Apartment Security Solution

As an apartment home building owner or a property manager, you have many responsibilities, but the safety and security of your tenants is paramount.

Any residential security system can be complicated, but apartment complex security problems, challenges, and solutions tend to be exponential in their complexity.

In other words, the larger the community – or multi-family units – the larger the security burden. Because there are more people there to keep safe and secure on your property, more entry points, and more vulnerabilities, successful apartment complex home security becomes far more complex.

When Your Biggest Asset Becomes Your Biggest Risk

Data and statistics can be both helpful and telling. However, when it comes to crimes committed at apartment homes the data is muddled at best. 

For example, according to an article at Multifamily Executive magazine, back in 2007 and 2008, while the country wallowed in a recession, the FBI reported that major crimes decreased somewhat. These include homicide, robbery, and property crime. The only crime that increased upwards was burglary, which rose 1 percent.

However, the agency doesn’t delineate crime by property type and rarely segments out residential crime, according to the article. In a letter to the Multifamily Executive, the FBI wrote, “There is not a separate designation for apartments. They are included in the ‘residence/home’ category.”

In Dallas, out of 64,528 crimes committed in the city in the past year, 17,033 (or 26.4 percent) occurred in apartment buildings. And in Memphis, 16 percent of robberies, 14 percent of homicides, 17 percent of domestic violence aggravated assaults, and 18 percent of residential burglaries happened at apartments.

In fact, in certain Memphis wards, the statistics paint a frightening picture. In Ward 822, for instance, 61 percent of robberies happened at apartments. In Ward 329, 67 percent of domestic violence aggravated assaults were reported from multifamily buildings. And in Wards 123 and 126, every single homicide reported took place at apartments.

Burglary is classified as a property crime, whereas a robbery is classified as a violent crime.

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, a burglary is an “unlawful or forcible entry or attempted entry of a structure with the intent to commit a felony or theft.”

This applies to apartments as well as single-family homes and commercial buildings.

A few recent burglary statistics reveal the extent of this particular crime:

  • In 2018, The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) reported that there were 1.3 million household burglaries, which was a 4.72 percent increase from the previous year.
  • According to the FBI, in 2018 there were 346,312 daytime burglaries compared to 218,028 burglaries that occurred at night.
  • Burglaries are more likely to occur in rural states according to the FBI. New Mexico, Mississippi, and Oklahoma have the highest burglary rate per 100,000 residents. In contrast, Virginia, New York, and New Hampshire have the lowest.
  • FBI burglary statistics reveal that burglaries happen every 23 seconds. This means, there are nearly three homes burglarized every minute and 3,757 burglaries each day.
  • Ground-floor apartments are more often commonly targeted because of the easy access.

Because the statistics provided by various government and law enforcement agencies do not distinguish between single-family homes, condominiums, and apartments, it is difficult to gauge whether one of the other types of dwelling is more susceptible to burglary, for example.

However, some sources indicate that, in general, burglary targets are roughly equal in distribution. This means that of the estimated 702,000 residential burglaries committed in 2019, about 350,000 of these occurred in an apartment complex.

According to a post from Bolt Insurance Agency, 

  • Most break-ins are a matter of opportunity—58.1 percent of them involve little to no planning
  • Only a few burglaries can be traced to long premeditation, so you’re not likely to see someone casing your home or apartment several times
  • The vast majority of break-ins are motivated by the hope of finding money or valuables to sell for drugs
  • Because of the last item, areas with higher drug crime have correspondingly higher break-in rates
  • Trends in burglaries nationwide tend to mirror other trends, such as poverty and harsh drug criminalization
  • Most thieves would rather grab cash, jewelry, or illegal drugs than electronics, though they are still high on the list

In addition to burglary, other common property crimes include arson, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Of the different forms of property crime, larceny-theft is the most common in the U.S. with over 5.2 million reported cases in 2018. Among such cases, theft of items from motor vehicles is the most common type.

And none of these statistics take into account all the categories of crimes committed in apartment complexes. The FBI classifies aggravated assault, forcible rape, murder, and robbery as violent crimes.

