Apartment Security For Managers And OwnersHow To Maximize Your Profitibility Using Apartment Security
Apartment Security for Managers and Owners
Your primary goal as an owner or manager is to make the apartment as profitable as possible. You do that by maximizing rental income while minimizing expenses, also referred to as maximizing your net operating income. It sounds simple, but as a manager or owner you know it is not that easy. We will discuss how apartment security at your property can make good business sense, as well as, what types of security measures you should take.
How Apartment Security For Managers And Owners Makes Good Business Sense.
If you can keep your community relatively crime-free it will improve your business. So how does your apartment security directly correlate to making more money? Well, most of what I see on a daily basis is managers and owners battling to keep a balance of maintaining high occupancy rates, while still attracting good residents. Security aims to do both.
The fact is bad residents don’t like security. If a resident is looking to be loud, do drugs, or commit any crime for that matter, they will find security to be annoying. Hopefully, this will cause the bad residents to eventually leave. Now, it’s easy for managers and owners to feel like someone not renewing a lease is a bad thing because you will temporarily lose their rental income, and that’s true in the short term. But, the reality is that it will eventually attract good, long-term residents, because at your apartment they will feel safe.
As an apartment manager or owner, you know that new residents are looking for a place to live that is affordable, clean, conveniently located, and safe. An apartment complex that fits these conditions will have fewer maintenance problems, sign up more applicants, receive more renewals and referrals from current residents creating lower turnover, and will cause fewer headaches for management.
Good residents are stable, often families, that will sign longer leasing and create less problems. They will be more likely to pay rent on time, keep their apartments in better condition, and make few demands on management. These are the residents that you want, and these are the residents that will make you the most money.
What Exactly Is Apartment Security?
There are many aspects to apartment security. They can be divided into a three categories: proactive security, active security, and reactive security. Having a combination of these three things will be best in bettering your apartment’s security and improve its value.
Proactive security is any measure that is set in place that will deter criminal activity before it happens. The basics include making sure doors and windows are locked, and lights are on. The most important aspect in all of security is providing a visual deterrent. Criminals will look for the highest reward for the least risk. Why would a car theft attempt to steal a car in a well-lit and secured area when he can go to a dark area with no gates? Now, this might sound obvious, and you might already have those security measures in place. But, how do you know when the lights are burnt out and the gates are broken or simply not locked. Having some sort of active security may be the answer.
Active Security involves a person activity watching your property. This can be very costly, but it doesn’t have to be. Your options include a standing guard, a patrol guard, a monitored camera service, a neighborhood watchman, good Samaritans, onsite managers, etc. There are many different options you can choose from, and you can, and most likely should, choose more than one. Which ones to choose will be covered in the What types of apartment security measure should I take? section. Even though you have active security in place, inevitably some type of crime will take place. In these cases it is important to have reactive security measures in place to help catch the criminals.
Reactive security is one of two things, cameras or people. Obviously it is best to have a combination of the two, and I highly recommend this. I don’t need to go in depth about how cameras help catch criminals, but make sure you check that you understand how the system works and how to use it. Make sure the cameras are covering all areas you want them to and that they work well at night. The best measure for reactive security is to have a person monitoring your property in person. Not only will the person be able to recall the incident, but will be able to call in the proper authorities in a timely manner. I recommend having a standing guard on larger properties and vehicle patrols on smaller properties so you don’t overwhelm your budget.
Why pay for apartment security if I can call the police?
This is the most asked question I hear from apartment managers and owners when referring to hiring a security guard for their apartment complex. Why should I pay for security guards when my tax dollars already pay for police? The answer is simple, police can only be once place at a time.
At Bravo Three we work closely with the police and we often experience long response times when calling. This is because police officers respond to calls in the order of importance. If someone is having a noisy party and you call the cops, do you think they will respond quickly if they are dealing with armed robberies, and theft? Of course not. Eventually they will come, sometimes hours later, but by then the issue might have stopped or been resolved.
