of criminal incidents.

Other useful information might include reports to the business owner about crime where people tried to put the business on notice of issues on the property. Anything we can use to show that there was crime on the property and the business owner/landowner knew about it or should have known about it could be useful in a negligent security case.

Where Do Violent Crimes Occur Most Often in the US?

Top 5 Most Dangerous Business PropertiesAccording to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, violent crimes are, by far, most likely to occur at a “residence home,” with 477,053 violent crimes occurring on these properties in 2022 alone. Now, in terms of negligent security, a big percentage of these cases won’t involve inadequate security issues because the crimes occur at a residence. However, when the residence is an apartment complex or other multi-unit housing where there is management and a landlord, there may be potentially-liable defendants.

Often times, the dangerous apartment complexes get a reputation for being the scene of newsworthy events. For example, the Eureka Gardens apartment complex in Jacksonville, FL gained a lot of negative publicity over the years from the shootings that occurred at the property. In 2016, 6 people were shot outside the apartments. A few years later, Eureka Gardens changed its name to Valencia Way. However, despite renovations, the apartment complex still has a reputation for violent crime, and there have been several violent incidents since the renovations.

When an apartment complexe is in the news for violent criminal incidents, you can look at the Google page for the apartment complex, and there’s usually a long line of folks complaining about violence and/or crime on the property. This is a pretty good indication that the business knew about the issues or should have known about the issues.

What Business Properties Are Most Likely to Experience Violent Crime?

Other than apartment complexes, there are a number of businesses on the FBI’s violent crime list that could be considered hotspots for violent crimes. Below are some of the more notable location types and the number of violent crimes that occurred on these types of properties in 2022.

  • Parking Garages & Parking Lots (62,764 violent crimes)
  • Convenience Stores (27,364 violent crimes)
  • Hotels & Motels (20,339 violent crimes)
  • Gas Stations (17,854 violent crimes)
  • Department Stores & Discount Stores (16,237 violent crimes)
  • Restaurants (15,716 violent crimes)
  • Specialty Stores (12, 793 violent crimes)
  • Bars & Nightclubs (12,637 violent crimes)
  • Parks & Playgrounds (12,615 violent crimes)
  • Grocery Stores (9,875 violent crimes)
  • Drug Stores, Doctors Offices, Hospitals (9,709 violent crimes)
  • Commercial or Office Buildings (9,308 violent crimes)
  • Banks (4,547 violent crimes)
  • Air, Bus, or Train Terminals (4,442 violent crimes)
  • Shopping Malls (2,826 violent crimes)
  • Liquor Stores (2,399 violent crimes)

These are not all the business locations where a violent crime might occur due to inadequate security. However, this list shows some of the locations where violent crime is more likely to occur.

What Can Some of These Businesses Do to Protect Guests and Patrons from Violent Crime?

Each property has its own unique features, and there are a number of factors that must be considered when analyzing what security measures could deter criminal activity. Let’s look at some of the property types with the most violent crime and talk about how these properties could be made safer through reasonable security measures.

Parking Garages and Parking Lots

a parking lot where violent crime is much more likely to occurAs you can see above, parking garages and parking lots are common sites for violent criminal activity. Often times, the violent incidents at these types of properties could have been prevented by somebody implementing some basic security measures. Some of the more effect types of security measures at a parking lot or parking garage include the following:

Enclosures at Stairways and Elevators

Stairways, stairwells, and elevators present a high risk for violent crime because they’re often enclosed, which provides unique opportunities for predators. Thus, designing these structures to be as open as possible can greatly reduce the incidents of violent crime. When code requires an enclosure, glass walls can increase visibility and reduce criminal incidents.

Adequate lighting

According to a study by the National Institute of Justice, lighting is typically considered to be one of the most, if not the most, important security features at parking lots and parking garages. Lighting increases overall visibility, and criminals don’t like to be seen. Additionally, lighting allows would-be victims to better evaluate their surroundings and spot a threat before it’s too late.

Open Flat Design

The ability to judge one’s surroundings is another critical security issue at parking garages and lots. Open surface parking lots typically allow for the best visibility. In other parking lot and parking garage designs, structural changes, even minor changes, can greatly improve visibility.

In the past, parking garages were designed with long sloping ramps. However, the trend is moving toward maximizing flat parking lot areas by minimizing ramps. This design---where there are flat parking lots stacked vertically---typically allows for much better visibility than the alternative.

