Violent crime often takes place because perpetrators know that they can literally get away with robbery and murder. Criminals will seize the opportunity to steal and to harm innocent people in locations where there is inadequate or no security to protect the perpetrator’s targets from serious or even fatal injury. Consequently, under Florida law, property owners and managers are required to employ reasonable and sufficient security measures to protect people lawfully on their premises from violent crime. Whey they fail to meet this legal obligation and people are injured or killed due to this failure of due care, the negligent property owner and manager together with their insurers can be compelled to pay substantial compensation to the crime victims and their family members.
Sadly, many residents and visitors to the state of Florida become victims of violent crime. Recent FBI crime statistics indicate that Florida has the 5th highest violent crime rate in the United States. As of 2016, there were approximately 541 violent crimes reported per 100,000 people according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. These numbers do not even include the half-a-million people who annually become victims of property crime, such as burglary or theft unless they result in physical injury to a person.
Given these statistics and the inability of the police to be everywhere all at once, it is critical that property owners do not create attractive and easy targets for robbers, rapists and killers. Property owners would be wise to remember that if violent offenders can easily get away with perpetrating robberies, murders and other violent crimes, they will.
Experts in criminology and security have established that crime at specific locations can be prevented by adequate security because criminals do not want to be seen, stopped or apprehended. They, therefore, often avoid properly fortified locations altogether. But when they do come to a location to commit crime, sufficient security can stop them and protect innocent people from being hurt. Yet, many public or commercial property owners in high crime areas do nothing to protect their residents, visitors or customers from the threat of violent criminal attack.
In Florida, those who own, operate and manage property have a legal duty to maintain it in a reasonably safe condition for people who lawfully enter the premises. The owners and managers also have a duty to eliminate dangerous conditions that they either knew were there or should have known were there. This includes the duty to protect these lawful “invitees” from violent crime that the law considers to be foreseeable.
Not all violent crime is deemed to be legally foreseeable. However, among other factors to be considered, the courts look at whether there was a history of violent crime at or near the relevant location. Where there are many incidents of previous violent crime on or near premises, Florida courts acknowledge the unfortunate reality that violent crime can be expected to materialize again at the same demonstrably dangerous location. In these circumstances, the law imposes a specific duty on property owners and managers to provide security.
In high crime areas, all reasonable steps ought to be taken to ensure the safety and security of people lawfully on the property. All kinds of properties – including banks, malls, movie theaters, sports stadiums, concert venues, apartment complexes, housing developments, night clubs and gas station convenient stores, just to name a few - must meet this standard of providing a level of security that is commensurate with the history of crime at and around the location. Some examples of measures to be employed in “high crime” areas might include a guard gate with roving security in a housing development, a sufficient number of armed guards in a shopping mall or adequate lighting and surveillance cameras at an ATM machine or a gas station convenience store.
Courts and juries understand that if commercial property owners act responsibly, a lot of suffering and loss of life can be prevented. However, when property owners and managers fail to meet their legal obligations and leave people unprotected from foreseeable criminal activity, they can be held accountable for the terrible, life changing harm that all too often results from their inexcusable inaction.
At Boyers Law Group, we have many years of experience in achieving justice and substantial compensation for our clients who were injured by preventable crime. So, if you or a loved one has suffered a grave loss or has been seriously injured by crime that you believe could and should have been prevented by a more responsible property owner or manager, please contact the negligent and inadequate security attorneys at Boyers Law Group for a free consultation. It would be our privilege to speak with you, to help you and to passionately advocate for you.