On any given day, customers visiting their storage unit may feel alone. That's just the nature of the business. They also trust the business to keep their valuable items safe from theft. That's why storage security is one of the most important factors for self-storage properties.
Customers don't worry about storing all their stuff at home because they are consistently present. Storage facilities don't have this kind of presence. Thus, thieves consider them more attractive than homes. They have far more opportunities for finding valuable items with many units to explore.
Shows like Storage Wars don't help much. They allow thieves to see the possibilities of what they might find in the units.
How bad is storage unit burglary? Digging up data will prove difficult as burglaries are underreported. Moreover, police departments have their own way of classifying storage theft crimes. However, an article by Timothy Inklebarger in Consumer Digest refers to a Self-Storage Almanac survey that states almost 9 percent of self-storage facilities reported a burglary in 2012.
Inklebarger reports most facilities provide storage security like perimeter fencing, computerized gate access, and video cameras. The article goes on to recommend customers looking for a self-storage unit to confirm they have these storage security features.
"Of the companies that reported to Self-Storage Almanac in 2012, 65 percent said they had computerized gate access, 83.6 percent had perimeter fencing and 81.6 percent had video cameras," Inklebarger writes.
Self-storage businesses must have these storage security features if they want to stay competitive. Furthermore, Inklebarger quotes a lawyer who says that facility owners can be held liable for damaged property through gross negligence. Thus, implementing the right storage security systems — especially video surveillance systems — helps reduce liability.
Meanwhile, notice security guards don't appear in the recommendations. It's not surprising because having security guards in every aisle or hallway watching over the units is not financially feasible.
Unfortunately, not just any video surveillance system will do. There's a wrong way and a right way to use them. There's also a wrong setup and a right setup for your business depending on your needs. Here are the storage security challenges with video surveillance and how to overcome them.
Thanks to phones and tablet, practically everyone has a camera. Despite the proliferation of cameras and their technology advancements, low-resolution cameras still exist in the market.
If you invest in the wrong video monitoring cameras, you could end up with grainy images where you cannot make out faces. Yes, low-resolution cameras are cheaper, but what good are they if they can't see clearly?
Solution: Invest in HD digital video monitoring cameras. They cost more, but they are more likely to identify the culprits.
This goes together with low-resolution video because they usually can't read license plates either. Some HD cameras can't scan plates.
Solution: Video monitoring cameras can come with license plate recognition (LPR) software. It contains optical software to clearly capture the characters on a license plate. Another feature you'll want is a camera that can still see in low-light and the darkest environments such as thermal imaging. It also needs to be able to capture non-reflective plates.
Some storage facilities record and store video monitoring camera data onsite. This puts them at risk for tampering and theft. Sometimes you may not need the data until weeks after an incident occurs.
Solution: Work with a company that offers live video monitoring. They do the monitoring remotely, sometimes even in a different city or state from where you conduct business. They also have a data center and a backup plan in place. If someone reports something suspicious weeks after it happens, they have the tools to quickly find the footage from the day in question.
Many different types of video surveillance systems exist. Be aware of the differences to ensure you select the right one for your self-storage facility. Some systems don't have the ability to monitor for suspicious activity. You can only use it to catch something after it happens.
Solution: Taking a proactive approach to video surveillance helps you deter crime and minimize damage. Advanced video analytics makes it possible to spot something before it occurs.
For instance, the camera sees a person approaching a fence. The analytics knows it needs to watch for this event. As soon as it detects it, the system notifies a security operator who investigates right away.
The operator may see the suspects before they do anything and issue an audio warning. If this doesn't deter the nervy trespassers, then the operator can call the police while tracking the suspects' movements. The police arrive on site and go where the operator directs them.
A power outage can be an invitation for thieves. They may think they have a better chance of breaking into the units in the darkness and the cameras have no power to record anything. It's hard to watch the property when a bad storm knocks the cameras out of place.
Solution: Systems can come with a backup power supply to ensure they continue to work despite all other power being down. Some come with built-in solar cells that keep the rechargeable batteries charged in the event of an outage.
Ask these types of questions when you research video surveillance systems:
Technology isn't invincible. It gets old and parts start malfunctioning or stop working altogether. Imagine what would happen if an incident occurs and you don't receive an alert, or the video recorder doesn't capture the incident. This doesn't have to happen.
Solution: When you buy a car, you don't simply drive it and fill it with gas. It needs oil changes, tires rotated, tires replaced, and yearly inspections to keep it humming. The same applies to video surveillance via a system health check.
A video surveillance checkup analyzes the cameras, hard drive, internet, network video recorder, and other equipment to maintain and improve performance. It can detect problems related to power, wireless, camera outages, and the Internet.
Video surveillance systems are a big part of a strong storage security program. It can't do it alone, however. Investing in multiple solutions adds layers to make it harder for culprits to do damage. Here are three more things you can do to improve storage security and help protect your customers and their things.
Broken lights, graffiti on the walls, cracked windows. These little things can give people a negative impression of a business. Thieves may see it as an invitation while it drives away potential customers.
Lighting is one the easiest and most affordable ways to boost security. Customers want to feel safe walking from their car to their storage units and back. Lighting does that. Good lighting requires selecting the right colors and putting them in the right places. If you don't have enough lighting, it causes shadowy areas. Surprisingly, brighter isn't always better.
If the property contains landscaping, keep it trimmed. Overgrown shrubbery and trees can create hiding spots or make it easier for the criminal to discreetly access the building.
Your facility may require customers to use their own locks. If so, advise they go with a shackleless disc lock. They're harder to cut and break-in than padlocks and shackle locks.
Inklebarger's article recommends computerized gate access as one of the three things in a storage security program. Another name for that is an access control system. It's an effortless way of managing entry and access. It lets customers and employees enter your property while keeping everyone else out.
Plus, you can combine it with a video surveillance system. An integrated security system can allow you to see when someone has entered the property and match it with the time stamp on the video. If you incorporate an access control system, remember to give your police officers access as covered in the next item. You want all the help you can get from them.
Building a relationship with the local police department can lead to their patrolling your property more often. Most departments assign an officer by geographical area. Meet the officers who cover yours. Treat them to a favorite beverage and write them a thank you note.
Have you ever seen a police officer parked somewhere for a long time? They treat their vehicle like an office. They write reports, make calls, eat, and get things done while in the vehicle. Getting to know them and inviting them to your property will encourage them to park and work on your property. You can't beat having a police vehicle in your parking lot.
Self-storage facilities with security features will gain a competitive advantage while protecting their property. Customers and employees will feel safer. It can help deter more criminals than a place that does not invest in the right storage security.
In addition to reducing liability, you may lower your insurance premiums when you show the insurance company adjuster what you've done to secure your business. To learn more about storage security and your options, please contact us.