Is your storage facility secure enough to attract quality tenants and scare off the bad guys?
Security is the number two factor in choosing self-storage, according to a 2014 consumer survey conducted by SpareFoot, edged out by price but still ahead of location, access hours, cleanliness and friendliness.
“There are steps you can take and low-cost methods you can employ to minimize your property as a target,” said Jerry Quarles, a crime prevention officer with the police department in Mesa, AZ.
“Facility operators who take a proactive approach will send burglars looking elsewhere,” Quarles said.
Security experts and police use a program called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), said Timothy Zehring , a security expert who specializes in self-storage facilities.
The CPTED program focuses on four key areas of security:
Take a walk around and look for possible access areas into and out of your storage facility. Zehring searches for places where non-customers could jump over or crawl under a fence. For potential trespass areas, plant some thorny bushes, enhance lighting and install a surveillance camera in that spot.
“If anything hinders surveillance, those are the things you need to fix,” said Zehring.
Rows of units may be hidden from office view. That’s why you need a combination of organized surveillance such as a staffer driving around the property along with cameras and convex mirrors. You also need to have some type of surveillance after hours, Zehring said.
In addition to your own security audit, ask local police to check for vulnerable points. It’s better to be proactive than reactive by having police do a security survey before a crime occurs, said Quarles.
“We will walk the site, thinking about how a criminal might access your property and units. We will then make recommendations on how to harden the target,” Quarles said.
Call a security products company, which can send someone out to pinpoint weak spots that can be eliminated or reduced with keypads, cameras or alarm systems.
2. Access control
Storage facilities like to offer 24-hour access to customers but keep in mind that “burglars love 24-hour access,” said Zehring. “If they go in at 2 a.m., no one is there.”
Keep track of who comes and goes with a keypad at the gate where tenants have to type in a PIN. That way, management can review the record for suspicious entries and exits.
“You can tell if someone got in by tailgating or ask, ‘Why are these people staying here until four in the morning?” said Gary Carland, business development manager for PTI Security Systems.
Limit gate hours and change customer PINs every couple months, since codes get passed to friends and relatives. Control access to storage units by securing them with disc locks or “some lock that cannot be cut,” said Zehring. Place anti-tamper security tape on all locks so you can tell with a glance whether someone cut the lock.
Nowadays, self-storage customers generally expect units armed with door alarms, said Carland. Storage alarms average around $120 per unit (depending on the technology and quality) but facilities with alarms have a higher occupancy rate, fill up faster, and command higher rent, he said.
3. Activity support
Don’t spend all your time in the office. Get out and shake hands with tenants, said Zehring. Make several passes through the facility to check things out. “If you’ve got lots of activity going on, that will support the safety of the property,” Zehring said.
Partnering with law enforcement also sends a message that your facility isn’t an easy mark. Applewood Self Storage in Madison, WI, teamed up with the Madison Police Department to conduct ongoing training for the K-9 unit’s officers and drug-sniffing dogs at both of its facilities. Applewood also partners with Wisconsin K-9 SOS, a team of professional rescuers.
What impression do you give about who is controlling your property? Is your fence in disrepair? Are weeds thriving next to scattered litter? Thieves look for things like that.
“It’s an environmental clue,” said Zehring. “When burglars see that management is asleep at the wheel, that’s an invitation to crime,” he said.