Lock holding two blue doors shut

27 May Preventing Crimes on Self Storage Properties

By Alex Hassel, Storage.com

May 2016 has been a challenging month for several self storage operators across the country dealing with crime at their facilities. These aren’t the usual burglaries and break-ins either.

In Evans, Colo., a man believed to be living in a self storage unit allegedly started a fire at a storage facility. Then in South Gate, Calif., the California Department of Justice busted two fraudulent recycling rings operating out of a pair of storage facilities. In Antioch, Tenn., a man was shot at a storage facility.

In terms of self storage crimes, these incidents may not exactly be what self storage owners would expect to see. Even so, Jon Loftin, VP of Business Development at PTI Security Systems, says there are safety precautions that could’ve helped prevent the crimes from happening.

According to The Tribune, when a fire broke out at a self storage building in Evans one weekday morning, fire crews arrived quickly, but 15 of the 26 units in the structure were considered a loss. Almost all of the units had some kind of damage whether from flames or smoke. The facility manager believes a man was living in one of the units illegally, and the fire started when his candle fell over. The manager says he caught the man living there a week before and told him to leave; however, the man allegedly came back. On the day of the fire, the manager says it was that man who ran to the facility’s office and reported the fire.

A good fire protection system is your first defense when flames arise. However, in terms or preventing someone from living at your self storage property, Loftin says there’s ways to track that now with technology.

“With our access control and individual door alarms, we have had customers use the system to determine if someone is attempting to live in a unit,” Loftin explains. “With most access control software, you can run analytical reports that show everyone who has stayed on the property longer than ‘X’ amount of hours or who is entering and exiting the property outside of normal office hours. This information, when reviewed on regular basis, can help stop these type of incidents from occurring.”

In the case of the recycling rings, Recycling Today reports that the California Department of Justice’s Fraud Team spent five months investigating two different operations in South Gate. The groups were smuggling used cans and plastic bottles from other states into California and collecting higher payments for the items, defrauding the California Redemptive Value Fund. Both operations used self storage units as hubs. Out of both locations, agents seized amounts of recyclable material collectively valued at more than $82,000 in the state.

Loftin says if those smugglers had been delivering recyclables to the storage facilities at night, those analytical reports previously mentioned could’ve also worked to track this kind of activity. If the deliveries were happening during the day, Loftin says an alert staff is the first line of defense.

“Manager awareness of large trucks coming to the units during normal office hours could have prevented this,” he says. “A short walk around the property to see what the customer is storing does wonders for all type of illegal activities.”

In Antioch, WKRN reports that a man made it to a nearby gas station and called the police after he’d been shot at a self storage facility before 2:30 a.m. The man said he was in his storage unit with the door open when four men walked around the corner and shot him several times.

“I would definitely suggest checking the gate access log and video to determine who came in and out of the facility before the incident occurred,” Loftin says. “I suspect that this wasn’t a random shooting at a self storage facility.”

In regard to any crimes happening at night, Loftin adds that storage operators don’t have to offer access at all hours of the day. “I also always recommend that managers not give out 24-hour access to every customer. Of course, there are some business customers that really need 24-hour access; however, the majority of customers don’t need to be coming to their unit at 3 a.m.”

Alex Hassel is News Reporter for Storage.com. If you’d like to pitch Alex a self storage industry news story, email [email protected] or call 402-779-7328.

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