The Problem of Self-Storage Facility Security
Unfortunately, theft and vandalism are distressing facts of life for self-storage owners and operators. With the vast and growing number of self-storage facilities, storage unit break-ins and theft occur almost daily, along with vandalism and other petty crimes.
Part of the problem is the sheer volume of self-storage unit rental facilities in the United States that create a continually growing field of targets for thieves.
How many units are we talking about?
According to recent industry statistics provided by online storage marketplace experts SpareFoot,
- There are over 49,000 storage facilities in the U.S. today.
- 1.9 billion square feet of storage space is in operation in the U.S. today.
- 5.9 square feet per person of self-storage space is available in the U.S. market.
- 10.6% of households currently rent a self-storage facility. That is an estimated 13.5 million households.
- Texas had the most storage facilities in 2019 with 4,904.
In addition, the almost 50,000 self-storage facilities operating throughout the United States today, the industry experts have projected future growth
According to data collected by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, in 2018 there were an estimated 7,196,045 property crimes committed in the United States, resulting in losses by victims estimated to be at $16.4 billion.
Of these property crimes, just over 17 percent, or about 1,230,000 were burglaries, and more than 5.2 million were classified as theft, or larceny.
Burglary is classified by the FBI as a property crime that involves breaking into a structure to commit a crime. Larceny, or theft, is also a property crime but without the use of force and without breaking into a structure.
The FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program goes further by defining burglary as “unlawful or forcible entry or attempted entry of a structure with the intent to commit a felony or theft.”
It’s not just storage facilities either
This applies to apartments as well as single-family homes and commercial buildings.
Burglary and theft are particularly galling to owners and operators of self-storage facilities since security is a primary selling point for the service and part of the business’s service offerings.
According to an article from turn-key self-storage building solutions provider, Janus International Group,
“The most common type of burglary in the self-storage industry happens when a thief cuts a lock on a unit and steals the items from inside. This can happen in just seconds with a simple pair of bolt cutters, and can cause significant damage to your property – not to mention, the complete loss of property for your tenant.
Another common trend in self-storage break-ins is when a tenant rents a unit, accesses that unit and proceeds to cut-through or go over the walls to burglarize the other units alongside it. It doesn’t take long before that tenant is able to clear out every single storage unit down an entire row.”
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.
The Challenge of Self-Storage Facility Security
Protecting property is an ongoing task for storage unit managers that involves challenges for technology and logistical challenges. Unlike properties like industrial facilities, chemical plants, cannabis dispensaries, or even apartment complexes, self-storage facilities are often simply fenced in behind locked gates with no staff onsite.
And the numbers keep growing. One industry expert was quoted as saying that,
“So, we see the current steady growth trajectory to continue over the coming years, and the research shows it. IBISWorld expects the U.S. self storage market to grow at a 2.2 percent compound annual growth rate to $44.5 billion by 2024.”
A recent news story illustrates both the vulnerability of many facilities and the apparent brazenness of the perpetrators of thefts,
“Surveillance video at one Missouri storage unit shows a pair of thieves operating in broad daylight. The thieves take out a bolt cutter, clip off the padlock on an outdoor unit and begin loading their minivan with items from the unit – including family mementos, generators and even a large leather couch, which they strap to the roof of the van.”
Economics often dictates that independently owned and operated self-storage facilities make do with less-than-sufficient security measures. In fact, it’s estimated that 71 percent of self-storage properties are currently managed by independent (mom-and-pop) operators.
These facilities are often more vulnerable than most as they can be more easily targeted for theft, burglaries, and vandalism. Would-be thieves are more prone to take advantage of these types of facilities, banking on the hope that the security will be easily bypassed or ineffective.
The challenge for property owners, managers, and others responsible for the safety and security of their tenant’s property, as well as for the integrity of the company’s reputation and trustworthiness, lies in choosing effective security methods.
Security Guards and Self-Storage Facility Security
Most storage facilities offer basic security, including gated access. In addition, an increasing number of storage facilities make use of digital, electronic-entry gates with unique passcodes or security cards. This type of system helps to keep track of exactly who is entering and exiting a facility at all times.
Storage Facility Security Tactics
Traditional security measures include mechanical or physical components such as motion-activated floodlights, razor wire- or barbed wire-topped fences, or even security guards. Many facilities might also install passive surveillance systems such as video cameras.
