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How to Combat Crime at Self-Storage Facilities

Posted by Shawna Ivy on Jun 13, 2023

Self-storage facilities are a popular solution for people and businesses that need extra space to store their items. However, like any other business, self-storage facilities are not immune to criminal activity. Theft, vandalism, and other crimes can occur at these facilities. They can have a significant impact on the facility’s reputation and profitability.

Here’s a look at the trends of self-storage facilities in the U.S. and actionable steps to help deter crime at self-storage facilities.

The Self-Storage Industry in the US

Self-storage facilities can be found in every state in the U.S. Of course, some states have more facilities than others. For example, with more than 3,000 facilities, Texas has the highest number of self-storage facilities. California and Florida are close behind with over 2,500 facilities each.

Table showing which U.S. cities saw the most interest in self-storage facilities in 2022: New York City, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, and San Antonio

According to a report from StorageCafe, more than 20% of Americans rent self-storage units. Another 15% plan to rent a unit in the future. The most common reason cited for self-storage facility rental is not having enough space at home. This surpasses those who selected “moving” as the reason.

Members of Gen X are the most frequent users of these facilities at 23%. Not far behind Gen X are the Millennials and Baby Boomers, accounting for 21% each. It’s not surprising that Gen Z has the fewest number of people using self-storage. They’re in college or fresh out of college. They have probably not accumulated enough stuff to require renting a storage unit.

Another trend that’s on the rise is self-storage. Interest in self-storage facilities has nearly doubled between 2019 and 2022. This is due to changes in the economy and real estate market. Don’t be surprised if self-storage jumps as the searches for self-storage in major cities have almost tripled in the same period.

What’s the outlook on the self-storage industry? Doug Resller, Business Intelligence Manager of Yardi Matrix answers.

“The storage market enjoys considerable momentum. The pandemic gave a huge boost to the trend for remote working, meaning that people need to create offices at home, and this only added to the traditional sources of demand.

“In addition to this, the new trend in multifamily development that sees apartment sizes shrinking nationally plus the shifting patterns in migration result in changing priorities about living arrangements, especially in places seeing a high inbound population flow. These factors and others may all encourage strong growth in the self-storage sector going forward.”

Self-Storage and Crime

Self-storage facilities offer a convenient solution for storing items. Unfortunately, they are vulnerable to crime. It doesn’t help that popular TV shows like “Storage Wars” have shown the possibilities of valuable items being found in self-storage facilities. Therefore, criminals find them attractive targets.

Common types of crime that can occur at self-storage facilities include theft, vandalism, and arson. Theft obviously involves crooks breaking into storage units and stealing items. They may do smash-and-grabs with unattended vehicles parked by the facility.

When it comes to vandalism, suspects break windows, damage doors, or deface property. Although less common, arson can happen at self-storage facilities and can result in significant damage to the property and endanger people’s lives.

The impact of crime at self-storage facilities can be sizeable. It can result in property damage and loss of items for customers. Crimes occurring at self-storage units hurt the facility’s reputation and make customers feel unsafe. This can lead to customers closing their accounts and moving their things elsewhere.

Preventing criminal activity protects the facility’s reputation and profitability and ensures that customers and their belongings are safe and secure when using the facility. This is why it’s critical to take steps to help deter crime.

6 Steps to Combat Crime at Self-Storage Facilities

Deterring illegal activities at self-storage facilities requires a comprehensive approach that includes physical security measures, access controls, employee training, and regular maintenance. Here are six proactive steps self-storage facilities can take to minimize criminal acts and maximize security.

1. Install security cameras with monitoring

Video surveillance with monitoring is one of the most effective and proactive ways to help deter criminal activity. Trained monitoring operators watch live security cameras that are equipped with video analytics to monitor the entire facility in real time. If suspicious activity is spotted, the security professionals can analyze the situation and take immediate action. This can entail activating onsite speakers to warn trespassers they are being watched and calling police.

Live video monitoring can be more effective in alerting the authorities than traditional alarm systems. Traditional systems have a high risk of false alarms. Live monitoring helps eliminate false alarms.

