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Let’s talk “hidden cameras”! The most important thing to remember is, interior surveillance cameras, or cameras in areas that people expect a high degree of privacy, places like bathrooms, changing rooms, bedrooms etc. are all places that hidden cameras are always prohibited. But what about hidden cameras in other more public areas? What are the restrictions that go along with unmarked cameras?

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In certain states the law explicitly states “the photographing, observing or overhearing events or sounds in a private place without permission is completely illegal”. In many of these states, unauthorized cameras can be charged as a felony, which can warrant prison time. But it is important to consider that technically, no laws in the United States require posted signs giving notice of hidden cameras, in a public setting. Surveillance cameras, such as nanny cams placed in homes to monitor household employees, also require no posting of signs.

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Obviously, personal security cameras on the interior of your house or apartment are perfectly legal but, when it comes to personal security cameras in public areas, it really depends on the rest of the occupants. A tenant placing security cameras outside their apartments in areas such as a hallway or a staircase can solicit opposition from other tenants and spark concerns. Instead of adding personal security cameras in public spaces, it would be better for tenants to work together to talk to landlords to get some kind of security system installed, into their community.

Designing your community’s surveillance coverage is a delicate balancing act for Watchtower Security. Careful consideration must be applied as we work to craft a balance between the needs and coverage versus the VALUE that you receive from your monthly investment. To the lay-person, the process of surveillance might appear quite simple (i.e. put cameras where needed), but in all actuality, the proper process of system design is a complex and time-consuming activity. No two properties are alike, and their surveillance needs can vary greatly. Therefore, many points of analysis must be wagered in the design process in order to bring true value to your investment.

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Many “hardware vendors” simply want to sell you the cameras, install them, and then disappear. Their chief concern is to sell you as many cameras as possible (where their markup is). They have no vested interest in the long-term outcome of whether their product helped achieve your safety and security goals.

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Additionally, these “hardware vendors” often look to keep their installation costs down while designing their coverage plans. Therefore, they do not always place cameras in the most ideal places. Instead, they do what is easiest for them to get in and out. Then, once the installation is complete and they have collected their check, they only care about future service calls for when their equipment fails outside of the warranty (if you can even get them to respond!).

When Watchtower Security designs a surveillance solution, it is not just a one-hour visit to your property. Instead, it is a very long multi-day process. Coupling this process with our years of experience in this industry, and our training from CPTED study (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design), allows us to craft a perfect balance of cost/value versus coverage for our clients.

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There are many factors to consider when thinking about adding security cameras to a multifamily community. The process is not as cut and dry as purchasing the equipment and installing it. Few people understand, or are aware of, what it takes to not only maintain a camera system but to ensure that it is a functioning asset that will assist in making the community thrive.

The following are six questions to consider before committing to installing a camera system. Without being able to answer these questions, it would be wise to reconsider what is expected from the cameras in the first place.

Is there a defined need or purpose for the camera system?

 There must be a clear objective for adding cameras, not because the property down the street did. Cameras can assist with multiple issues many property owners face, such as an abundance of criminal and nuisance activity, vendor or employee oversight, asset protection, evidence for lease violations or prosecution, or finally, as a simple deterrent. If any of these are not an issue for a given property, maybe cameras are not needed. It could be a better decision to improve other areas within the community.

What are the expectations of the camera system?

Cameras are not the magic bullet answer to all issues a property may face. It is best to have realistic expectations of what the cameras can and will do. The property may only need general oversight. In some instances, this is enough. However, some properties with higher rates of criminal activity will benefit from the addition of cameras that can gather identification shots of vehicles or persons. In the end, a property has to decide what is sufficient for its operational needs.

What are the ideal locations for the cameras?

In a perfect world, a property could install enough cameras to cover the entire community. Of course, there are many factors that make this impossible, so a decision needs to be made as to what the areas of concern are. The most typical camera locations include parking lots, entry/exit points, common areas (playgrounds, pools, laundry facilities, and community rooms), or choke points. Choke points are created by a property design that force vehicle or pedestrian traffic to flow through a certain area. Cameras in these areas are very helpful in gathering identification shots.

