My company, Valley Storage, operates 28 facilities in Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. As part of our security plan, we create partnerships with law-enforcement agencies at all of our locations. Doing so yields positive benefits for our business, the community and the agencies themselves. We support police however we can; and in return, our properties get more first-responder presence, which prevents criminal activity on and around the site.
There are many ways to create rapport with the agencies in your area. None of the suggestions below involve modifying your infrastructure or operation. Rather, they provide a way for your facility to be a community resource while deterring criminal activity.
One of the best ways to create this unique partnership is by allowing officers to use your self-storage property as a training ground. Police will train their K-9 units on a variety of maneuvers, from the rescue of lost children or dementia patients, to the detection of cell phones in prisons and drug discovery.
If there’s an apartment on your site that isn’t in use, it could be rented below market rate to a member of the police force or other first responder. Your facility benefits from having his vehicle parked outside to discourage crime.
Here are some other ways you can partner with law enforcement:
- Offer free storage units to police-athletic leagues to store their supplies and gear.
- Offer discounts to police officers for their personal storage.
- Allow law enforcement to store evidence at your facility, such as vehicles involved in fatal crashes.
- Support police events, such as National Night Out, with giveaways, or volunteer your time.
Make the Connection
Setting up a partnership with law enforcement is something every storage operator can do easily. The first step is to contact a local agency and identify its needs. Most departments will be surprised that you want to help but grateful for the ask. Once their needs are assessed, check with your legal and insurance teams to see if there are any risks. Most will be thrilled to have your facility participate in these endeavors, but it’s always good to get clearance.
If law enforcement chooses your facility as a training ground, there’s protocol to follow. For example, when a customer rents a unit at one of our stores, the manager explains that we work with local police and they’ll randomly be on site for training. It doesn’t happen frequently, but tenants receive no other warning. Often, it’s so low-key that customers don’t even notice. Police usually use one structure at a time, typically one that with hallways and stairways. Building access is restricted while training is in progress; however, if a tenant needs to get to his unit, the proceedings can be paused.
Enjoy the Benefits
Working with law enforcement has been such a positive experience for my company that the only thing I’d do differently is to seek partnerships with agencies earlier and more aggressively as we expanded into new communities. The results are hard to quantify, but the result is less criminal activity at our facilities and in the neighborhood at large. The community also benefits from better-trained officers.
In addition, some police departments will conduct a free risk assessment of your facility. They’ll walk the site and offer suggestions. For example, they might advise where to add cameras or propose a change in gate hours. Their feedback could prevent problems, so it’s extremely valuable. Your facility will be a generally safer place for tenants to store.
Police presence helps, of course; but the biggest crime deterrent lies in managers explaining to tenants your connection with local agencies. Even if your facility can’t provide a training ground or offer low-cost storage to police, it’s important that you’re familiar with law enforcement. Reach out and invite officers for a tour; it might be helpful in an emergency. They’ll be able to respond quicker if they’re already aware of your facility layout. Providing them with an emergency gate code can also help.
Just recognizing law enforcement is a simple way to show appreciation and boost morale in the community. Provide them with lunch on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day (January 9) or support their events. Identifying their needs benefits the community in several ways.
Partnering with law-enforcement agencies on any level has positive outcomes. The relationship is a win-win. Your business will enjoy great public relations while providing a safer environment and serving as a resource for police and first responders.
Todd Snook is owner and president of Valley Storage Co., which operates 28 self-storage facilities in six eastern states. Based in Hagerstown, Md., Valley opened its first self-storage location in Williamsport, Md., in 1986. It currently owns more than 1.6 million square feet of storage space in Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. For more information, call 877.300.1511; visit www.valleystorageco.com.