Other self-storage providers may invest in more advanced security measures, such as night vision cameras, audible alarms, and centralized unit access systems.
However, very few self-storage owners or operators can afford to implement all of these security measures. Instead, most will make do with a combination of a few traditional measures, and perhaps one or two more high-tech security tools.
Some nationally-owned self-storage enterprises have the means to rely on security guards to monitor their properties, either onsite or through the use of regular courtesy patrols, but these services can be expensive, costing upwards of tens of thousands of dollars a month.
And most smaller, independently owned-and-operated facilities do not have the resources for that type of uniformed security.
Ultimately, costs aside, a live security guard presence at a large self-storage facility would be hard-pressed to provide anything close to reliable, comprehensive coverage. The typical facility layouts are practically mazes that prevent visual coverage from the ground level for most of a property.
Security Guards for Self-Storage Facility Security – A Sound Investment?
Perhaps a larger issue for an onsite security guard is their limited capabilities when it comes to deterring or stopping an actual crime.
Much like security cameras, their mere presence can serve as a deterrent for most would-be thieves and storage unit burglars. However, the more determined criminals may not be so easily dissuaded. And should they be caught “in the act’, an unarmed security guard has limited options.
According to one source,
While police officers have powers of arrest on probable cause, a security guard must have witnessed an actual crime for an arrest to be legal. Specifically, they must have witnessed a felony. And it’s important to note that “arrest” in essence, simply means detaining the suspect. As private citizens, private guards are, in most cases, held to the same standards as every other citizen.
This is called a citizen’s arrest. It involves the guard detaining the criminal or trespasser, contacting the police immediately to make a true arrest. Restraint may be used to detain the suspect as long as the restraint is considered reasonable.
And simply trying to detain a person or persons caught trying to break into or removing goods from a storage unit can be dangerous. In addition, there are potential legal restrictions that can diminish a security guard’s ability to take preventative actions.
If, as is often the case, the best a guard can do is try to warn off potential thieves or, worse, do nothing more than call the local authorities while a burglary is taking place, the cost involved must be questioned.
A high-quality video surveillance system with night vision capabilities and motion sensors can just as easily “witness” and digitally record any activity that takes place on a property. And the cost is a fraction of paying for live security onsite.
In other words, while a security guard may be more than a passive security measure, that approach is not likely to be cost-effective for most facility owners.
Security Measures Beyond Guards and Courtesy Patrols
For most businesses, typical security strategies focus on protecting a company’s property and goods only after business hours. And, while this may be sufficient for industrial shops, office suites, and even many retail operations, it’s not comprehensive enough for storage facilities.
In fact, every self-storage facility needs far more comprehensive security coverage.
This is true regardless of whether it’s a small, 10 or 20 unit facility, or a massive complex, two stories high and housing hundreds of storage rental units.
In other words, self-storage facilities of all sizes require security and protection all day, every day.
This is why, in larger facilities with larger budgets, security measures such as tenant-accessed gates and entryways are almost mandatory. The ability to seal off a storage facility and all the entry and exit points of the enclosed space can add significantly to the self-storage facility’s security.
In addition, doing away with the traditional padlocks on the unit doors and installing electronic key lock systems, similar to modern hotel room door locks, eliminates the ability of thieves to simply cut locks.
While there may be some physical limitations to the extent of equipment placement, a truly effective security measure is the extensive use of surveillance cameras.
Cameras allow owners, operators, or managers to not only have a visible deterrent, but also an effective means for possibly identifying and pursuing individuals recorded committing a crime. Remember, people do tend to avoid cameras when considering committing an illegal act.
However, despite the advances in technology, fidelity, and ease of use, video monitoring and security camera systems still have limits.
Unlike security guards, for example, video cameras cannot intervene or engage with criminals, or even sound a warning. At best, their mere presence can serve as a deterrent. However, much like an unarmed security officer, video cameras can be avoided or simply ignored.
And when that occurs, all that the facility manager or owner can do is review the video footage and watch the events that occurred after the fact.
The Solution for Self-Storage Facility Security
What every security professional knows and understands is that the fundamental key to effective and successful property security is the ability to intervene.