Controlled Access

Security measures like gates, security screening, or fencing can greatly reduce criminal attacks by prevent criminals from entering the property. Additionally, where there are access doors to the property, panic bar hardware and alarm systems can help prevent the use of these doors except in case of emergency.

Signs and Graphics

Signs and graphics can help guide visitors and guests to where they want to go as quickly as possible, and this can reduce the amount of time people spend wandering around in a parking lot or parking garage. Thus, by reducing the amount of time folks spend in the parking area, these measures can decrease the number of violent crimes on the property.


Restrooms provide an ideal place for criminals to hide. Generally, a public restroom in a building where there is more traffic and where there are more people will be safer than a restroom in a secluded lot or garage. When there are bathrooms at these locations, they should have maze entrances rather than doors because doors allow victims to be trapped.

Security Cameras

Security cameras can deter criminal activity, especially when the criminal knows they’re being watched and recorded because the video evidence is likely to aid in a criminal conviction. However, in areas where there are parked vehicles, sloping floors, shadows, or other impediments to video capture, cameras may not be a great solution because criminals could attack people out of view of the camera. Thus, although cameras can be helpful in deterring crime, their effectiveness can be limited by the surroundings.

Security Personnel

There’s no substitute for vigilant and highly trained security personnel. The mere presence of security guards is a strong deterrent for criminal activity. Security guards need to be trained to monitor and patrol, and they need to know how to properly respond to security issues. When businesses hire security to secure a property, and the security guard fails to properly perform his or her duties, the security company that employed the security guard may be liable for the guard’s negligence, in addition to the business owner or landowner.

Contacting local police to perform a security audit is a great first step for the landowner or business owner to uncover those issues that are the biggest threat to guests and visitors. Once dangerous issues are detected and evaluated, property owners can take steps to remedy the issues and mitigate any risk to guests or patrons.

Convenience Stores and Gas Stations

Picture of a gas station where someone is likely to get attacked by a criminalAccording to the National Association of Convenience Stores, there are over 135,000 convenience stores operating in the United States, and that number is increasing. On a given day, around 100 million Americans visit a convenience store. Unfortunately, many of these convenience stores and gas stations lack proper security, so they are constantly in the news for violent criminal attacks, like shootings, stabbings, and homicides.

Robberies, in particular, are a massive problem at convenience stores, with roughly 6 percent of all robberies occurring at these locations. Often, gas stations and convenience stores have registers with cash, and criminals know it. Also, folks pumping gas are in a vulnerable position because they’re either standing outside by the pump or sitting in their vehicle.

Because of the high prevalence of robberies at convenience stores and gas stations, some states have specific laws that apply to these establishments to protect visitors and employees. For example, the Florida Convenience Store Statute provides that these businesses must have:

  • Security cameras
  • Drop safe or cash management device
  • Lighting in the parking lot at a minimum level
  • Notice at the entrance that there is $50 or less in the cash register
  • A clear view of the register from the outside
  • Height markers at the entrance of the store
  • Policies to limit cash on hand after 11pm
  • Silent alarm

Additionally, if a violent crime has occurred on the premises before, the business must implement additional security measures to protect visitors and employees.

Hotels and Motels

Picture of a motel where people could get shot or stabbedHotels and motels, especially budget hotels and motels, are often hotspots for crime. According to a Guide by the US Department of Justice, high-crime hotels and motels can drain local police resources, impede economic development in the area, and overall increase the risk of violent incidents and homicides in local communities. Thus, the devastating impact of these problem businesses extends far beyond the violence experienced by patrons and guests.

These businesses often experience high crime because of apathy and their desire to maximize profits. Many times, a violent crime will occur when the property is fully booked and there’s minimal staff on duty. Also, these businesses, despite a high number of criminal incidents on the property, will refuse to hire security or even acknowledge the risk of harm to visitors.

There are steps these businesses can take to decrease violent crime. For example, they can

  • Screen guests and visitors to ensure they can be on the property
  • Refuse service to known criminals
  • Prohibiting visitors in the hours between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am
  • Post clear notices outlining appropriate behavior on the property
  • Implementing check-in policies
  • Employing security guards
  • Ensuring common areas have sufficient lighting
  • Placing security cameras in areas of potential concern
  • Landscaping to minimize hiding spots for criminals
  • Employing sufficient staff to manage the property and guests
Each property is different, and thus each property will present unique security challenges. Business owners and landowners can protect guests by implementing those security measures that appropriately fit the situation.