Guarding Against Self-Storage Perils: Facility Managers Deter Crime and Ensure Personal Safety

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Operating a self-storage facility shouldn't be a perilous job, but it can involve certain dangers, particularly if you live on site. Every operator faces the potential of crime including break-ins, vandalism and illegal activity on behalf of tenants. There's even the possibility of experiencing a robbery, which seems to be a more common occurrence in the industry.

Strangely, in this age where most customers pay with debit and credit cards, storage facilities still keep petty cash on the property; and in some markets, they cater to a tenant base that's largely cash and carry. This can entice a criminal element who understands that storage-management offices are generally low-traffic venues with very little staff. It's easy for a robber to enter the property and pose as a customer until he sees his window of opportunity. Here's just a sampling of crimes reported on insideselfstorage.com in recent years:

  • In February, a man threatened a self-storage employee in Oklahoma City, Okla., and made off with an unknown amount of cash. Although he did not produce a weapon, the manager told police she was afraid the man might hurt her.
  • Last August an armed robber held up a facility in Corpus Christi, Texas, escaping with an employee’s purse.
  • In March 2012, at least six suspects held a self-storage security guard at gunpoint in Brooklyn while stealing from storage units.
  • The owner of a self-storage facility in Columbia, Calif., was robbed at gunpoint in June 2011. A man walked into the office around noon and demanded money. Later that month, an operator in Brockton, Mass., was also robbed at gunpoint.

The worst case occurred in October 2011 when an 84-year-old self-storage manager died after being wounded during a robbery. The Seattle manager was confronted by two men and stabbed in the neck. One of the perpetrators was apprehended and shot by police the next day while shopping with the victim's credit cards.

It doesn't take being robbed to feel unsafe on your property. Sometimes a tenant or a guest makes you uncomfortable. Other times there's crime occurring in the area around the self-storage facility. Inside Self-Storage recently asked facility operators on the Self-Storage Talk online community about the No. 1 crime deterrents on their properties. Respondents also discussed situations in which they felt in danger and what they did about it.

What do you believe is the No. 1 crime deterrent at your facility and why?

Unfortunately, the greatest crime deterrent at this facility is me. I am a resident manager, and that is about the only deterrent to crime we have. The camera system is one from Costco that I installed at my employer's insistence. It is not high-resolution, will not record, and only covers the main-entrance doors and gates. I do keep all vacant units locked and insist that customers do the same. Luckily the local police and fire department make frequent patrols, and I encourage them to use the facility for training purposes.
~Senior Member FHARumRunner

After a rash of break-ins about two years ago, our regional manager and the store manager posted on the roof for several nights straight with shotguns. Around these parts, we still believe in the Second Amendment. That being a true story, the rest of our stores rely on a quality system of CCTV cameras that are backed up to a DVR.
~Senior Member Advantage IT

It differs from location to location for me. At one site, it is cameras. I am still expanding the system, but since the very first one went up, no more problems. I can catch people dumping and leaving stuff, too—added bonus.

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