As a personal injury attorney helping seriously injured victims of crime in apartment complexes and business locations, so-called negligent security cases, Joseph Lipsky knows too well the affect a business owners’ ignorance of a rising crime rate can have the level of security they should have to protect their paying customers and tenants. Now, after a multi-year drop in violent crime, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is reporting that violent crime rose nearly four percent over the last year. The FBI is also reporting a nearly eleven percent rise in the murder rate. This disconcerting rise in crime should be on the forefront of all business and apartment complex owners and operators’ minds.
In Florida, the law requires business and apartment owners and operators to take precautions to protect their business invitees, that is, their paying customers, from crime which is foreseeable. Basically this means, businesses must keep abreast of crime on and around their property; and, depending upon that level of crime over the past couple of years, take reasonable measures to deter and prevent future crime from occurring. One of the most valuable tools for business owners is the FBI crime report, which is based upon actual police reports from every police department across the United States. Also, in Miami and the surrounding communities of Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines and Hollywood, most local police departments have readily accessible on-line instant crime data.
While a responsible business owner will regularly monitor the crime reports, so as to change the level of protection they provide for their customers, too many businesses bury their head in the sand and purposefully ignore the crime report and their customers’ safety. By reviewing nearby crime, a business owner who is concerned about the customers may justifiably install additional lighting, add video surveillance cameras, locked gates, fencing and armed guards. Florida law does not require every business to enact all of the various types of crime prevention techniques, but only those which are reasonable for their property based upon the history of crime on and around their premises. Also, the law does not require a small mom and pop type business to have the same level of crime prevention as a large apartment complex, such as a government subsidized section 8 type property, or a large gas station. Larger businesses generally have more resources to provide a higher level of crime deterrence than small less profitable ones.
Just as the rising number of murders and other violent crimes should be a warning to business owners, the U.S. Justice Department is understandably concerned with the rising crime rate. Understandably, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch voiced her concerns about how growing violent crime “tears at the fabric of our common life.”
Given the timing of the release of this report, on the eve of the first presidential debate, we have no doubt that each candidate will try to politicize the rising violent crime rate. However, to personal injury attorney Joseph Lipsky, who has helped dozens of innocent victims of violent crime hold business and apartment owners accountable for placing their profits over people, by failing to provide adequate security, this report should be a wake-up call for business owners.