|The Inside Scoop|
Crime at Christmastime? Sure, It Happens
Years ago I wrote a short story for ISS magazine about an operator who would cleverly modify his lighted signage each winter holiday season, changing “Self Storage” to “Elf Storage” for fun and community appeal. In years to follow, my staff and I wrote articles about similar marketing tactics (for example, “Spiritus Holidicus Storagarum,” December 2007). I still heartily support the practice of exploiting promotional opportunities that arise this time of year, such as “Santa’s Closet” and "Elf Workshop" advertising. I also wonder whether these strategies simply tip off criminals to the presence of good loot.
Our industry suffers from theft at all times of the year. Now that storage facilities are becoming known in the public eye as places where people store precious treasures (with help from TV shows such as A&E “Storage Wars,” thank you very much), we can likely expect instances of crime to increase. If we thought we were targets before, imagine what’s likely to happen now that thieves expect to find real valuables in our units as a norm.
This week in the news was the story of several August, Ga., self-storage operators who have banded together to fight crime at area facilities. After several break-ins this month, they formed the South August Alliance to help police stop the infiltrations and find the burglars. I’m pleased to see such solidarity among operators and the proactive stance they’ve taken. It may be a model to emulate.
While there may be absolutely no connection between the time of year and the sudden escalation of self-storage crime in Augusta and other cities, I can’t help but wonder if marketing that encourages customers to store holiday purchases in the seclusion of our units also sends a blaring message to would-be offenders: Score here. Spoils are yours for the taking.
It’s an ever-increasing risk. Public awareness equals more business, but it also brings unwelcome attention. We want customers to feel it’s safe to store their goods with us, but we should caution them against storing anything too valuable. And if we don’t, common sense should define reasonable limits for tenants. I am a staunch advocate of our product, and yet I am consistently amazed at what some people will store in a unit.
Please answer me these questions: Do you capitalize on the holidays to increase business at your self-storage facility, and if so, do you worry about drawing the criminal mind? Have you personally experienced break-ins this month, and do you think there’s a connection?
I wish you all a safe and crime-free season at your storage sites. As we go into 2011, let’s brace ourselves for greater industry publicity―good and bad―and be prepared to maximize it to our benefit. Happy holidays!
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