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Too Easy To Meander Inside Many Parking Garages

March 17, 2016 Crime, Downtown, Featured, Parking 9 Comments

Lately the issue of safety in parking garages has been in the local news:

There are surveillance cameras at the parking garage on N. 7th street near Washington Ave., however the company that owns and operates the garage, SP Plus, told the victim in a voicemail, “The cameras are not operational”

Now, two years later, it’s the same story. According to an email sent to News 4 by the victim of the sexual assault that happened two weeks ago, SP Plus told her “There are no cameras at 701 N. 7th Street. We apologize for the inconvenience.” (KMOV)

I’m no fan of parking garages — except when I want to take pictures from them. They can often provide some of the best vantage points. Well. assuming I can access them.

Structural repairs being made to one of the Kiener garages in 2010
Structural repairs being made to one of the Kiener garages in 2010

From a photography perspective I like that I can easily access many downtown parking garages without being stopped, but that’s not good for the personal safety of those who park in them. Newer garages seem to do a better job of keeping out people who aren’t retrieving their vehicle.  Still, with any public garage a person can get access if they drive in.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. Mark-AL says:

    Smart, efficient parking garage design doesn’t provide for excessive head clearances.We provide minimal clearance between pavement and bottom of the LOWEST structural element (typically 7′-0 to 7-2″, depending on the local codes). Taller columns cost more $ and require non-standard column forms. So when you consider that concrete beams are (typically) 30″ deep, and when girders that carry those beams can be as deep as 60″, it should become obvious why cameras are generally ineffective in parking areas of parking garages. More can be done–and is being done–however, to provide cameras in lobby areas and at entrances and exits. The clutter of cars and severe lighting level contrasts, coupled with the abundance of columns and even possible deck undulations used to slow down traffic speeds, make camera use difficult in parking areas of garages. And low-hanging cameras are easily accessed and are subject to vandalism or cover-up. Even in garage lobbies, structures are kept low, for economic reasons, making cameras vulnerable to vandalism or coverup. High structured garages can be designed and built as easily as efficient garage structures, but certainly not as cost-effectively. The sodium and metal h. fixtures previously used in garages created hot spot lighting patterns which tend to create the illusion or feeling of very poor lighting, even though the average light levels in the darkest areas obviously meet local codes. But new LED lighting offers a fairly affordable solution to that issue, provided of course that the lighting engineer knows his stuff. Even the old T-12 or newer T-5 fluorescent fixtures offer better lighting spread vs the old sodium/MH fixtures, in my opinion, but garage owners question their longevity and appearance.

    • Newer garages I’ve encountered don’t allow me to easily enter the structure & go up the elevator. I have free resign of the older garages.

      • Mark-AL says:

        Yes, we try to keep the new garages safer, in light of new awarenesses. Emergency stair doors are “exit only” and lobbies are now often equipped with card readers. Vehicle exits and entrances are often fully screened and must fully cycle when a vehicle passes though. There are fewer self-service garages. Operational costs are increasing, and no one wants to pay more for parking.

        Mistakes exist in garage design all over STL. An example is the Argyle Garage, where there is an exterior elevator located at the SW corner to serve the Chase and Chase Apartments. A card reader at that corner would render the garage inaccessible to the one-time-user disabled person after hours. Without a card reader at that location, the elevator becomes a concealed area that might attract criminal behavior and a ready toilet for the homeless and sometimes non-homeless. And who wants to monitor a camera screen to watch that going on!

        Two weeks ago, I parked in a garage in Seattle, Washington, and I found that it used to be easier entering the dayroom of a prison than it was to gain access to my vehicle in that particular garage, after hours.

  2. KevinB says:

    Parallel article could be “Too Easy to Meander Inside Metrolink Platforms.” For both, safety is being sidelined for savings. And while I’m generally fine with this for privately-owned garages, for City-owned ones, a more secure system should be required. And in the case of Metrolink, the “trust ticket” system weakens its ability to be considered a real, viable transit system for many/most. They need to install turnstiles (at the very least) to begin legitimizing the system.

    • Mark-AL says:

      “…for City-owned ones, a more secure system should be required”. So after the extended columns are formed and poured using a-typical non-industry standard column forms, and after the (literally) tons of additional rebar and concrete are placed in the city garage…and…after the garage is erected that cost the city (easily) 35-40% more than it would have paid for a standard garage….how would you propose “surveillance” be handled in the garage. The beams are 2′ higher, leaving clear visibility for cameras to do their thing. Would you propose hiring manpower to watch the garage 24 hours a day, all 10 floors, so that a criminal could be caught in the act? Or would you propose t

      • KevinB says:

        Not surveillance, no. Access. The need to have electronic eyes on every deck is lessened if your points of entry are better built/managed for entry. I think that’s what Steve’s getting at.

        Same goes for access to Metrolink platforms and, by extension, trains themselves. If the initial access system is better developed…say, folks *must* have a valid ticket or pass to enter…the likelihood of trouble is reduced. As is the need for extensive electronic or physical security.

        • Mark-AL says:

          You’re right! Cameras placed in the parking areas of a garage are largely a waste of money. Unfortunately, cameras at the entrances of a garage can be almost as ineffective. Criminals can easily access a garage, legitimaely, then do their criminal acts in the parking areas, then leave…..and no one would be the wiser.

          • KevinB says:

            Oh, they most certainly can, and some inevitably will. Some people are bad, and some people are a-holes, and some people are both. 🙂

            But I suspect point of entry measures are a strong enough deterrent to make criminals — i don’t know, let’s say 85% of ’em — think twice. A well lit entry point, with camera(s), and ticket-only entry mechanism would do the trick at a reasonable (comparatively) price.

          • Mark-AL says:

            Ticket entry machines are already placed at all the entries. So there’s no additional cost involved there.

            The point I was trying to make is that even with cameras placed at the garage entrance, and even with excessive lighting levels…….if I want to vandalize or burglarize cars on a particular level of the garage, I sit in the back seat of my buddy’s car, he drives me up the ramps conveniently to the crime zone, I burglarize my cars, return to the back seat of my buddy’s car, and together we leave the garage. Simple. Clean.


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