By Arden Thoburn
The self-storage industry is growing at such a rapid rate, crime can hardly keep up. As the industry grows, so grow the many ways for criminals to take away from your bottom line. It seems they work as hard at trying to take things away from you as you work to protect your facilities.
One of the most important factors in deterring crime in a facility is lighting. Another, which works closely with your lighting, is a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera system. With adequate lighting, a CCTV system can work much more efficiently in the night hours, when most criminals are taking advantage of dimly lit areas of your facility, exploiting a weakness in your security system. With proper lighting and camera placement in all vulnerable areas, your system can act as a deterrent to crime as much as anything else.
With the proper deterrents in place, you create a mental block for most perpetrators of crimes. You must admit that most criminal minds are lacking common sense and good judgement or they wouldn't be in such a predicament. What I'm getting at is that simple: Commonsense practices for deterring crimes before they happen can save on the bottom line.
You can keep it as simple as possible in regards to your security-system design, or you can get highly sophisticated. One rule of thumb is the KISS method: Keep it simple, Sam, Simon, Sally, etc. I've found that most facilities require a very basic system. Keep in mind that if you have already purchased additional property on an adjacent lot, you may consider thinking ahead. This means it will require a system you can grow into, so your dollars will be better spent and you can save on the bottom line in the long run.
One thing to consider is whether to purchase black-and-white cameras vs. color. Black-and-white cameras give higher definition and better contrast lines of resolution. Most of the time, details are in black and white. Color-camera technology has vastly improved in recent years; however, you can lose some details in the color spectrum as the color sometimes camouflages the images you're trying to improve upon. Again, you must decide which is the best for the bottom line.
You must also consider the type of control system for monitoring and recording of the camera signals. Again, I must stress the need to keep it simple. The control part of the system is where your dollars are stretched a little. The multiplexer is a device used to combine multiple camera signals to be recorded on one industrial video recorder, and there are a number of types available. Two of the most common units are referred to as simplex and duplex. The simplex version gives you all the recording capabilities, but limited displays of single or switching of cameras on the monitor as you're recording. The duplex version gives you all recording capabilities, but more display options while you're recording. Obviously, the simplex version will cost you less, and we know what that means.
You can take it a step further and get into the new digital-recording devices available today, and eliminate the need for videotape recorders. You can record up to 32 cameras at a maximum of 71 days with digital equipment. This product can connect through a local area network (LAN), integrated services digital network (ISDN), modem or the Internet. These systems are the future of the CCTV industry; however, they are more costly.
In sharp contrast, you might consider a simple quad system, which includes a quad compression unit that enables you to record a maximum of four cameras on an industrial recorder. You can always replace the quad unit when growing the system with more cameras and a multiplexer. This makes for a low-budget system to work with until such time your bottom line improves.
Today, phone-line equipment with built-in modems are available for monitoring your facilities from the office or home. You can even carry the receiver with you on the road and simply plug into any available standard phone line to monitor your facility. There are also some simple software packages for monitoring your system from a laptop or home computer.
CCTV systems can help you market your facility in today's competitive market. You can take a bite out of crime, but a criminal will always be biting at your heels. So be prepared, and stay a step or two ahead. Remember that CCTV can help as a deterrent to crime as much as anything else, but there's no guarantee that CCTV will stop all crime from occurring. It will, however, help improve the bottom line.
Arden Thoburn is vice president, national sales manager for Greensboro, N.C.-based Crest Electronics Inc., a manufacturer of video-security products, including black-and-white and color monitors, multiplexers, quads, time-lapse recorders, event-alarm recorders, lenses, domes, video motion detectors and more. For more information, call (888) 502-7378, or visit www.crestelectronics.com.