What is the budget?

Money drives all business decisions, so this is probably the most important question to answer. Owners need to know that they will get what they pay for. Purchasing cheap equipment means spending more money on the back end. Camera systems are not a one-time initial investment. There are warranty issues, funds for ongoing maintenance and repair, degradation of image quality, and recording costs associated with DVRs and licensing. Finally, a camera system should be thought of as a 5-year capital expense. Many people do not think about this, but there is a shelf life for electronic equipment. Be aware that it will need to be replaced at some point and time.

 Is the property conducive for a camera system?

A property needs to have clear sight lines for surveillance to be effective. Building architecture and layout has to be considered. Landscaping can present issues. Trees need to be trimmed yearly to ensure lines of sight. Good lighting is a must. The best camera in the world is not going to be effective if it is only capturing a pitch-black parking lot. Finally, do all the buildings needing cameras have house power? If not, expect a significant bill to install it. Cameras do not work without power. It is not advised to use power from individual units, as the camera system is now at the mercy of a resident paying their bill.

 Is there anyone on site, or within the company, that can manage and administer the system?

One thing many do not consider is time cost. Does the property have someone who can perform daily health, focus, and recording checks? What happens when the equipment fails? Can the property staff correct it? Is someone available to work with the police when a video event occurs? Who will perform the video reviews? The time cost of reviewing footage is significant. When a property manager has to use half of their day reviewing hours of footage, who is leasing apartments? This assumes that they have the ability and know how to operate the equipment.

Answering these six questions can help a property decide if a camera system will be beneficial, as well as prepare them for what to expect after it is installed. Watchtower Security provides answers to all these questions within their fully managed video surveillance systems.

Cameras systems are an asset with unlimited potential, but they do require constant attention and upkeep. Before a property can realize this potential, they must be willing to do what is necessary to give the camera system a chance to be successful.

 

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When it comes to an investigation, there is no better way of assessing a crime than, video cameras. Video surveillance is always a useful task for investigators when trying to find a perpetrator or figure out more information about a situation. The most important factor when it comes to video surveillance being used in an investigation is its resolution. The most frequent issue is insufficient size or scope of the coverage (view), low resolution and low picture frequency, incorrect position of the view and inadequate lighting conditions. At Watchtower, we take the time to assess every property to check for all of these things. Watchtower has a great team of experts that know all of the logistics of having an exceptional security camera system. Watchtower chooses the camera and its quality, the camera placement, and we check the area for an acceptable network. We try to make the process of implementing a surveillance solution into an apartment complex, as easy as possible for our clients.

For most buildings, the general recommendation is: Avoid old analog CCTV cameras as the HD and megapixel resolutions offered by IP cameras available today can be up to three times better. Naturally, higher resolution gives you more details and therefore better identification of persons and objects. The advantage of digital systems is that they are virtually unlimited as to the maximum picture resolution. The maximum resolution depends only on the selected camera, recording equipment, and the network abilities. Further, the technical development in this area is advancing quickly and the performance continues to increase as well. Which is why Watchtower has no problem replacing cameras frequently. Not only are cameras replaced for being tampered with or destroyed we also replace our old cameras every few years to keep the resolution and quality as high as possible. The constant changes to technology are no problem for Watchtower, we know that being in this industry means lots of constant changes and we always strive to improve so we can deliver the best possible product to our clients.

Note: It is also important to take note that, although cameras are great for spotting and helping to catch criminals, cameras also help with prevention in a complex. Taking the protective measure of having security cameras can help your property gain, new clients.

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There is increased competition in the market, with many vendors touting their ability to monitor your cameras “live” with the promise of decreasing your criminal and nuisance issues. Sounds great right? It really does until you start to think about it. I hate to burst your bubble, but live monitoring does NOT work in the Multi-Family Industry.

First, there is a time and place for “live monitoring,” but there is no time, nor place in the MF world for it. Live monitoring can only really work in certain scenarios with very defined parameters (location, setting, hours of operation, etc). For instance, a car dealership is a great place where live monitoring can make a difference. A car dealership has a very defined boundary and is only open certain days and hours. If one were to monitor the activity live, through the context of “car shopping” one could easily distinguish between “shopping” and “nefarious activities.”