Intervention, such as an alarm system or an armed police officer, is perhaps the single form of effective deterrence against property crimes. However, unless the alarm system alerts a local law enforcement agency, criminals can easily ignore it and finish their business.
And the odds of police officers being dispatched and arriving at a facility in time to catch the criminals before they escape are slim.
In a large facility, thieves could easily hide or slip over a fence before being seen. And the officers will need to access the locked gate before getting into the facility.
The larger the facility, the more challenging physical intervention becomes. And with more units, the level of security risk increases exponentially.
Eyes, Ears and Engagement
Almost without exception, all self-storage facility owners and managers most likely believe that video surveillance camera systems are necessary.
Numerous studies and surveys have determined repeatedly that visible, on-site video cameras provide a strong deterrent for criminals. In addition, they provide a desired sense of safety for storage unit tenants. This, too, is essential since the security of personal goods is part of the service being offered by facility owners.
For example, one storage resource vendor pointed out,
“Motion sensor lights can also greatly lower your energy costs and lengthen the lifespan on expensive LED light bulbs. Flood lights, area lights, and canopy lights are all great options for bright, outdoor lighting for your parking lot, entry/exit points, or unit driveways. There are many professional lighting vendors and tons of options available to owners.
How it drives revenue: Just like your property fence, your facility’s lighting is easy for renters to see and evaluate when checking out your property. Whether they’re checking out your property in the evening or wanting a storage solution where they’ll feel safe day or night, safe and secure, bright lighting is essential to bringing in customers and creating a secure environment at your facility.”
And as we noted earlier, it’s been established through numerous studies that having visible cameras installed throughout a self-storage facility can serve as a passive deterrent to potential criminal activity.
Most potential burglars and other criminal types will typically bypass those facilities to avoid detection by security cameras.
In conjunction with recorded video surveillance, a self-storage facility security strategy solution can certainly include security personnel. This can range from having an on-site, uniformed guard patrolling the premises, to roving security patrols provided by a mobile security service during the nighttime hours.
However, when it comes to determining the overall self-storage facility security solution, most traditional approaches fall short. While having both live and video monitoring might seem like a sufficient system, security guards still have physical and logistical limitations, and video camera systems are also prone to limitations such as visibility and range.
And, as we noted earlier, even the best video cameras are unable to take action to stop or deter threats, not to mention they are vulnerable to being destroyed or disabled.
Smart Video Technology: The Ultimate Self-Storage Facility Security Solution
AI Blackbox Technology
What is “smart video technology?”
A video security system with the ability to interact and engage with individuals attempting to trespass, break in, steal property, or commit some other criminal act. And all in real-time.
This is made possible using a system that intelligently analyzes and assesses each event. It is a system that incorporates both human intelligence operating from a remote site, along with artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the surveillance capabilities of your existing video cameras.
And this ultimate, “smart” surveillance system is available from Blue Eye.
With AMI you can transform your existing camera network into an interactive security system. Your facility’s existing cameras become sensors and our AI software allows those cameras to actively monitor your property for illegal 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 self-storage facility, an alarm is immediately sent to our command center where our highly trained remote guards respond to the threat in real-time by assessing the situation and taking appropriate action.
This response can range from a simple verbal warning broadcast over the on-board loudspeaker system, to calling the police or your contracted security service provider. However, because the use of the audio system actually stops incidents from escalating almost 99 percent of the time, there is rarely a need to dispatch the police.
And, best of all, the entire system solution is far more affordable than maintaining a live security guard presence onsite.
With Blue Eye working as your security partner, our approach of using both artificial and human intelligence will provide your self-storage facility 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 and allows your system to analyze and even anticipate threats. The result is a real-time, interactive surveillance system using advanced security and surveillance technology.
In other words, it transforms your existing video camera network into a cutting-edge security system.
Blue Eye’s advanced, proprietary, managed service platform provides you with state-of-the-art technology and performance that will provide your facility with a highly enhanced security network.
With AI-enhanced video surveillance from Blue Eye, our remote personnel can safely maintain video monitoring in a secure environment, while having the ability to dispatch security or police to the property, if needed.
If you would like to learn more about our unique approach to provide security for your site, call us at 855.258.3662 or email us at [email protected] and let us design an effective solution for your business!