As long as thieves exist, self-storage will need security. Just how bad is the problem, though? That’s difficult to say.
On October 27, 2014, KBFX Fox 58 in Bakersfield, California reported that the sheriff’s department had received eleven reports of storage unit theft in the last three months. One couple lost $15,000 worth of possessions. The sheriff’s department said, “People don’t go to the storage spaces very often to check on their property. Sometimes, it’s six months to a year since a person has actually been to the storage facility that they’re using and notices that a theft has occurred.” Of course, this makes it next to impossible for law enforcement to catch the perpetrators.
On May 5 this year in Austin, Texas police arrested Kathryine Eileen Blake and her boyfriend Jimmy Montes Deoca for possession of stolen property, including vehicles, they had stolen from local storage units.
On May 8, 2015, TMZ reported that actress Demi Moore’s Public Storage unit had been robbed for $200,000 worth of belongings. Strangely, her lock was intact, casting suspicion on the storage facility, though certainly someone could have picked the lock.
In 2013, ABC News ran a report that showed footage of thieves driving up to a unit in a van, cutting open the padlock, and taking what they wanted. “Across the country a growing problem,” the reporter said. “More and more storage units now under siege.”
Is storage unit theft really on the rise? ABC did not provide any evidence for the claim.
However, they still happen, and when a tenant loses $15,000 worth of possessions and irreplaceable family items, that will get reported on the local news and make a storage facility look downright terrible. The bottom line is that the public is afraid that brazen thieves will steal their most valuable stored items. Offering top of the line security will attract more customers who will be happy to know their belongings are safe.
Covering all security options possible would take a book. Instead, let’s look at how you might set up an optimal security system for your storage facility. The best security has seven components, and we will now look at each.
The ideal facility would have a manager on-site at all times, which means the facility should have enough managers to cover all those shifts. The resident manager keeps an eye on the security cameras and walks around the grounds now and then during open hours. This reassures customers and deters thieves.
Good lighting outdoors and in your storage hallways makes people feel safer and discourages crime. Thieves are less likely to operate if they think someone might see them. Really though, there’s no reason for some areas, like the halls, to have lights on when no one is there. Motion-activated lighting helps customers feel safe by turning on as soon as they approach, and it saves your business money on electric bills by turning off the lights when they’re not needed.
For your motion-activated lighting, we recommend the mother of all lighting companies, General Electric. GE has a huge array of lighting options and does everything from lighting apartments to sports stadiums. When you work with the people at GE, they will refer you to a local contractor to have the lighting installed.
For the fence surrounding your facility, go with concrete. This is much more secure than a wooden wall, which an axe could hack apart, or a chain-link fence, which good metal clippers could cut right through.
StoneTree Concrete Fence Systems produces high-quality concrete walls, and they can be custom-built up to 16 feet high. We recommend 8 to 10 feet, however. They build the sections at their facilities and install them at your storage business, so you won’t have to worry about them pouring concrete on your premises. You can inquire on their website for a free quote.
Your main gate allows you to let cars in and out of your facility after the customer punches their access code into the keypad. Most companies provide simple bar gates. These are fine for keeping cars out, but any pedestrian could walk right through. Then, what would be the point of having a concrete fence?
The most secure gates are the large metal sort that open for customers, then close behind them. You may want one very large gate, or two smaller (though still tall) gates, one for the entrance, and one for the exit.
As it turns out, StoneTree also provides security gates, and can install them along with the concrete wall. The company can also add lighting and camera security for the fence itself, but for those, I have other recommendations.
One tricky part about finding the best options for security systems was that, while many handle cameras and alarm systems, few also provide access control. By that, I mean the keypads you find at most storage facilities that allow customers to get onto the premises and into the buildings.
Once I found an access control company and began to look over their site, I realized that they also had alarm and camera system solutions as good as or better than those of the other companies.
Tyco Integrated Security can do all that for you.
They have a mind-boggling number of options, so you will want to speak with a sales representative. If you want access keypads, Tyco can do that. If you want a card-scanning system and to issue each customer two cards, Tyco can do that. The company can even provide you with biometric solutions like fingerprint or iris scanners, but that’s probably more than most storage facilities need.
Video surveillance is important both to dissuade and to catch thieves. Make sure to have a video surveillance system that covers every part of the premises with overlap. Tyco can set up the cameras, monitors, networking, digital recording systems, and more. They can also provide you with remote viewing possibilities, so you can monitor the facility from anywhere.
There are two important aspects of a self-storage alarm system. The first is the portion that protects the grounds after hours to make sure there are no break-ins. This sort of alarm will activate if someone gets over the gate or into any of the buildings at night. The second covers the storage units themselves. In the best facilities, each unit has an alarm that is tied-in with access control. If someone enters a unit and the corresponding code did not get entered for building access, the alarm will go off.
This is another reason to go with one company, like Tyco, for access control and the alarm system: they can easily integrate the two. Tyco’s alarm system options include a variety of sensor types, intrusion-detection panels, 24/7 remote monitoring, maintenance, and more.
Now, you should be better equipped to secure your storage business! Obviously, you will have to decide what works best for your facility. Start by inquiring with the companies we suggested. If they don’t feel right for you, contact their competitors.
Since, in reality, storage facilities are not hit by thieves nearly as often as you might expect (or as often as the media would have you believe), having the best security on your premises should, in most areas, eliminate break-ins.