So why won’t live monitoring work in the Multifamily industry?

• MISGUIDED ATTENTION – Have you ever tried watching two movies at the same time? Sure, you might be able to follow along with the major plotlines, but chances are while you are focused on a big explosion with one movie, that you’ll miss important details from the other. So while you are intently watching a potential “suspect” from one live feed, you just missed someone else kicking in a back door! This example is just with 2 “feeds,” can you imagine trying to watch all 30 of your camera feeds at the same time? Chances are you’d miss something, or zone out pretty quickly.

• ATTENTION SPAN – If you are anything like me, you check your phone rather often. Do you really think a security guard making $10-15 an hour is really going to dedicate each and every second of his shift watching your cameras? I doubt it and I’m betting he’d divert his eyes away to check FB or the score to the game very often. Multiple studies have shown that a person watching only 4 live feeds starts to lose their focus after only 20 minutes!

• COST – Going along with the point above, let’s consider what you might pay a company to watch your cameras per month, and then do some simple math dividing the total cost by the number of cameras and hours. i.e. Let’s assume you pay someone $2,000 to watch your cameras for 12 hours per day, 30 days a month. The math here says you are paying that person $5.56 per hour. Do you really think the company is paying someone an hourly wage AND making a profit off of $5.56 per hour to watch 30 cameras at the same time? Probably not…so what you’ll find is that the same person is watching your 30 cameras AND 5 or 6 similar sites at the same time in order for the company to make a profit. Now, can you imagine watching 180 camera feeds and trying to identify criminal and nuisance activities?

• CONTEXT – Does the person doing the live monitoring really know what they are looking for? Do they know the local laws and the rules of your community? I really doubt it! Furthermore, how do they know one thing from another? Is it kids horsing around, or is it a fight? Is he smoking a cigar or drugs? Is that person breaking into a car, or is their lock stuck? Even if you do know what you are looking for, it’s pretty easy to miss things. Watch this clip and then come back and tell me I’m right on this point!

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How did you do? Don’t feel bad, as less than 15% of people ever noticed it!

• LIABILITY – This utterance of this word probably makes you and your insurance company shudder. Getting back to my previous CONTEXT examples about “is it a fight, or horseplay,” let’s assume the person watching your cameras falsely determined it to be a fight. Well, a reckless claim like this (reckless because he didn’t see the previous 15 minutes of the kids playing around) is going to lead to unnecessary calls toe the police, which ultimately may lead to slower reaction times due to numerous false alarms. Or, if a bias is proven, you may be opening yourself up to numerous legal issues from targeted races. Secondly, if live viewing is claimed or advertised to your residents (I know you are smarter than that, but a new leasing agent might let it slip out one day), your residents may be led to believe a false sense of security, which opens up numerous claims of liability for failure to protect.

While in theory watching the cameras live seems like a good idea, it really has no place in our industry. If you have this much extra money in your budget to blow, I would much rather steer you towards proven crime reduction techniques like improvements to your lighting and access controls.

 

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“Watchtower has truly been a blessing for our company. The product is amazing and has been successful in assisting the police with evidence they needed when unfortunate events have taken place. It is also a great closing tool and truly gives our residents and staff a sense of comfort knowing an extra eye is always watching from the sky. My favorite part of this company, however, is the level of service given by their team at all times. Every time we call with a question or request, it is responded to promptly and professionally. This is a partnership I truly appreciate!”  – Regional Director, National Multifamily Management Company and a Watchtower Security Client

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When was the last time you were able to say something similar about another company? At Watchtower Security we strive to be a true partner with your business.  Instead of selling you overpriced and unwarrantied equipment, we provide a service.  Your security system is designed around your specific needs, any maintenance or service of the equipment is free of charge, and any time an incident does take place you can simply contact the Forensic Review Department to find out what happened, and provide the evidence to prove it.


