By adopting modern (often data-driven) security technologies, off-airport lots are becoming trailblazers when it comes to vehicle security.
Airport parking lots may seem like a safe place to leave your vehicle. But a simple Google search will reveal that thefts, break-ins, and vandalism are a regular occurrence at airport lots across the U.S. every year. It’s not hard to understand why. The sheer size of these lots makes it very difficult to provide proper security. Moreover, airport parking lots are typically open to the general public, meaning anyone can get access to their car.
Increasingly, off-airport parking lots have become a better alternative for air travelers. While many of these off-airport lots have sought to attract customers through cheaper daily rates and optional cleaning services, their most important feature is security. With cutting-edge data-driven technologies like license-plate recognition, find-my-car features, and vehicle-counting systems, off-airport parking lots have made security one of their key selling points.
In recent years, onsite airport parking lots have witnessed a surge in vehicle thefts and security breaches. For example, in Portland, Oregon, 123 vehicles were reported stolen from airport-operated parking garages in 2022, up from 49 in 2021. Similar stories can be found in Chicago, Atlanta, and Denver, to name just a few. Other cases have involved break-ins or even the theft of car components like catalytic converters, a trend that’s become particularly concerning in recent years.
Clearly, something needs to be done to reduce these security breaches. Unfortunately, it’s a very difficult issue for airports to deal with effectively. Much of the problem stems from the massive size of airport parking lots, which typically accommodate thousands of vehicles. Airport lots also tend to have high volumes of traffic, which can make it difficult to identify suspicious behavior, even when the lot is well-lit and patrolled – which many aren’t.
While airports could aim to boost their security by installing more cameras, lighting, and patrol guards, the costs of this are enough to dissuade many airports from trying. As such, this security gap has created an enticing market niche for off-airport lots to fill.
Off-airport parking has been around for decades. While some of these lots won’t be much better than an airport lot in terms of security, that’s beginning to change. Private lot owners are increasingly investing in advanced security technologies.
For example, license plate recognition (LPR) systems are increasingly being deployed in off-airport lots to automatically read and identify license plates. LPR can help to identify suspicious activity, such as a vehicle exiting a lot before the owner’s stated checkout time. This information can then be used by law enforcement to track down the vehicle. The fact that such a system is in place can be enough to deter thieves who will just look for easier targets.
Another useful technology is a find-my-car feature that uses GPS or Bluetooth to track the location of your car. Off-airport lots that have their own apps are increasingly providing this feature. This is helpful not only for the owner, who can check a vehicle’s location at any time but also for the lot, which can use the information to improve inventory management. Similarly, vehicle-counting systems can also monitor a lot’s inventory by counting the number of vehicles that are entering and leaving. This ensures the lot never becomes overcrowded, which reduces the chances of a tailgating collision.
While customer data usually has more to do with marketing than security, data is something that some off-airport lots have benefited immensely from tapping into. For example, off-airport lots can use customer data to help manage incidents that occur in the lot, such as a vehicle collision or theft. The data on these incidents can then be used to better understand how they happened and what steps a lot can take to reduce the chances of a recurrence. Customer data can also be used to identify vehicles that are associated with known criminals, the identification of which can help reduce the risk of theft, vandalism, and other crimes.
Security will always remain of paramount importance, and off-airport parking lots have emerged as trailblazers when it comes to vehicle security. By comparison, onsite airport parking still faces escalating challenges with vehicle thefts and break-ins with no end in sight. By adopting modern security technologies, off-airport lots have recognized these challenges and provided a new standard for the industry.