As these are not differentiated by where the crime was committed, there is no accurate method for determining how many of these tragic crimes occur in apartment complexes each year.

The Imminent Threat to Apartment Security and Multi-Family Home Security

Protecting property – both common property and that of residents – is an ongoing task that involves both technological and logistical challenges. However, protecting tenants is even more challenging, especially in light of the large number of vulnerable residents that tend to choose apartment living.

For example, many single women of all ages choose to live alone. However, not every woman can afford the security offered by a gated community with 24-hour patrols and video cameras around every corner.

Economics often dictate that independent seniors also choose to live in apartments. These residents are often more vulnerable than most as they can be targeted not only for theft, burglaries, and assault, but for a variety of predators looking to take advantage of senior citizens living alone.

The challenge for property owners, managers, and others responsible for the safety and well-being of tenants, as well as for the integrity and security of apartment complex property, is in choosing the right security methods.

man breaking into apartment
man breaking into car at apartment home

Why Security Guards, Courtesy Patrols, and Building Security Doesn’t Cut It

In some cases, these terms are almost interchangeable and the semantics doesn’t seem to matter much. But in larger communities, the distinctions are more significant, and “semantics” does matter when it comes to providing effective apartment homes or multi-family security.

The various titles given to individuals tasked with monitoring apartments are typically dictated by what they do and who they work for. 

While their duties and even their authority may be quite similar, there are some significant differences.

According to information provided at The Motley Fool,

Oftentimes, “courtesy officer” is a marketing euphemism of “security guard.” In other words, like a security guard, your apartment courtesy patrol officer is hired for the main purpose of providing security and helping maintain the quality of living in the community.

The implication here is that a courtesy officer provides a certain level of security and often does so for reduced rent at the apartment building they reside in.

And a post at CrimeDoctor.com explains,

A “courtesy officer” is an apartment industry term that generally describes the title of a person that performs some visible protective service function on an apartment property after office hours. A courtesy officer can be a full or part-time employee of the apartment property.

Regardless of whether a security officer is referred to as a “courtesy officer” that has been hired by a security firm, or a full-time, trained, and licensed security guard, there will be similarities, such as both will:

  • Dress in the security agency guard uniform;
  • Wear the security agency badge;
  • Display the guard company patch logo affixed to the uniform shirt or hat;
  • Fill out activity and incident forms on guard agency stationary;
  • Use security agency equipment or marked vehicle;
  • Be supervised by the security guard agency

Security Services: Does ‘One Size Fits All’ for Your Security Needs?

If you are currently making use of either a series of part-time courtesy officers or a full-time, professional security guard company, it’s quite likely that neither firm has specific training in apartment security issues and practices.

In addition, while there are certainly reputable and reliable security firms, the field is somewhat notorious for engaging in less-than-desirable hiring practices. And even companies that are fully “above board” and strive for excellence have to deal with personnel issues such as individuals calling in sick, quitting, or simply failing to show up for shifts.

Another challenge for apartment communities and the use of guards is that even the most reputable and professionally trained security personnel have inherent limitations that prevent them from providing comprehensive security for your property and tenants.

  • For example, human security personnel cannot be everywhere all the time.
  • They can be threatened or even hurt by individuals when attempting to engage or intervene in an incident.
  • Unarmed security personnel are limited by the presence of weapons in the hands of interlopers.
  • Their ability to arrest and detain individuals is limited, as well. 

According to one legal site,

The security guard may arrest a person when that person has committed a felony, but only if a felony has actually been committed. If the offense is not a felony it must be committed or at least attempted in the presence of the security guard before a citizen’s arrest can be made.

Even the simple act of trying to detain a suspected criminal or trespasser is fraught with legal challenges that can severely hamper a security guard’s ability to prevent criminal acts.

One article has noted that, in most situations, security guards have the same ability as private citizens to detain someone for a crime they believe has been committed.

In most jurisdictions, this means that if the guard witnesses or has a reasonable belief that a person committed a felony, he or she can detain that person until law enforcement personnel arrive. But what is considered reasonable varies from case to case.

