Owners and managers must not lose sight of the overarching contractual and legal obligations regarding site security. An unusually high level of illegal activity has occurred in self storage businesses across Australia in the past few weeks highlight this need for vigilance. Fortunately the industry generally experiences relatively few incidents but it seems October and November has been a particularly active period for such nefarious conduct. A number of sites in Melbourne have experience burglaries, a facility in Queensland has had some units damaged from a suspicious fire and another unit in Queensland was found to be rented by a person involved in the illegal drug trade who was storing firearms and large sums of cash. In effect this is more illegal activity than the industry normally experiences in a year…all in a matter of weeks.
On the positive side, action taken by the Self Storage operators concerned, particularly in the Melbourne case, greatly assisted the police in arresting the perpetrators and bringing the issue to a close in a relatively short time period. While the events surrounding the arrest of the group in Melbourne were covered extensively by the media, there has been no mention that the burglaries were carried out at self storage facilities. This is a timely reminder that owners and operators, and the industry as a whole, cannot relax with security measures.
Importantly all sites should be copying photo ID of all new customers as a minimum. Staff should be trained to monitor customers that access units at unusual times or frequencies, and certainly keep an eye out for people who rent a unit but don’t appear to move good in, particularly if they are still accessing the premises. Security vision is not just there to look good on the monitors in reception; the footage should be reviewed regularly, particularly if you have out of hours access on the site.
It is now apparent that some self storage businesses are moving away from standard 24 hour access for this very reason. Technology allows us to be able to grant extended access to individual clients if we choose. So rather than offering 24 hour access for everyone, consider the options. Perhaps have a policy that allows extended access to those that demonstrate a genuine need for it, and maybe even charge extra for it. THe Association has a watch list that was developed in conjunction with the Police authorities which highlights what to look for in regards to potential criminal activity at a self storage business. This list is available from the Resources section of the SSAA website and you and your staff should be familiar with it. Report any suspicious activity to your local police station.
Over the year the Association has developed a good relationship with both the AFP and local law enforcement. There is now a greater understanding within these government departments about how self storage works and that we cannot grant access to a Storer’s space under standard self storage. The police have also come to the Association on occasion looking for individuals who might have had storage and we have been able to communicate these requests to business in the areas concerned. It is the long-term interest of the Association and the industry to maintain such good working relationships with law enforcement agencies.