HD65 - Studies of Business Premises Liability and Urban Violence

  • Published: 1993
  • Author: Virginia State Crime Commission
  • Enabling Authority: House Joint Resolution 72 (Regular Session, 1992)

Executive Summary:
During the 1992 General Assembly session, the House and Senate Rules Committees approved the merger of HJR 72, patroned by Delegate William P. Robinson, Jr., of Norfolk, with HJR 220, patroned by Delegate Jerrauld C. Jones of Norfolk. The merger of the two study resolutions resulted in HJR 72, which addressed the issues of urban violence and business premises liability.

Commission staff met with Delegate Jones and Delegate Robinson during the course of the study to receive patron input, and met with legislative staff of the Norfolk and Richmond City Managers' Offices. Commission staff also participated in the joint Richmond/Norfolk legislative planning meeting held in Williamsburg, and attended "The Conference on Addressing Violent Crime Through Community Partnerships," sponsored by the City of Norfolk and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in May, 1992, in Norfolk. Commission staff, along with staff from the Governor's Office, Attorney General's Office and state agency crime prevention programs, represented Virginia at the Regional Drug Policy Conference in Newark, New Jersey, in July, 1992, sponsored by the President's Office on Drug Control Policy.

The Virginia Trial Lawyers Association was instrumental in assisting the Commission in its review of the issue of business premises liability. Commission intern Maryann C. Jayne reviewed and summarized three citizen review panel models, which are included in Appendix C of this report. Steve Squire, librarian for the Department of Criminal Justice Services, provided invaluable assistance in acquiring research materials on citizen review panels and community policing. The National Institute of Justice also provided research materials on community policing programs.

Subcommittee II held three meetings to address the issues in HJR 72, and approved the subcommittee's report on October 27, 1992. The full Commission reviewed and approved the subcommittee's report, including its findings and recommendations, at its November 17, 1992 meeting.

The findings and recommendations are as follows:

Finding 1: The concept of business premises liability has been developed in case law, and so far no state has enacted a law imposing a duty on a business owner to provide a safer environment to protect patrons from criminal injury. Undoubtedly, if a statute were passed that imposed this duty on businesses, business owners would have to assume the costs of implementing certain safety enhancements and carrying additional insurance coverage. However, patrons may be more likely to favor businesses that make an effort to provide a safer business environment.

Recommendation 1: At present, there is insufficient support for an amendment to the Code of Virginia to provide a statutory civil remedy for business patrons injured by a criminal act on a business premises. In the alternative, the Department of Criminal Justice Services Crime Prevention Center should develop recommendations to create incentives that encourage businesses to make voluntary safety improvements to their business properties for the benefit of their patrons and .invitees.

Finding 2: The community policing, or problem-oriented policing, model provides an alternative approach for law enforcement agencies to develop better relationships with their communities, promote professional policing practices that help private citizens solve problems and encourage a greater commitment to crime prevention and greater public accountability of the police agency.

Recommendation 2: The Department of Criminal Justice Services should provide training for supervisors and line officers in how to plan and implement community policing in a law enforcement agency.

Finding 3: Citizen panels that review the practices and policies of law enforcement agencies, and review the decisions of police peer review panels, offer distinct advantages and disadvantages for communities. Evaluation research concerning the success or failure of citizen review panels cannot be generalized to other communities with unique characteristics, problems and needs.

Recommendation 3: Communities should consider the advantages and disadvantages of citizen review panels for police agencies before implementing such panels, and consider alternative means for fair and public review of police response practices and policies, such as peer review systems that are subject to public inspection.