In other words, their limited capabilities means that, as a result, the security they can provide is also limited.

Why Your Current Security Measures Are Too Little Too Late

For the most part, typical security strategies for most commercial properties typically focus on protecting company property after business hours. This may work well for shops, office suites, and even some retail operations. Not so much for people’s living quarters.

All apartment complexes need much more comprehensive security. This is true regardless of whether it’s a small, six or eight-unit block, or a massive high-rise, twenty stories high and composed of hundreds or even thousands of units.

Apartment complexes of all sizes require the security, safety, and protection that is needed for a business property, but also for that of private property, including the safety of tenants. 

This means that, when the protection of people is required in addition to the security of property, the inherent limitations such as those typical of security guards or courtesy patrols makes them insufficient for complete apartment security.

This is why, in larger communities with larger budgets, security measures such as tenant-accessed gates and entryways are useful. The ability to theoretically seal off a parking facility or all the entry and exit points of an enclosed apartment structure can add significantly to the apartment complex security.

While there are some legal limitations regarding placement and sufficient public notifications, a truly effective tactic is the use of surveillance cameras. 

Cameras allow managers and security personnel to not only provide a visible deterrent – people do tend to avoid cameras when attempting an illegal activity – but a way to possibly identify and pursue individuals recorded committing a crime.

Video surveillance and security camera systems, while far and beyond the limits of human security personnel on the ground, still have limits.

Cameras cannot intervene, engage, or sound a warning. At best, their mere presence can be a deterrent much of the time. However, cameras can be avoided, vandalized, destroyed, and – in some instances – simply ignored. 

And all that the apartment manager or security personnel can do is review the footage and watch the event after the fact.

The Future of Apartment Building Security – Solutions Without Limitations

It goes without saying that the fundamental key to effective and successful apartment security – security of any type, for that matter – is consistency and diligence. 

Unless a property can be monitored comprehensively and done so consistently 24/7 then the entire security apparatus is only as reliable as the gaps in its coverage. And because of the nature of security, criminals, technology, and human nature, diligence is required to ward off new or repeated attempts to breach that security.

This is illustrated by the challenge of cybercrime experts who must monitor digital infrastructures constantly while anticipating and seeking to pre-empt the latest cyber-attacks.

To bring it to the level of apartment home security, what worked well 10 or 15 years ago isn’t sufficient today.

video surveillance monitoring camera

And the larger the community, the more people that are involved. And with more people, the odds of some type of security risk increases exponentially. It is, in some ways, analogous to a house party – when one couple comes over to sit by the pool, it is unlikely anything will be broken or that someone will be hurt.

When there are thirty people over and everyone is drinking, the threat level rises dramatically.

Eyes Everywhere – Day and Night

Almost without exception, all multi-resident complex owners and managers believe that security camera systems are necessary. In fact, as we noted earlier, the benefits of having quality video cameras go far beyond security.

It has been studied and determined time and again that a visible and comprehensive system of on-site video cameras provides a strong sense of safety for residents. This matters, especially for those whose responsibility is to keep units rented and tenants happy. 

Also, in addition to property and tenant safety and security purposes, being able to quickly and easily obtain and access a high-quality digital record of events that have taken place on-site can be critical for liability reasons, as well as for law enforcement needs. 

If a crime has been committed and recorded, the captured video footage may be useful for the identification and possible apprehension of a perpetrator.

As we noted earlier, it has also been studied and confirmed that, for strictly security purposes, having visible cameras installed throughout an apartment community can serve as a passive deterrent to potential criminal activity. Criminals, trespassers, and other bad actors have been demonstrably shown to avoid detection from cameras. 

In conjunction with recorded video surveillance, an apartment security strategy solution can include live security personnel in some capacity. The options range from having on-site, uniformed guards posted at key locations throughout a complex, to a scheduled security check provided by a mobile security service during the nighttime hours.

Smart Technology:
The Ultimate Solution for Reliable Apartment Complex Security

AI Blackbox Technology

Active Intercept

Proactive Prevention

A far superior video security system would have the ability to interact with and engage individuals attempting to trespass, steal property, or commit some other criminal act in real-time. 