To back this up we interviewed a local San Diego County Sheriff Detective and asked him his opinion on private security companies being contracted for multi-family housing complexes. And this is what he had to say.
Honestly, it depends on the company. On patrol I’ve worked with some good and some not so good companies and it’s pretty easy to tell right away who you’re dealing with. We [law enforcement] can’t be on every private property making sure bad things aren’t happening, we don’t have the manpower and high priority calls are coming in all the time. That’s why I think that a properly trained security officer employed with a good company is an invaluable asset to every law enforcement agency out there.
Apartment security guards serve a specific purpose. Security guards aren’t police, and they can’t replace police. But what they can do is be an extra pair of eyes and ears to observe and report all unwanted activities, while creating a visual deterrent for criminals.
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What types of apartment security measures should I Take?
Apartment security can’t be approached with a cookie cutter technique. No two properties are exactly the same, therefore their security needs can’t be the same. Depending on size, location, layout, and other factors, we have to adjust our methods. We’ve already discussed that every property should have some type of security, but which approach is best for you?
Without seeing your property and doing a formal security consultation I can’t give specific advice, but what I can do is generalize. I will address small properties in low crime areas, all the way to large properties in high crime areas, and most everywhere in between. Remember that no matter what type of property you manage or own you should have a proactive, active, and reactive security measures in place. Use what you learn here along with your own judgment to decide what you will use to keep your apartment secure.
Before you install expensive cameras or hire a full time security guard, if you are serious about keeping your property safe there are simple, more cost-effective steps you should take first. I’m not saying that cameras and physical security are not worth it. In fact, they can be extremely valuable, but these methods become much less effective unless you do the little things first.
The best initial line of defense against potential criminals is keeping all areas well lit at night. There are two schools of thought when it comes to lighting. Some say security lighting aids criminals in completing crimes because they can see what they are doing better. Most people, including Bravo Three, believe that lighting is a necessary and important aspect of apartment security. Lighting deters criminals from taking action because they can now be more easily seen and reported by onlookers. Lighting also makes residents feel more secure. The feeling of being safe is paramount for your residents. You will lose your best, most well behaved, and loyal residents if they don’t feel safe and secure walking the property.
Lighting is probably the most inexpensive security measure you will take as an owner or manager, yet it may be one of the most important. Think as a criminal as you walk your complex at night. What are the easy targets, where can you go without being seen? Light up the areas that you believe pose the biggest threat and you will make criminals think twice before acting on your property.
Focus on lighting your common areas. Laundry rooms are a popular target because criminals will attempt steal all the coins. Parking lots and storage areas should also be well lit because cars and content is a very consistent target for thieves. Motion censored lights are a great way to spook potential criminals while saving a little money on your electricity bill.
Security Lighting is only effective if done properly. If the lights are too bright and create a glare, you will aid criminals by increasing visibility, while making it more difficult for witnesses to report details of the crime. Because you should not be using the brightest lights available due to glare, you will need to place more lights to ensure full coverage. It’s also best to place the lighting high, out of the reach of vandals. It’s common for vandals to break the lights to later return and commit a crime concealed by darkness.
Once you have lit up your property you will want to invest in gating your community. Gating your community will not completely stop someone from causing problems on your property, especially if they are a resident (But that’s a whole other issue). As far as apartment security goes, a gate is a great way to deter criminals. Drug dealers, vandals, and other criminals look for easy access, both in and out of your apartment complex. They like multiple escape routes as well. If possible, you should permanently block off any extra ways in and out and force everyone to use one entrance and one exit. You can go a step further and make those access points nearest your main office so your on-site manager can have the option to monitor access. Make it difficult for criminals to get on your property in the first place and you could stop problems before they even begin.
Fencing and Pedestrian Gates
Fencing and pedestrian gates as a security deterrent goes hand in hand with vehicle gates. They provide the same protection against foot traffic as gates do against vehicle traffic. Unlike vehicle gates you can have more than one access point for pedestrians, however, it’s best to keep access points to a minimum.
