Self-storage has long been a hotbed for criminal activity. Clandestine laboratories, stolen goods, illegal drugs and stockpiles of weapons are routinely found in self-storage units in big cities and small towns.
Case in point: A couple of weeks ago, police in Pennsylvania staked out a self-storage facility to spy on a murder suspect. They watched as the man dropped something off in his unit. It turned out to be a semi-automatic stolen from the victim at the time of his murder. The facility also had surveillance tape of the man walking down a storage hallway, rifle in hand. Turns out he had a few other guns in the unit and told police he was “stockpiling” them as part of a plan to overthrow the government.
Security is a cornerstone of every facility’s success. You can have the best rates in town or the nicest managers, but if your facility is continually a target for criminals—external or internal—you’ll lose your good tenants and attract less desirable ones.
Operators are well aware of the benefits of access-control systems such as keyed entry and parameter fencing, and rely on surveillance cameras to not only catch crimes but also act as deterrents for would-be thieves. But some operators are moving beyond basic video surveillance systems and access control.
Self-storage operators in Wichita Falls, Texas, who participate in the police department’s crime-free program can request a K9 officer and police dog conduct regular patrols on their property. To qualify, operators must attend a free, three-hour class on crime prevention. After attending the class, Andy Borchardt, co-owner of Hot Shots Moving & Storage, added a new sign to his facility’s main gate announcing the certification. I bet that discourages people from storing drugs at that facility, not to mention ward off a trespasser or two.
Are you working with your local law enforcement agency? Have you considered offering the department a free unit or giving a discount to police officers? How about letting officers train at your facility? Police departments are always on the lookout for safe and sparsely populated places to train. Also, talk to law enforcement in your neighborhood and ask them what you can do to strengthen your facility’s security to minimize crime.
If you have cameras in place, make sure you have enough. One self-storage manager beefed up security after his facility had 52 break-ins in one month. Chris Lane, manager at Sure Save USA Self Storage in Houston, added more security cameras to his facility because even though the culprits were caught on tape, the video only showed the vehicle going from unit to unit, never revealing evidence of lock-cutting. The facility now also requires tenants upgrade to disc locks. If you’re not sure if you have enough cameras—or their placement, check out this Self-Storage Talk thread and read what other operators are doing.
Being aware of everything and everyone coming and going on your property can also help minimize crime. The operators in this Self-Storage Talk thread say if they think their facility is being “cased” for a crime, they confront the suspicious behavior head on. And here’s an article from the ISS archives on ways managers can create the “illusion” of security at their sites.
Has your facility had a break-in? Are you adding new security measures? Tell us about it by posting a comment below or head over to Self-Storage Talk.