Crime prevention and liability

Increasingly, we live in a society in which the movements and actions of average citizens are captured on video. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, the city took steps to erect thousands of public surveillance cameras. As of February of this year, the New York City Police Department had access to video footage from more than 17,000 public cameras, 6,000 of which are located on streets and street corners, 7,000 in public housing complexes and 4,000 in subway stations.

Whether you view the city’s increasing surveillance measures as being positive or an abhorrent invasion of privacy, their use helps NYPD officers combat crime. When you take into account the thousands of other surveillance cameras that property owners have erected to protect their customers and property, today would-be criminals in the city are hard pressed to find creative ways to shield their identities.

While victims of crimes cannot sue members of the city’s police department for failing to prevent a criminal act, they may be able to take legal action against property owners. This is especially true with regard to the legal responsibilities landlords bear to protect tenants from suffering injury and death.

According to New York City’s department of Housing Preservation & Development, landlords have a legal duty to “provide and maintain security measures” at their properties in an effort to prevent crime. According to New York State’s Attorney General’s Office, in an effort to prevent criminal activity on a premise, landlords must ensure that a building is equipped with the following safety devices:

• Self-closing and locking doors
• Two-way intercom system from which tenants can open the lobby door for guests
• Sufficient lighting on the grounds of a premise and in interior common areas
• Elevator mirrors
• Individual unit locks
• Peepholes in the doors of individual units
• Chain-door guards on door of individual units
• Secure mailboxes

In addition to the above-mentioned crime-prevention requirements, a landlord may face legal action if he or she fails to “take reasonable steps to prevent a foreseeable crime.” For example, if a building has been the site of a previous crime such as armed robbery or rape, a landlord should take steps to investigate why a crime occurred as well as how to prevent a similar crime from happening in the future.


Source:, “Preventing Crime In and Around Rental Property,” Dec. 8, 2015

New York Daily News, “Expand New York City’s surveillance camera network,” February 16, 2015


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