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Limiting Your Self-Storage Facility's Exposure to Crime

By Derek Hines Comments

It’s simple really: The job of a self-storage company is to provide a secure place for customers to store their belongings. Folks only agree to this concept because they believe their possessions will be there when they return. Knowing this, it’s imperative that you do everything you can to ensure their property is as safe as possible. Achieving this feat is another matter.

The Nordstrom Effect

If you’ve ever walked into a Nordstrom department store, you’re immediately transported into a world of gleaming floors, and well-lit and impeccably organized displays. The employees are attentive, greeting you with a friendly, helpful air. The company understands that creating this upscale environment shows would-be crooks they care about every aspect of their business, including its security.

Now compare this with a cut-rate department store. The décor is dated and worn, the lighting dim and uninviting, and the salespeople nowhere to be found. Or if they are in the store, they’re certainly not approaching the customer to offer assistance. Criminals take their cues from this atmosphere and understand the security is most likely also neglected.

The same thing holds true for a self-storage business. The image a property projects is a signal to criminals of the security they’re likely to encounter. Take, for example, the simple act of trash pickup. A would-be crook passes the property and notices a fast-food drink cup has been sitting in front of a storage unit for several days. To him, this is an obvious sign that the staff isn’t walking the property, which makes it a great target for theft.

By contrast, when management puts emphasis on keeping the office, driveways, hallways and bathrooms clean and well-maintained, its lets customers and passers-by know the facility is well-run. By extension, the opportunities for undetected theft are low.

The Vigilant Manager

Storage managers should be visible and active on their property. An important part of being visible is to ensure you walk the grounds every day, with the goal of identifying anything out of the ordinary. This includes checking the perimeter fence, doing lock checks, looking for signs of vandalism, picking up trash, and checking access points for proper function.

Being a vigilant manager also involves consistent monitoring of the entrance and exit for each unit. Occasionally, you’ll find a customer has entered his unit but hasn’t left. This could be a situation in which the customer is trying to live in his space.

In these instances, engaging with customers doesn’t have to be confrontational. When you notice a non-exit, approach that person from an informational stance: “Good morning. I noticed you didn’t punch out with your code last night. I just wanted to remind you that we don’t allow customers to be in the facility after access hours.” The goal is to let the tenant know you’re paying attention without directly accusing him of acts that could be detrimental to the continued rental of the unit.

You should also conduct a full, weekly reconciliation of all units to ensure they jive with your store report. Anything that looks off should be investigated.

Customer Rapport

Another element to crime prevention is developing a relationship with customers. Whenever a tenant comes to the property, engage with him. It can be as simple as asking, “How’s it going?” Over time, this rapport pays off. As the customer gets to know you and your staff, a bond of trust is created. This can deliver big dividends when he turns into a community watchdog, alerting you to potential illegal activity on the premises.

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