At one of the self-storage properties I oversee in Ohio, we’ve teamed up with Toledo Police Department (TPD) to become a training facility for its K9 unit. The program has benefited us immensely while allowing us to support local law enforcement. Here’s how we got started and why you should consider such a partnership for your business.
How It Started
Toledo is near the Michigan state border and only about 40 minutes from Canada. There are two major highways in the city: Interstate 75, which runs north and south, and the Ohio Turnpike, a 241-mile toll road that stretches east to west. These factors combined make the area popular for drug and human trafficking.
About a year ago, homeland security was looking for a truck involved in a trafficking case. Officers asked if they could come our facility as part of their search and take a look. While there, they asked if we’d be willing to allow an officer and his K9 to train at our site. They explained how the program works and that several area businesses participate. They said self-storage facilities are some of the best places to train due to their layout and all the places to hide items for dogs to find. We agreed the partnership would benefit both parties.
How it Works
As part of the TPD K9 program, each teach team is coached in a specialty. Our officer and his partner are focused on drug enforcement. In other words, the dog sniffs out drugs! When they visit, the officer leaves her in his vehicle or our front office, then goes out into the facility and plants something for her to find. He then retrieves her, and they search the property together. If and when she finds something, she issues a signal. He gives her a reward and continues the sweep.
If at any point the dog signals at a unit where the officer hadn’t placed a target, he puts in a call for a search warrant. The exercise allows her to train and helps us discover if there’s any unwanted activity on the property. Of course, we observe all proper legal guidelines.
When we started the program, I posted information about it at the front of the facility and in the office. This has undoubtedly deterred criminal activity and helps our tenants feel more confident about storing with us. If we ever see anything questionable on the property, we call the officer to see if he can come out and train for the day. I’m happy to say we’ve never found anything that shouldn’t be on site. I also feel more secure knowing TPD is on our side if and when we need them.
For us, partnering with law enforcement has prevented possible illegal activity. Tenants and visitors see we have K9 patrols and will be less likely to target our facility for break-ins and drug-related crime. Before we began this arrangement, I would occasionally see activity that could be deemed suspicious, and that has now diminished.
If this is something you’d like to consider for your self-storage business, I suggest calling the non-emergency number at your police or sheriff’s office and speak to a K9-unit officer. Ask if they’re seeking training areas and let them know you’d like to volunteer your facility. Invite them to the property, show them what you have to offer and build a relationship. It’s just like any marketing, except you’re selling an opportunity instead of space.
Heather Hughes-Meek is a regional manager for Absolute Storage Management, a self-storage owner and provider of third-party management services. She joined the company in 2018 as a property manager and now oversees facilities in Florida and Ohio. For more information, call 901.737.7336.