This would be made possible using a system that intelligently analyzes and assesses each event and occurrence. It would also be a system that incorporates both human intelligence from a remote site, along with artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the surveillance capabilities of existing video cameras.

In other words, a “smart” video surveillance system.

Fortunately, this ultimate “smart” surveillance system is already available from Blue Eye.

With Ami, you can transform your existing camera network into an interactive security system. Your apartment building’s existing cameras become sensors and our artificial intelligence or AI software allows those cameras to actively monitor your property for illegal or prohibited activity.

Our AI process provides the system with analytics processing which can trigger a response to a security threat.

When a criminal threat or security breach is detected at your apartment complex, an alarm is immediately sent to our command center. There, our highly trained Video Surveillance Technicians (VSTs) respond to the threat in real-time by assessing the situation and taking appropriate action.

This response and action can range from simply giving a verbal warning that is broadcast over the on-board loudspeaker system, to calling the police or your contracted security service provider. 

However, because the direct audio system actually stops incidents from escalating almost 99 percent of the time, we rarely need to dispatch the police.

And, best of all, the entire system solution is far more affordable than maintaining a live security guard presence on-site.

With Blue Eye working as your security partner, our approach of using both artificial and human intelligence will provide your apartment complex with a safe and comfortable solution utilizing the cameras you already have installed.

The enhancement of our AI software technology turns your security cameras into detection and breach sensors that allow your system to analyze and even anticipate threats. The result is a real-time, interactive surveillance system that uses advanced security and surveillance technology and transforms your video camera network into a stealth security system.

Using Video Surveillance for Apartment Complex Security?


You Should Keep These Legal Considerations in Mind

In most jurisdictions, it is legal for property owners to install and use surveillance cameras at an apartment complex as long as the cameras are visible. In addition, a posted warning or advisory notice is often required.

One aspect to be aware of, however, is the concept of “reasonable expectation of privacy” which is usually not an issue but should be noted. It is illegal to take video surveillance of individuals in locations that would warrant “expected privacy.”

These can include:

  • Bedrooms and Bathrooms
  • Locker Rooms and Shower Facilities
  • Dressing and Changing Rooms

It is almost always allowed, however, to install cameras for monitoring activities in outdoor areas including entrances and exits, driveways, parking areas, common areas, pools, and so on. In other words, any space outside of individual rental units and that can be considered “public space” can be monitored with video cameras.

Other legal considerations and thoughts:

  • Installed video cameras should be visible to avoid issues hidden or “spy” cameras anywhere on private property.
  • Posted notifications that cameras are in use along with a clause to your lease or rental agreement can be a good idea.
  • In terms of enhanced security, there is a school of thought advocating that visible cameras and prominent notifications act as deterrents to illegal or prohibited activity.

Many commercial video surveillance systems can include audio recording capabilities. However, before purchasing and installing these systems, be aware that they can potentially pose some major legal concerns.

According to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986, which updated the Federal Wiretap Act of 1968, it is illegal to record someone’s communications without their knowledge and consent. Unfortunately for apartment complex security applications, this can include video surveillance with audio recording capabilities. 

However, in certain instances, posting notifications and advising tenants both verbally and in writing may be sufficient in many states. The premise here being that tenants who have been previously notified choose to have a conversation in front of the cameras, which is usually deemed as consent.

In some states, however, you must have the consent of all parties involved.

When It comes to choosing the best overall apartment complex security solution, most of the typical approaches can fall short. As we’ve noted already, live security personnel have physical and logistical limitations, and even surveillance video systems are subject to limitations such as limited visibility and range.

In addition, even the best cameras are unable to take action to stop or deter threats, and any camera is vulnerable to being vandalized or disabled.

See What Our Clients Say About Us

“Install was smooth and easy with the team from Blue Eye working with my IT staff. We had no issues with install at all. During the life of the contract when cameras get dirty or have issues the Blue Eye team will let you know and other than that there have been no issues or concerns. It truly is install the service and no more staying awake at night worrying about the stores.”

Marty Smith | Director of Compliance & Facilities | The Evergreen Market

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