If the fence is dividing your property from the street or other highly trafficked areas, it should be an open-type fencing to encourage visibility. Wrought iron fencing shoulder to head height is a popular choice among owner and managers. If the fence is dividing your property from something like a dark alley, the backside of another business, or something else similar, it’s best to build a more sizable, closed fence to restrict access and deter visibility. A concrete or brick and mortar made wall head height or taller is usually what is best.
Maintenance? How does maintenance improve security? It’s all about perception. I like to refer to a criminology theory called The broken windows theory. This theory states that,
“Maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime.” It goes on to explain,
“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.
Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.”
So how does the broken window theory affect you as an owner or manager? Don’t allow criminals to believe that no action will be taken if they commit a crime. If mangers do not take quick action to repair and clean the property, it will be perceived by criminals that managers won’t pursue their wrongdoings as well. It of course does not have to pertain to only broken windows, keep your entire property in tip top shape and you could see a decrease in crime.
Physical security is a great way to improve the value of your apartment’s property. It is the only type of security that is single handedly proactive, active, and reactive. It provides an affective visual deterrent for would be criminals, It allows for active surveillance, and is a great reactive force to help catch criminals who have committed a crime.
Physical security can be applied in three effective ways, either a vehicle patrol, a standing guard, or both. For most properties, a vehicle patrol is best. It typically cost a fraction of the cost for a standing guard, (Usually 1/3 to 1/4 the price) and is plenty effective enough to get the job done. Apartments that are very large, location in a rough neighborhood, or both should utilize a standing guard.
Vehicle patrols are the most common form of physical security being performed on apartment complexes. This is largely due to the cost-effectiveness it provides. Not all security companies are created equal, so make sure to do your homework on a company that will provide you with the greatest value. But if they do their job correctly crime should be reduced and for a reasonable price.
The way vehicle patrols work is a security company will hire a driver to complete a route consisting of multiple properties throughout the night. The security guard will go to each property within the route, typically 2 or 3 times a night, and complete a patrol throughout the property at random intervals. Most companies will include a call response for your manager and residents. This is where I believe vehicle patrols earn their value. If the company you hired is capable of responding to a call in a reasonable amount of time, (usually 10-30 minutes) your manager and residents are effectively getting full coverage.
These same vehicle patrols can handle many ancillary services while completing their patrols as well. These services can include: lockups and unlocks, maintenance reports, (lights out report) parking enforcement, and more if needed. The more you require of your vehicle patrol, the higher the price, but it may be well worth it in the long run.
Vehicle patrols are an effective way to provide value to your residents. This should help increase profits in the long run. But if your property requires more attention than a vehicle patrol, you should look into investing in a standing guard.
Hiring a standing guard cost a good amount of money. It scares a lot of owners and managers into not getting security at all. They might try a vehicle patrol because it is cheaper and end up abandoning security all together because it is not effective enough. Don’t make this mistake. Do your homework, and make the necessary investment into a standing guard if you believe you need to make your property safer.
A standing guard is simply a security guard who is responsible for only your property. The most common contract I deal with is for one guard, 8 hours a night, 7 days per week, typically from around 9pm to 5am. This guard has the same responsibilities as a vehicle patrol driver would have, but is dedicated to only your apartment complex.
Standing guards become most useful for when there is constant problems that need to be addressed on your property. They are an excellent deterrence for vandals and thefts. They can also help push gang activity, such as drug sales and prostitution, away from your apartment complex. Because the guard is dedicated to your property, you will be able to use the guard for all ancillary services you need in addition to his primary mission to observe and report.
Depending on the size and needs of your property you can vary the coverage you get from a standing guard. Bravo Three has been involved in contracts to provide two guards 24 hours per day/7 days per week, and for 1 guard 3 days per week/4 hours a day. Every property is different, so contact multiple companies near you and get multiple proposals with different scopes of work based on your judgment and their consultation of your apartment complex. Consultations are often free and you can learn a lot.
