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What Would You Do? Getting a Grip on Self-Storage Crime

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Bledsoe: We would monitor the access hours of the renters, review security recordings during these access times, and try to determine if the activity we witness is something that would require law-enforcement assistance. We would never take matters into our own hands if illegal activity is occurring at a storage property. We would contact authorities and discuss the issues with them.

What would you do if you discovered an employee or co-worker stealing?

Richard and Beverly Haessler (RichardandBeverly), resident managers of Park Inn Storage in Odessa, Texas, and Driscoll indicated they would fire the employee without hesitation. “Stealing is like lying to me, both will get you fired in a heartbeat,” Driscoll wrote.

Marie Brown (Rebee), office manager for Ackley Circle E-Z Store in Oakdale, Calif., has experience with this issue, having caught on camera a part-time employee stealing cash payments from customers. Brown says a review of video footage revealed several incidents totaling more than $1,000. The employee was shown the video in front of police. She was arrested and confessed to the crime, although she later tried to fight the charges in court when she was denied unemployment.

“As the office manager and company accountant, it is my job to protect the owner's money, and we just felt that maybe having her arrested would stop this cycle,” Brown says. “All the court did was slap her on the hand and make her pay a small fine, not even reimburse us. Incredible.”

What SHOULD you do?

Schaefer: This is a delicate and difficult issue. Falsely accusing someone of a crime can create its own set of problems. Respond only to what you actually know rather than what you suspect to be true. If you are a co-worker, you should report your actual observations to your supervisor or employer and let them respond to the situation. If you’re a supervisor or employer, you need to investigate the suspected activity.

An employee who’s suspected of theft should be confronted with facts and without judgment or condemnation until the truth is known. When all is known, your decision with respect to discipline or termination of the employee should be both lawful and consistent in how any similar occurrence would be treated in the past or in the future with another employee.

Sedlacek: If you believe an employee or co-worker may be stealing, it’s very important not to jump to conclusions. Falsely accusing a staff member of a crime is not a positive action and could lead to serious trouble down the road. However, it’s important to protect your self-storage operation from theft, embezzlement and other fraud.

If an employee reports suspicions to you or you witness what you suspect may be evidence of illegal activity, your first course of action should be to document these concerns in accordance with your company’s human resources policies. If there is no standardized policy in place, collect documentation to further support your concerns, such as reports from your facility-management software, routine auditing records, receipts and logs. This activity should be performed without comment to avoid raising suspicions among employees, particularly the staff member being investigated. If this research supports your suspicions, then it’s time to contact the police and your insurance agent.

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