None of us want to deal with criminal activity, but in the case of property managers and building owners, who hold some liability for the safety of tenants and visitors, crime prevention is especially important. The good news here — because a number of crimes are recurring, there are well-established methods to help with prevention.
Here are six ways to help prevent crime on your property:
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1. Screen all residents & require a crime-free lease addendum
An applicant with a criminal history could be your first, most obvious red flag, and the easiest way to prevent crime on your property. Be sure to check the prospect on the following:
- Criminal background
- NOTE: The Federal Fair Housing Act considers denying a lease to any tenant with any type of criminal history to be discriminatory. Factors to consider in taking on a tenant with a criminal history include the type of offense and the length of time since the offense occurred.
- Rental history
- References (at least more than just one)
- Landlord references
You may also request that the new tenant agree to a crime-free lease addendum on your lease. This is considered a civil contract, which binds the prospect to promise to follow all of your property rules and not allow any criminal activity on your property. You can find a sample addendum here.
Be sure to enforce a strict screening process, even if it means the space may remain vacant for a bit longer. Be consistent with screening so you can align tenant expectations and make it clear that no suspicious activity will be tolerated.
2. Partner with police
If you don’t already have a close relationship with your local police department, now is the time. Let officers get to know you and your property before any crime occurs, not during.
Ask them for advice on how best to protect your property from crime. Many police departments offer inspections and crime-prevention programs, which may include training classes. In fact, some departments offer property management certification for your proactive efforts.
Respond quickly to any complaints from tenants regarding criminal activity. Don’t handle the complaint yourself — call the police.
If a crime were to happen, be cooperative with the police.
3. Hire a security expert
A human security guard could be an option, but it can also be costly. However, if this is on your to-do list, don’t immediately consider the lowest-price company. In a vital situation like this, you get what you pay for.
Remember that security guards are not the police. They most likely will not have the authority to arrest or even carry a gun (you may want to make sure your guard is licensed to carry a weapon).
You may also want to back up this option with increased video monitoring — a security guard cannot possibly see everything happening on your property. Don’t be reluctant to use fake cameras — they often act as a deterrent to crime. But beware, if something happens on your property in the line of sight of that camera, such as an assault or vehicle break-in, your tenants will inquire about the footage.
Read our blog post on what to consider when hiring security guards for your property.
4. Make upgrades
A clean, orderly, well-lit property may discourage crime. Consider the following:
- The easiest way to begin your upgrade plan is with landscaping. According to Multifamily Executive: “One quick trim allows for maximum visibility. Follow the ‘3-foot, 6-foot’ rule of thumb: All low-ground coverage should be 3 feet high, while lower tree canopies should be 6 feet and higher to maintain visibility for surveillance.”
- Next, make sure your greatest deterrent to night crime is first-rate: lighting. Be sure your lighting is bright in your parking lot, walkways, stairwells, entrances, and hallways. Bright is good, but not too bright, as overly bright lighting could disorient you and your tenants. LED-lighting has proven to be effective as well as low cost. You can also program your lighting to sync to a timer or to detect motion. Be sure to fix any broken locks or windows — anything that may allow easy access for criminals.
- Change the locks between old and new tenants, and keep written proof of the change to protect yourself from liability. Avoid putting addresses and room numbers on keys, as a shady stranger can take advantage of a lost key like this. Always be sure to charge a lost-key fine if the key is lost; this will signal to the tenant that it would be financially worthwhile to keep an eye on the key and not be careless with it.
- Keep your property free of even the slightest vandalism. Proper care is a sign that you care about your property and will probably not tolerate crime or trespassers.
Read more about how to protect your property from vandalism.
5. Implement a neighborhood watch program
Get your tenants involved in being on a constant lookout for crime or suspicious activity. Hold training sessions on how to detect unusual goings-on, and bring in a neighborhood-watch expert to help organize your program. Find out more here.
6. Install an emergency communications system
Help phones located in critical areas can not only deter crime but also save lives. Be sure that the device is equipped with two-way communication for easy transfer of details. Each emergency phone should always contain:
- A call button
- A light showing the caller that they are connected to an operator.
- The inability of the caller (or assailant) to cancel the call. The emergency phone must function so that only the emergency operator can disconnect the call.
- Hands-free and ADA-compliance capability.
- Call recording (this may help in court if a lawsuit arises from the incident)
Note that an emergency communications system is not the same as calling 911 or using a smartphone app. Additional benefits of an emergency communications system are:
- The ability to contact authorities faster and more directly
- When necessary, professional, certified medical help provided right over the phone until authorities or medics arrive
- Your tenants’ peace of mind and help with the reduction of panic and confusion
- Call recording for use in potential litigation
Be sure to advise your tenants as to where the emergency phones are located, perhaps by regularly announcing it in your property newsletter, social media, and email correspondence, or in the lobby.
Kings III Emergency Communications systems give you 24/7/365 emergency monitoring of your property, with AEMD certified operators there to get you the help you need immediately.
Common spots for emergency phones include elevators, pools, stairwells, garages, parking lots, and common spaces. Your benefit is peace of mind, knowing that your tenants will receive a fast and appropriate response, all while keeping you informed along the way.
Find out more about how Kings III can benefit both you and your tenants when it comes to criminal deterrence and response. Contact us here.