Other Physical Security
We have seen a trend lately with some apartments within our coverage area to use a combination of vehicle patrols and standing guards. I think this can be a great option to bridge to gap in price and coverage. Certain days of week may be an issue for you apartment complex, often dictated by location. Some properties near schools need security during weekdays to deter trespassing and vandalism from students. Other apartments are located near sporting venues and need security mostly on weekends and especially during large events. Consider getting a proposal for different combinations so you don’t pay for more security than you need.
Apartment Security Cameras
Security cameras can be a great resource to improve the safety and security of your property. Getting the proper system set up in the best locations is key. Security cameras have many great attributes, but can have limitations as well. To get maximum value from your cameras, keep in mind you will need to use them in conjunction with other security measures. Security cameras will only be effective if you know when, where, and how to use them.
First of all, I believe cameras get most of their value as a visual deterrent. I much rather have my cameras very visible with more than enough signage to let everyone know they are being watched, rather than hiding the cameras to help catch the criminal after the damage has been done. We always much rather be proactive with preventative measures than relying on the security cameras to help identify the criminal after the fact.
Where to install apartment security cameras
Installing cameras in strategic locations along with the proper lighting and gating will give you the best results. Hopefully you will have taken my earlier advice and limited traffic flow to one entrance and exit. This allows you to put one or two security cameras up and you can review who is on or off your property in case of an incident. I also hope you have lit up your apartment complex as well, this will dramatically help your cameras see what is needed to be seen.
The next place you should address is common areas, especially areas like club rooms and office space that contain valuables. Install the cameras well out of reach of criminals so they cannot damage the cameras. It really comes down to using your best judgment when installing security cameras. Ask yourself, what locations would a criminal target, and how can I position the camera to best see the criminals face or car license plate.
What apartment security camera system should I use?
Security camera companies will try to sell their camera system as a one stop security solution that is very inexpensive and easy to use. I don’t believe this is the case. I love security cameras as a security measure for apartments, but I often believe their value is overstated. Security camera companies will get in the door selling all the amazing features and will quote a low price. The reality is the low price will never include all the features you desire, that will cost extra. The full-coverage, monitored systems are not cheap, but most of time they do their job very well. However, I believe that if you are going to shell out the money for camera monitoring, you are better off hiring a security guard. Use cameras as a deterrent and a reactive measure to help stop unwanted guests and catch criminals.
A closed-circuit television (CCTV) is likely your best option for apartment security cameras. Most companies will set you up to activity be able to monitor the cameras if you feel the need. But, you probably won’t need to spend much time watching the cameras. After you have installed the security camera system, test to see how well the picture quality is day and night, and adjust accordingly. Most importantly, you will want to make sure you know how to review recordings. The system can be a bit confusing if you haven’t used it at all. Don’t wait until after something has happened to reposition your cameras and change the recording settings to fit your needs.
All in all, apartment security cameras should definitely be something you should consider as an owner or manager of an apartment complex. Don’t rely on them to solve all your security problems because they can’t and won’t unless you pay top dollar to install an overly elaborate and unnecessarily expensive system. Use them as a visual deterrent and a way to review unwanted activities, not as a replacement of a security guard or the police department. If you do things right, apartment security cameras are a great way to improve the safety and security of you property.
How much does apartment security cost?
So, how much is apartment security going to cost you? After all this talk of different options for apartment security it’s time to get down to the numbers. As far as lighting, gating, ongoing maintenance, and security cameras there are too many options to go over. You will need to do individual research on these topics. As for the physical security, which is my area of expertise, I will do my best to provide you with reasonable expectations.
Cost of Apartment Security – Vehicle Patrol
I get asked all the time, “How much does a security vehicle patrol cost, and why isn’t the price listed on your website.” No company should be listing one price online for a vehicle patrol. I’ve seen cookie cutter prices listed on flyers and ads by other companies and I believe this is very misleading. This isn’t fair for both parties involved. As an owner or manager of one or more apartment complexes you know as well as anyone that no one property is the same. Therefore, the price per property should rarely be the same. You could be overpaying and losing money, or worst underpaying and forcing the security company to cut corners, provide a substandard service, and render there patrols useless.
