September 4, 2019

Thief’s the thing | Dealing with Burglars at your Self Storage facility

What kind of kleptomaniac can resist a row of buildings full of stuff? Judging by the amount of burglary and attempted burglary that occurs in self-storage they might as well have a bullseye painted across those garage doors. So how do you, and your tenants, avoid being victims? We’ve got you covered:

Inside the mind of a thief

It’s role-play time.

Think about your facility from the perspective of someone trying to get in. How easy is it to access the grounds? The Units? What creative ways could someone sneak in? Pretend you’re a teenager trying to sneak out of your parents’ house. (okay, that might be stretching it a bit, but you get the idea.

Look at your facility (or facility plans) from the perspective of someone up to no good will help reveal weaknesses in design and security.

10 Precautions for Owners

There’s a lot of advice on how owners can help prevent theft or burglary at their facility. Here are the top 10 most impactful precautions:

  1. Disc/cylinder locks – if you provide locks for your facility these are the only kind you should consider. Make sure you’re buying the high-quality heavy-duty kind that can’t be broken with a saw or snippers.
  2. Good lighting – having visibility to the units at all times makes thievery more difficult after all it’s hard to hide huge bolt cutters in “broad daylight”.
  3. Cameras – while cameras aren’t going to alert you to a burglary in progress quickly enough to stop it, they will help you catch a thief and provide evidence to the police afterward.
  4. Coded entryway – like the link to our partner Janus’ system, a remote-controlled system that can alert you to attempts to disarm goes a long way.
  5. Connect with local law enforcement – your local police team can help you understand the risks you might face in your neighborhood and the measures you can take.
  6. Door alarms – having an alarm to alert you of malicious entry makes reaction times that much faster.
  7. Access control systems – the more control you give to your staff to ensure uninvited guests can’t have their way the better.
  8. Fencing – if anyone can walk right up to your units, then they will.
  9. Motion detection – motion sensor lights and cameras may not prevent burglaries, but it will give them pause and give you footage to assist the police in recovery efforts.
  10. Sell TPP – Selling our plans to your tenants gives you peace of mind that they’ll be well cared for in case a theft occurs. 

Tenant-Victim Journey

Picture this, you’ve rented a self-storage unit for your belongings. It’s been several months and you haven’t thought about it much, if at all. You realize you need to go and pick something up. After several minutes of digging through your emails to find the instructions for accessing your unit, you drive over. But something’s wrong. What happened to the lock you put on it? It’s gone. Dread settles in the pit of your stomach. What happened to the lock?

Oh no oh no!

You open the door and the unit is in complete disarray. Your precious belongings broken, shuffled, stolen.

The shock and disbelief hit your system alongside adrenaline. You storm over to the facility manager to figure out what happened, and when…

What a hassle!

This is what your tenant’s journey looks like when your facility is hit by a thief. It’s a hassle from start to finish. More than likely they don’t have any proof (or memory) of what was in their unit in the first place. Then there’s filing a police report, taking a manager statement and report, getting pictures, filling out paperwork. Setting expectations for what is and isn’t protected under insurance or their protection plan. 

The best way to avoid this situation is to prepare your tenants to prevent the burglary itself and prepare themselves in case it does happen.

10 Precautions for Tenants

There are 10 ways tenants can take precautions against the possibility of burglary.

  1. Unmarked valuables – we know how nice it is to have everything labeled nicely, but major valuables should have misleading labels such as ‘mom’s nightstand’ instead of ‘mom’s jewelry’. 
  2. Record of items (including receipts and photographs) – any valuable item going in your unit should have proof of purchase and a photo or video of it as it looks when it was initially stored.
  3. Lockup routine – create a system for locking up that involves double checking that valuables are in the proper place, the doors get shut completely, the lock gets put on etc. 
  4. No bumper buddies – unless someone is accompanying you to the facility, don’t let them in the facility behind you. A thief may try to enter behind you, it may go against what your mama taught you, but it’s the sad reality of today.
  5. Cylinder locks – the best kind of lock for your unit is a strong cylinder lock that is much harder to open maliciously.
  6. Beware of watchers – thieves may come scope out the facility or units before the theft occurs. If someone is overly interested in what you’re doing, there’s enough reason for concern. 
  7. Report – any suspicious behavior should be reported to the facility manager.
  8. Monthly checkup – check your unit regularly, the standard recommendation is once a month. Even if you don’t need to get something out of it, it’s good to keep tabs on the condition of the unit. This is also a great way to stop other bad situations like infestations or mold from getting unmanageable.
  9.  Keep it lit – no we’re not suggesting to party at your unit. Make sure the facility has adequate lighting at night. If you need to come back to visit the facility in the dark it won’t be a wasted trip.
  10. Get TPP – Tenant Property Protection is there for you. If all else fails, you’ll have the cash you need to get you back to normal. And don’t be afraid to ask questions! We train managers very well so they understand the ins and outs of what is and isn’t protected and the kind of value you’ll get for your belongings.


Picking your Protection Partners

As a facility owner/operator you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the right vendors on your side. From pest control to security, to protection plans. We want you to feel like your tenants are in safe hands. We work hard to ensure they are. It’s what earned us the title Best in the Business for two years running. We also want to help you find the right companies to work with. Ask our team for a list of partner vendors whom we recommend for the best services in your area.