Perfect Parking: Safe and Secure

What are the most secure methods for security in car parks and what could be the future? Frances Penwill-Cook looks at two of the most secure car parking methods.


Vehicle crime and personal security are two major issues to solve when constructing and maintaining car parks.

Here, we take a look at two or the innovative parking solutions available on the market today: Parksafe's multistorey secure car park and TreviPark's multilevel garage system.

Parksafe's crime-free multistorey system

UK-based Parksafe is one security company that can confidentially state that it has created the "ultimate in parking peace of mind" for its customers. With awards and accolades by the dozen, it is widely recognised that Ken Wigley, Parksafe's chairman has produced one of the most secure parking systems in the world.

The company is so confident about its parking system that it doesn't display "park at your own risk" signs in its car parks, but accepts total responsibility for any vehicle-related theft. "We cover up to £2,000 of valuables if stolen from any vehicle ourselves, and will replace a vehicle if stolen to the value of £200,000 through our insurers," says Wigley, who believes they are the only operators in the UK and possibly the world, to offer this type of guarantee.

"Parksafe has created the 'ultimate in parking peace of mind'."

Parksafe's system is behind the famously secure Bold Lane multistorey car park in Derby, UK.

The car park was once was riddled with car crime and host to around 170 incidents the year before the security technology was introduced. The car park would close at 9pm every night as the crime that took place meant the parking facilities were poorly received by customers.

Being described as nothing short of "remarkable" by its local council, the 440-space car park has now been crime free for 12 years. Parksafe has designed and produced much of the security equipment and technology that makes Bold Lane such an exemplary secure car park. Equipment includes: smart card allocators; bi-folding entry / exit vehicle gates; bay controllers; pedestrian entry / exit controllers; camera clusters incorporating a PA system and empty bay locators; and audio / video customer communication.

The cameras and entry doors, plus the barcoded tickets keep the location secure, however, it is the sensors that really ensure the safety of the vehicles. If a car moves even a small amount, this is picked up by a central computer that will mean a lock down of the site. Within the car park panic buttons are located on every pillar to provide customers protection against personal attack and every bay is detailed on a computer-mapping screen where an operator can monitor the status of every individual car, pedestrian access, entrance / exit gates and pay machines.

Bold Lane is now in use 24 hours a day by approximately 250,000 each year and known as the most secure car park in the world. It was voted safest car park by What Car? magazine in 2005 and by Focus magazine's worldwide study – other accolades include winning the British Parking Awards and being featured on the BBC's Crime Beat.

Parksafe also runs the Mitre House car park in Lancaster, UK, a 260-space multistorey car park situated on edge of the city centre that was previously a source of concern for car crime –personal safety issues were also a problem in this crime hot spot. In 2001, Parksafe signed a ten-year partnership agreement with the council and, nine years on, it is now one of just three fully secure car parks in the country. As a result, the Parksafe system has been recognised by the Design Council and the company's approach to car park security has been highlighted by the Home Office as best practice.

Underground temperature-controlled car "vault" model

"The PerfectPark automated parking system was developed by civil engineering group Trevi Group."

Europe-based TreviPark has seen much success so far with its underground multilevel garage system that it now operates in the US under the name of PerfectPark. The PerfectPark automated parking system was developed by civil engineering group Trevi Group, which is well-known for engineering projects such as the runway underpass at JFK International Airport and the stabilisation of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. According to Paul Dillon, VP of business development for PerfectPark, negotiations are currently ongoing in three North American countries for Trevi Group's systems, although nothing is ready for public release yet. The first TreviPark System was rolled out in 1991 and since then has seen success through a total of 17 installations in Italian cities such as Rome, Milan and Turin.

The PerfectPark automated parking garage system uses a cylindrical design in a multilevel silo where each level is made up from 12 parking spaces. Each system can be up to nine levels deep to accommodate 108 vehicles and installed on a footprint of only 5,000ft². Conventional electro-mechanical lifting techniques are used along with a proprietary trolley system and software. "In this regard," says Dillon, "it might be said that the proven reliability of our systems rely on tried and tested techniques rather than cutting edge." However, he does point out that systems can be enhanced with technology depending on customer requirements.

The silos and the deposit retrieval areas are monitored by a variety of sensors in this automated parking system. Security is enforced through a variety of different methods: in Italy, car registration plate information is recorded and then made available to assist with searches for stolen vehicles or vehicles suspected of criminal activity. In short, vehicles and personal belongings cannot be stolen, and vehicles cannot be damaged by careless parking or malicious intent.

One of the most important factors when considering the security benefits of automated parking systems is the safety of the individual. "Only maintenance personnel go into a Perfect Park structure," says Dillion. "Vehicles are deposited and retrieved in well-lit and controlled environments; the exact nature of which, can be specified by the developer."

"Multisilo parking construction is cheaper than building and operating a traditional underground car park."

There are many statistics obtained via the US Department of Justice, showing that around 7% of crimes (figures taken from 2006) take place in parking structures, including sexual assaults, robbery and vehicle left. However, the TreviPark / PerfectPark structures rule out this kind of criminal activity. "In almost 20 years of continuous operation there have been no incidents of this type of crime in one of our systems," says Dillon, who goes on to explain how the absence of human targets also reduces the threat of a terrorist attack on a PerfectPark system.

Other advantages, while not security focused, include environmental benefits, such as lower exhaust emissions and the use of natural landscaping that removes the heat island effect caused by blacktop.

The future

Both Parksafe's multistorey security systems and PerfectPark's / TreviPark's multilevel silo implement technology to automate the parking process as much as possible to ensure the safety of its customers and vehicles. Both systems, although utilising vastly different approaches, have eliminated crime almost entirely from its parking areas.

While Parksafe's systems can be implemented to banish security in existing car parking locations (as seen in the Derby and Lancaster models), it could be argued that the multisilo model is the future and the ultimate in secure car parking. Although automated parking is seen as a premium solution, according to PerfectPark the multisilo construction is cheaper than building and operating a traditional underground car park. It is these facts that lead Dillion to predict a productive take up of the system in the US. "Economies of scale and increased adoption will provide the North American market with a significant opportunity for growth," he says. And as cities have less and less space available, more vehicles and congestion issues to resolve and increasing crime, it is likely that this type of subterranean automated model will be implemented more and more in cities all over the world.