The rape of a 27-year-old Miami woman, while working at the Pleasure Emporium in Miami Gardens, highlights the legal obligation that Florida businesses have to provide a safe environment not only for customers but for their employees.
The victim, who was working the midnight to 8:00 AM shift at one of Miami's more notorious adult bookstores, was first robbed at gun point and then raped. Her entire nightmare was caught on videotape, which did little to prevent the crime, but led to the arrest of the assailant.
This particular Pleasure Emporium had been subjected four times before to armed robbery. The last one taking place just four months before. The store apparently had video surveillance cameras, a locked front door with a buzzer, and a panic button. None of which prevented this crime.
The victim sued the store and claimed she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety and has been unable to work since the sexual attack.
At trial, the Defendant utilized the testimony of a security expert who told the jury that while the Pleasure Emporium had been robbed four times, a sexual assault was unforeseeable. Notwithstanding the fact that the store sells sexually oriented merchandise 24 hours a day, the jury agreed, and the victim was forced to file her appeal. Fortunately, the Appellate court is giving her another shot at justice on an evidence technicality dealing with the admission of the hearsay testimony of a co-worker.
This case highlights the importance for Miami businesses to prepare for the worse. Video surveillance has repeatedly proven to be of little to no deterrence to crimes committed in stores. It makes for jaw-dropping television in the nightly news, when we see minimum wage workers fighting for their lives against desperate criminals looking for easy money or something more.
I am not advocating that we arm every entrance to a Starbucks or CVS with a wand-wielding TSA agent demanding to see our IDs and boarding passes. However, it seems to me that security is taken more seriously in other metropolitan cities. For example, rarely can one enter any store in New York City that does not have a security guard present.
I have personally represented victims of violent crimes in South Florida for over 20 years and I believe that, with the deteriorating economy and growing number of unemployed members of our community, we will see a continued increase in these types of crimes. These conditions will also force many to take less desirable, perhaps high-risk jobs, to make ends meet.
Florida businesses cannot cut corners when it comes to providing safety, and I hope that this case will motivate stores, shopping malls, schools and hospitals to increase their focus on safety not only for customers but employees as well. Not every crime is preventable, but adequate security like parking lot lighting, security guards or off duty police represent an investment that every commercial entity should make to preserve the well-being of their most valuable assets... their customers and employees.