The main factors that good security companies take into consideration about your property when dealing with the cost of vehicle patrols are: Armed or unarmed officer, number of patrols, property size, proximity to current route, proximity to major roadways, ancillary service requirements, (lock-ups, parking enforcement, etc.) and likelihood of incidents. Basically, how long will it take the officer to get there, and how long will they be on property?
***Remember that price should never be the only factor in choosing a security company. Value is what you are looking for, high performance at a reasonable price. It is easy for companies to undercut on price, only to provide less than what is promised. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. There are unavoidable cost security companies must pay. The only way to lower cost dramatically is to cut corners. If you run into a company that is cutting corners in any way, it could be a huge liability for you, and your service could become completely useless. If you get a quote below or above the numbers listed below, ask the company to justify their bid. Make sure they can follow through with what they have promised***
All that being said here are the numbers. If you require only 1 or 2 vehicle patrols per night you could be looking at as little as $300-$400 per month on the low end, up to $800-$1000 per month on the high end. If you require 3 to 4 patrols per night, it could cost $500-$700 per month on the low side, up to $1500 per month on the high side. For 5 patrols or more you will likely not pay less than $1000 per month, all the way up to $2000 for a large property requiring as many as 7 patrols.
These figures are very loose estimates of what you might pay. I only posted actual numbers because I get asked so frequently. Remember, without seeing your apartment property in person it is very difficult to give an accurate quote. It is most likely your property will be priced somewhere in between the extremes. For you to receive a low price, your property has to be in a perfect location and not require much extra attention. For you to receive a quote on the high end would only be if your property is very large, has many lock-ups and unlocks, requires parking enforcement, and is in an inconvenient location.
Typically, vehicle patrols will be billed at a flat monthly rate. Watch out for contracts that charge extra for things like call response. This could add up quickly if every one of your residents has the dispatch number. Many companies will include this service for no extra cost if the call falls within the contracted hours.
Cost of Apartment Security – Standing Guard
The cost of a standing guard is billed per hour worked. You will pay the security company an hourly rate and the security company will pay the guard. The security company will obviously charge more than what the guard gets paid and this is their reward for handling training, scheduling, insurance liability, uniforms, equiptment, etc.
Price for a standing guard is determined by: Armed or unarmed guards, likelihood of incident, extensiveness of responsibilities, amount of area covered, training required, and crime rate in the area. A lot of the determinates of pricing a standing guard comes down to how much will the company have to pay the guard to work your property and how much time and effort will management have to dedicate to your property.
With all that in mind the lowest hourly price you should expect to pay is no less than around $15 per hour. Getting a price this low is extremely rare. The best case scenario where you would be paying $15 per hour would be if you hired multiple guards during desired workable hours. Most cases you should expect $16-$19 for a standing guard.
If you hire only one guard for 4 hours a night on weekends expect to pay on the higher end, around $18 or $19 per hour. This is because it is very hard to staff a guard to work a 4 hour shift in the middle of the night on the weekend. If you hire two guards to work the same property, or higher multiple guards spread throughout many properties, expect to pay a lower hourly rate near $16 per hour.
Another important consideration is to account for how long the services are expected to continue. A short term contract should expect a higher rate. This is no different than if a resident signed a short-term lease vs long-term lease. Also, if you contact the security company with last minute requests, expect the hourly price to exceed $20 per hour, if they even have the capabilities to supply a guard at all.
When discussing price you always want your best bang for your buck. If you require more services, (multiple guards and contracts) you will likely receive some sort of price break. So, if you have multiple properties consider trying out different companies on different properties first. Once you find the company that provides the best value, commit most or all of your business to that company and request a bulk price reduction.
I want to reiterate one more time, price should not be the only factor when choosing physical security. It is a very important factor, but you should look at value added to your property. Value added is why you do anything as an owner or manager. Everyone benefits from more profit, and physical security is great way to increase your bottom line.