Because we are watching crimes in progress, police tend to elevate the priority level of our calls, which often results in their arrival while the suspects are still there. However, if the police do not arrive in time, then the camera footage can help identify the suspects. The days of grainy video are long gone. Today’s video surveillance technologies can provide identifying information. Everything the cameras see is saved as recordings. Self-storage facilities can send these recordings to anyone who needs evidence of what happened. This includes law enforcement, insurance companies, and lawyers.

The monitoring operators who are watching the cameras are in a remote location away from the facility. Check out this storage facility security video in which two trespassers with tools enter the facility. They had not even entered the facility when the monitoring operator spotted them and called the police. This gang even had someone acting as a lookout and that didn’t work as the police arrived and arrested everyone.

Just having video cameras isn’t always enough. The partnership of video analytics and human operators helps catch something suspicious before anything happens.

2. Add effective lighting

Good lighting is essential for helping to deter criminal activity at self-storage facilities. Criminals are less likely to target a well-lit facility, as they are more likely to be seen by others. Ensure that the facility is well-lit both inside and outside. If you use video surveillance, the system can monitor for malfunctioning lights.

3. Incorporate an access control system

An access control system grants and revokes access to locations and resources. These can include keycards, pin codes, and biometric scanners. The system can help prevent unauthorized people from entering the facility. They also track who accesses the facility. Cloud-based access control systems are customizable, scalable, and flexible.

It’s easy to grant and revoke access in an instant from any connected device. Some systems can grant access based on a scheduled time or with a time limit. Another option is to combine access control with video surveillance.

4. Conduct employee and contractor background checks

It’s routine for many companies to run a background check before formally hiring an employee. These checks look at a person’s criminal history and other red flags that could be a potential problem.

5. Maintain the facility on a regular basis

Consistent maintenance of the facility includes repairing broken locks, checking the fencing around the facility, and ensuring that the facility is free of damage. Landscaping can be a criminal’s friend or enemy. It’s also important to maintain the landscape, otherwise overgrown trees and shrubbery can create hiding places.

6. Educate employees and customers

Another important step is to educate employees and customers about the importance of security measures. Advise that they use strong locks on their units, avoid storing high-value items, and do not share their access codes or keys with others. Perhaps, create a handout and post it on the company website.

Employees need to undergo security training when they join the company. They also need to attend a refresher at least once a year. This training covers potential security risks and how to respond to different scenarios.

Fortifying security and increasing safety at self-storage facilities requires a comprehensive approach that includes physical security measures like lighting, remote video surveillance, access control systems, employee training, and regular maintenance.

How Stealth Helps Self-Storage Facilities

Stealth Monitoring’s proactive security cameras with remote monitoring services can do more than help guard your self-storage facility. It’s a critical service that helps shield your customers’ priceless assets and limits exposure to premises liability. If a crime occurs at a self-storage facility, it could largely affect business because customers and potential customers will think their possessions won’t be safe.

You can level up when you opt for an integrated security system. They’re easy to maintain and keep current. Since everything is integrated, the system won’t need as many people to manage it as if they were siloed. That’s why an integrated security system comes with cost savings often yielding a faster return on security investment.

A lot of clients are surprised to learn that remote video surveillance technology along with the monitoring service only costs a fraction of what it would cost to hire security guards. Stealth Monitoring clients often get an ROI within months.

Stealth Monitoring security professionals can conduct a review of your self-storage facility to create the right-sized security solution. In choosing to work with us, you’ll have access to security experts with experience in securing self-storage facilities.

Another advantage of working with Stealth is that we have partnerships with law enforcement agencies across North America. When you partner with us, you can save a lot of time in trying to build relationships with law enforcement.

To learn more about video surveillance with remote monitoring, pick up this guide to Remote Video Surveillance: More Than Just Catching Criminals. For a customized security system that fits your requirements and budget while maximizing your ROI, contact us.

Texas Private Security License Number: B14187.