Do You Have Any of These 7 Security Flaws in Your Multifamily Building?

Posted by Alex Godwin-Austen on March 1, 2022

What are the common reasons apartment residents move? Most people guess the top two reasons, which are job opportunities and affordability. However, most don't figure out what comes in third. The third reason why residents move is safety per a survey from Apartment List.

Residents in specific cities cite safety concerns at a much higher rate than the overall survey. These include Albuquerque, Las Vegas, and Louisville. Additionally, people in cities with high crime rates including Detroit and Chicago cite it as the reason for moving away.

No multifamily building is considered safe. It does not matter if your property is in the safest neighborhood in the country. Being the safest doesn't mean it's free of crime. It means that it has less crime than the average neighborhood.

Crooks go wherever the opportunities present themselves. Apartments are like public spaces where everyone doesn't know each other. Even employees do not know all their residents. This makes it easier to get into the building or some other area on the property like the parking lot.

Criminals go after multifamily communities and condos because it's like having many houses in one spot that allows them to steal from multiple families. By comparison, it's harder to rob multiple detached family homes. Their neighbors know who lives in the home. Traveling from home-to-home risks exposure.

All of these factors create these top seven security flaws found in multifamily buildings whether they are apartments, condos, or multifamily residential buildings.

1. Poor Lighting and Landscaping

How many times have you been in parking garages with dimly lit stairwells? Or in a parking lot with bad lighting that you're in the dark for part of the time? Intruders look for dark, shadowy areas on your property. This lets them remain conspicuous while they work.

Landscaping can have a negative effect on your security. Yes, it adds aesthetics to your property to make it feel like home. However, it can help criminals as shrubs give them a place to hide. Poor landscaping maintenance makes it possible for them to find ways into the building without being seen.

You can enhance aesthetics with smart landscaping that doesn't negatively impact security. Still, smart landscaping won't do any good if it's not looked after.

Many multifamily properties don't have sufficient lighting and they don't regularly check to verify it’s working. The least expensive and easiest security feature is lighting. Simply adding a light that automatically turns on when someone walks by can scare off many people. It takes away an opportunity for crooks to hide in dark places.

Effective lighting is more than adding automated lights. It's recommended you work with a security consultant to identify the kind of lights you need, how many, and where to place them. Once you have the lights in place, stay on top of it.

2. Unlimited Access to the Property

You'd think with people coming and going on the property that crooks would go elsewhere instead of risk being seen. There's also the opposite effect in hiding in plain sight. Clever thieves will walk with the crowd looking like they belong there. Anyone can enter the building when the doors aren't locked.

Don't forget about public common areas like the fitness room, laundry room, mailroom, and gathering spaces. These can present openings for criminals.

3. Tailgating and Piggybacking

The challenge with multifamily housing is that everyone has their own way of handling things. You can have good security systems in place but they'll be for naught if trespassers enter the building by piggybacking or tailgating.

What are tailgating and piggybacking? Tailgating is when someone who doesn't live in the property sees a door open and sneaks into the property. Piggybacking is when a resident opens the door for an unauthorized person and lets them in the building. Both are big problems in multifamily residential communities.

It's easy for someone to just tailgate as no one will know that person doesn't belong there. And many human beings like to be helpful. If they're entering the building and someone comes up behind, they naturally prop the door open to let in the stranger. These are challenging problems to solve.

4. Dark and Unlimited Access to Parking Lots and Garages

Some criminals don't even enter the building. They target parking areas instead, especially with the meteoric rise in catalytic converter thefts. State Farm mentioned to the reporters at WFAA that it has paid out more than $20 million in claims for catalytic converter thefts in 2021. This is $3 million more than what they paid in 2020.

It only takes one to two minutes to steal a catalytic converter from vehicles. Crooks roll under the vehicle and cut them out. They can easily obtain multiple converters from a parking lot. On NBCDFW, a woman who lives in a multifamily building revealed that she has had three catalytic converters stolen from her car in the parking lot. That is in spite of taking extra steps after the first theft in which a muffler shop welded rebar around the second catalytic converter. And yet it was stolen.

Her car was parked in a well-lit parking space and close by her residence. The news story quoted a mechanic who said thieves can find a way around a cage even one that weighs a hefty 30 pounds. They are using a small, battery-operated saw with metal cutting blades to remove the part in under two minutes.

Stealing converters is very profitable as it only takes two minutes of work to make thousands of dollars. To make matters worse, there's a shortage of metals that are found in catalytic converters. This is driving up the cost of the metals and creating a shortage, which is why it's hard to get a replacement.

Multifamily properties also need to be concerned about smash-and-grabs, which remain a problem. This is a form of burglary where burglars break a window, grab anything of value, and get away quickly.

5. Unprotected Mail and Packages

With more people staying home for safety reasons, shopping online has rocketed since the start of the pandemic. A chart in the Marketplace Pulse story uses data from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Census Bureau. A look at the chart shows online shopping increased slightly by about $3 billion every year from 1999 to early 2020. By the second quarter of 2020, shopping climbed by 16 times more than all the previous quarters.

This is important for multifamily residential properties because residents receive an average of 10 packages every month. Prior to the crisis, the average was six packages. When the holiday season comes, the number of packages delivered soars to 14 packages a month.

All that said, package theft is a problem for apartment communities. A C+R Research Survey reveals that 43 percent of Americans have had a package stolen in 2020. This study consisted of multifamily buildings with and without a doorman as well as condos with and without a doorman.

6. Lack of Remote Video Surveillance

The presence of security cameras alone can drive away some criminals. Many of the multifamily building security flaws can be minimized by implementing remote video surveillance. Crimes often occur in the parking lot and garage. But no one is ever caught when there aren't video cameras to catch the crime in action.

Without cameras on the property, it makes it harder to stay on top of lighting and landscaping maintenance. Someone would have to walk the entire property every day to check the lights. One broken light can be enough for someone to commit a crime. With remote video surveillance, video analytics and a trained monitoring operator can keep a watch over the lights at all times. As soon as one goes out, they can catch it and report it.

If people are coming and going as they please, it will make it easier for unauthorized people to walk in. Without cameras, you won't have evidence you need to determine who committed the crime. Security cameras can monitor parking, mail, and packages.

Tailgating and piggybacking are challenging problems. It requires educating residents. However, they may not be apt to listen and follow advice. The onus falls on property management. Remote video surveillance can monitor for tailgating and piggybacking. The monitoring operator, located elsewhere away from the multifamily building, won't have the discomfort of being there in person. It's easier to stop someone when you're not face-to-face with them.

Most traditional security technologies don't catch anything until after a crime occurs. Remote video surveillance is a proactive security solution that can help deter crime.

7. No Access Control System

Leaving the doors unlocked all the time puts the building at risk for crimes. An access control system lets you keep the doors locked at all times. Residents and employees can enter the building with an access card or some other access tool.

When you combine access control with remote video surveillance, you enhance the security of your multifamily building. Video surveillance that pairs video analytics and human intelligence can help spot problems early. For instance, when a person piggybacks into the building, the trained monitoring operator can issue a warning to ask the person to leave.

It's possible to integrate access control with video surveillance to reap the benefits of an integrated security system. The access control provides the time stamp that will help you find the footage you need faster. The integration can help enhance security, save on costs, and mitigate risks.

Integrated security can help you close the gap on these seven flaws in multifamily buildings and provide better security and protection for your residents and employees.

To learn more, check out this Complete Guide to Securing Your Apartment Building. It shows you how to choose the right security solution without overpaying for it. Ready to learn more? Contact us.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Video Monitoring