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10 Crime-Prevention Strategies for Self-Storage Operators

A self-storage facility should be designed to offer superior protection for tenants’ stored items. Here are 10 steps to work toward a crime-free environment.

As a self-storage operator, you’re not just offering your tenants extra space, you’re offering space that’s secure. A storage facility should be designed to provide superior protection for customers’ goods. It might have gated access, surveillance cameras, individually alarmed units or even a dedicated security team.

In a competitive market, preventing crime at your property helps to maintain your excellent reputation and keeps tenants happy. That said, all the disc locks and onsite managers in the world don’t always add up to a 100 percent crime-free environment. To work toward that goal, you must take additional measures. Here are 10.

1. Start With the Lease

Do you remember that old horror-movie trope in which the babysitter realizes the threatening call is coming from inside the house? Don’t let that happen at your storage facility. Start preventing crime from within. During the lease signing, make new tenants aware of items and activities that aren’t allowed on the property. Always get identification and accurate contact information; and never rent to tenants who can only give you a P.O. box.

You can take this further by doing background checks on customers; but be aware this will require you to ask for their Social Security numbers, and some may take issue with this. If you go this route, you’ll be able to assure tenants they’re renting at a facility where all renters have passed a background check, making your property one of the safest in town.

2. Understand Your Surroundings

Any time you’re in a new space, whether that be a neighborhood, workplace or home, you take stock of your surroundings. After you’ve been there for a while, it’s normal to lose that awareness. Try to look at your storage facility and the neighboring area with fresh eyes. Ask yourself:

  • How hard would it be to hop the fence?
  • How many entrances and exits do you have?
  • How well-lit is the property at night?
  • How busy are the nearby streets?
  • Are there multiple parking lots and nearby street parking?
  • Are there speed bumps to slow down cars?

All these factors will either aid or prevent would-be criminals from committing crimes and fleeing the property.

3. Work With Law Enforcement

Law-enforcement officers are there to help you keep your facility safe, so it’s important to have a relationship with them. You can do this by offering police a 24-hour access code to your gate, showing up at community events such as “National Night Out,” or seeking smaller events where you can meet officers in a relaxed setting. If you offer a military discount, consider extending this to officers so you have some renting at your facility.

Another creative way to develop a relationship with law enforcement is to allow them to conduct training at your site. Take, for example, the story of Lake Mary Mini Storage in Florida. The property allows K9 units to train on the property at night. One evening, two burglars showed up, and officers could act immediately because they were already there. If you have a similar relationship with authorities, you can expect a faster response when crimes occur.

4. Train Staff to Be Vigilant

Like many self-storage challenges, crime prevention often comes down to staff training. Teach everyone how to monitor surveillance cameras, make rounds on foot, and check for problems with gates and locks. Consider having a log where employees note what goes on, so you have a record of anything unusual.

5. Keep Your Office Safe

When discussing crime prevention at storage facilities, the focus is typically on the units themselves (and their contents, of course). While that approach is largely appropriate, it overlooks other spaces such as your management office, maintenance shed and parking lot.

You should always protect your most important asset—your employees. Have cameras in staff areas and ensure your office is alarmed and locked overnight. If your facility receives a lot of cash payments, make deposits at least once a day. Have a set amount of cash you keep in the office and don’t exceed it.

6. Maintain Security Features

Everyone has been to a business with ancient, non-functioning surveillance cameras. The owner thinks their mere presence will ward off crime, but when an incident occurs, there’s no record.

Don’t be that self-storage operator. Maintain the security features at your facility. Fix broken fences. Upgrade your cameras, and trim branches that may be obscuring their view or casting shadows. Focus on curb appeal so your facility doesn’t look like the kind of place where criminals might lurk. If you pick up trash, remove graffiti and plant flowers, you’ll demonstrate that your property is run by people who care about—and keep an eye on—what happens there.

7. Don’t Be a Desk Jockey

There are many reasons to avoid being tied to a desk. It fosters boredom, makes you sedentary and even makes time pass slower. It also causes you to be complacent, and a complacent self-storage employee misses out on preventing crime.

Get out of the office whenever you can. Talk to your customers. Get to know the ones who are long-term tenants so you can greet them when they stop by. Make note of anyone who’s loitering or appears to be acting suspiciously. Don’t be nosy, just be a hands-on manager. Approach individuals with the goal of offering assistance. Legitimate tenants will be grateful, while would-be criminals will be deterred.

8. Restrict 24-Hour Access

Every self-storage operator knows the number of tenants who truly need 24-hour facility access is a lot lower than those who think they do. If you’re considering this, have it available as an amenity for which tenants pay extra. This will limit the number of customers on the property after hours, allowing you to better monitor who should and shouldn’t be there.

9. Advertise Your Onsite Management

Many tenants look for storage facilities with onsite management. This feature shows them help is readily available and someone is always there to keep their belongings safe. If you have an onsite manager, shout it from the rooftops (not literally). Including the phrase “onsite manager” on your signage and website will attract tenants and dissuade criminals.

10. Beef Up Your System

You probably already know the best way to prevent crime at your facility is to have modern, effective security tools in place. Still, it bears repeating. Do a thorough audit of your current features. Inspect your lighting, cameras, locks and everything else that keeps you and your tenants safe. Is there something that hasn’t been upgraded in years? Invest in better security and you’ll gain loyal tenants.

When implementing the above crime-prevention steps, prioritize your safety and that of your employees. Never go into a unit where you suspect something dangerous, such as illegal squatters or a meth lab. If there’s an assault on the property or an armed robber, remember it’s not your responsibility to place yourself in harm’s way. Contact the authorities. If you’ve done your part in preventing crime on your site, your day-to-day operation should be smooth and crime-free; but don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

Krista Diamond is a staff writer for StorageFront, which allows customers to custom search and compare thousands of self-storage facilities. She’s a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and lives in Las Vegas. When she isn't writing about storage, she’s climbing mountains in the desert. For more information, visit www.storagefront.com

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