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Latest Florida Crime Statistics & Hotel / Motel Liability

In April of this year, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office announced a Tourist Oriented Policing Squad (TOPS) consisting of 10 deputies specifically trained to handle safety issues related to tourism. The announcement came one week prior to the release of 2009 crime statistics for the state of Florida, which showed a 7% drop in crime.

The statistics were generated for the 2009 Annual Uniform Crime Report, which includes offenses reported by 409 of 415 local, county and state law-enforcement agencies throughout the state. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released the information, claiming 60,000 fewer crimes than in 2008 and a 39-year low after years of record-breaking violence.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that the drop in crime is good news for Central Florida’s tourism industry, and quoted the president of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, who stated: “It will support our worldwide reputation as being a safe destination.” But tourists and residents alike should not let their guards down just yet. While the numbers are encouraging, they also show more than 32,800 violent crimes committed in the state of Florida in 2009.

Travelers should be aware that when crimes occur in hotels or motels, premises liability can come into play in incidents involving assaults due to negligent security or insufficient lighting, dangerous products, pool and spa tragedies, transportation negligence (plane, car, bus, or taxi crashes), boating accidents, and many others. Key areas of potential hotel/motel liability include:

Key areas of potential hotel/motel liability include:
• Perimeter control, or limiting access to a property through fencing, landscaping or other means (CPTED or “crime prevention through environmental design”);
• Lighting, which may have been inadequate at the start or poorly maintained after installation;
• Security equipment, including access control, locking mechanisms and closed circuit television;
• A lack of security staff, or security personnel, who may not have been properly trained, or who took inappropriate action in a violent crime situation.

In cases involving ‘innkeepers’ (hotel/motel owners or managers), providing security is a non-delegable duty. These businesses can hire a security guard or security company, but they are still on the hook in terms of liability. The actual performance of security duties can be delegated, but not the legal responsibility. In most cases, the duty of care is owed by the party in control of the property.

In any business that involves innkeeping, key control and access is a vital aspect of security. The goal of these systems is to prevent access by someone other than the owner or occupier. Otherwise, there is potential for abuse or crime, as well as misdeeds committed by employees with master key cards.