brass lock on grey storage unit door

08 Feb Self Storage Facility in Tennessee Experiences Unique Burglary

By Alex Hassel,

Chattanooga police are investigating a self storage facility in Hixson, Tenn., where a man burglarized six storage units. In this case, it’s not what he took that’s raising eyebrows but how he did it. Tennessee news station WRCB-TV reports that the unknown suspect easily accessed the units after cutting their locks one early morning and replacing them with his own.

It started when the suspect first rented his own unit to gain access to the facility. “This guy devised a pretty creative way of taking your things from you,” Officer Mark Frazer told WRCB. “And during the wee hours of the morning, he goes in with locks that he has purchased, cuts your locks off of your storage unit, and replaces it with his own.”

The suspect did this knowing that most renters don’t check on their belongings that often. With legitimate access to the facility and his own locks on the six units, he could sort through them and take items whenever he pleased—that is, until one renter finally came to get into their unit. “We have a situation where an individual finally went to the storage unit to check the lock,” said Frazer. “They realized their key no longer worked in the lock.”

By that time, the damage was done. Fortunately, the facility had a high-quality surveillance camera system. By cross-referencing facility entrances and keypad entries, police located images of the suspect and are asking for the public’s help identifying him.

Hixson TN self storage robbery asked Jon Loftin, Vice President of Business Development at PTI Security Systems, if this seemingly unconventional approach of burglary could have been prevented. Loftin says it happens more than you think.

“This is one of the oldest ways that people break into a self storage facility,” Loftin explains. “A thief will either rent a unit or get an access code, and now they have access to the facility after hours. Replacing the cut locks makes everything look normal until the customer returns weeks or possibly months later.”

Loftin continues, “As you can see from the CCTV images, the camera system did a good job of recording the crime, but it did little to prevent it from occurring.”

So is there still a way for self storage operators to stop these kinds of burglaries? Loftin says yes. “If the facility had individual door alarms on each unit, then an alarm would sound and a monitoring station would be notified or the owner/manager could have been notified via email or text when the first unit was opened up, which would have prevented this from happening. When a siren is sounding, a thief isn’t going to hang around and break into multiple units. This is a preventable situation.”

It’s not too late, either. You can always add new security measures to your facility, no matter how old it is. “A wireless individual door alarm system can be easily retrofitted onto rented units to provide operators and customers the safety and security they desire.”

Crime Stoppers in Chattanooga is asking anyone with information on the suspect to call (423) 698-3333 for a $1,000 reward. It hasn’t been reported yet what was taken. With the facility’s images, there’s a good chance of catching the suspect, but it’s important to remember that prevention is a key approach to security.

Images provided by WRCB-TV.

Alex Hassel is News Reporter for 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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