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Why should you consider a surveillance system from Watchtower Security:

  • They can provide evidence when needed—Need an accurate and unbiased account of an event on your property? You will be hard-pressed to find a more reliable source than a video recording. With other systems, you either have to monitor the cameras or sift through hours of video.  By having Watchtower Security as your security partner, you can save time and remove any liability caused by live monitoring.
  • They make tenants feel safer—In this day and age, security and safety are major requirements for prospective tenants.  In fact, according to the National Crime Prevention Council, renters are up to 85% more likely to experience a burglary than a homeowner. It should be no surprise that most potential renters would be willing to pay more for an amenity such as video surveillance.
  • They act as a deterrent—Would you want to be seen while doing something wrong?  Criminals do not either.  By utilizing surveillance cameras on your property, you are essentially announcing to criminals that someone is watching.
  • Turnkey Solution—Watchtower Security offers a turnkey, comprehensive solution that provides real measurable results. A low monthly investment covers the cost of cameras, maintenance, and forensic reviews of any and all footage from your community. No longer will your staff have to look through hours of video footage. With the ability to request an unlimited number of forensic reviews, you never have to worry about the nature of the event. Feel confident that our entire team will be there when you need us most.
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With Watchtower as your security partner, together we can offer peace of mind to residents and staff alike!

spyingCameras and video surveillance have been praised as both a crime fighting tool and a powerful crime deterrent but they have also been criticized as an intruder into our personal lives. With cameras in parking lots, businesses, ATM’s, and even streetlights, nowadays it is almost impossible to avoid cameras.

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This begs the question, is all of this legal in the Multifamily world? In short, yes. Regulations may differ from state to state, however, in the majority United States, it is illegal to record video of someone/take their picture when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, when you are walking through common areas of an apartment complex, driving on a public street, or entering a place of business, you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy. However, you do have an expectation of privacy when you are in a bathroom, locker room or you own residence. So while you can definitely use security cameras in parking lots/garages, vehicle gates, entrance ways, and common areas, you should make sure that those cameras are not able to view anything inside someone’s unit.

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Do you need to inform the residents or post signs? There are currently no laws stating that in a public area you are required to inform someone of video surveillance. (The same cannot be said for recording audio, but that is for another post in the future.) Not having to post signs or inform people may be perfectly within your rights, however, signs might actually help. Numerous studies have found that signs can actually help deter crime.

Whichever side of the privacy debate you may land on, properly utilized surveillance can be a huge benefit to your property!

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When you think about surveillance, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Chances are you thought of a criminal act or the need to be protected from harm. While a common use for surveillance is to help to protect, have you thought about how else surveillance could be a benefit to you?

 

A few weeks ago a client of ours was missing a rent check. The tenant claimed they dropped it off at the leasing office, but the check was nowhere to be found. How would you react in that situation? Would you believe the tenant, or would you assume that they were covering up the fact that they didn’t pay the rent? What if the roles were reversed and you were the tenant? How would you react to someone questioning your integrity by being suspicious if you did in fact pay?  Luckily there was a solution to this dilemma that did not involve the possibility of losing a tenant; this property has Watchtower Security cameras. The property manager simply contacted the Forensic Review Department at Watchtower Security, and they began an investigation to determine if the tenant did, in fact, leave an envelope and if so what happened to it.

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It turns out that the tenant was telling the truth, he left the envelope between the leasing office doors. Unfortunately, the maintenance men did not see it when they opened the doors, and the envelope fell to the ground. A few minutes later while they were picking up trash, the envelope was discarded. Thanks to the Forensic Review Department of Watchtower Security, this property did not have to chance losing a resident, and now both the property and the resident has the peace of mind that the rent payment was not stolen.

 

There are a lot of great ways to utilize surveillance to increase your property’s ROI and NOI. From vendor compliance, seeing when your staff arrives and leaves, to keeping an eye on the rent drop box. What are some uses that you could find for surveillance on your property?

We had an awesome bust last week that I wanted to share, so help me out here and sing the COPS theme song, “Bad Boys, Bad Boys, What Ya Gonna Do…” This is a great example of a true PARTNERSHIP between the owner/management company, police, and Watchtower Security.

Two Friday’s ago, we were installing our services on a new site in Kansas City, and we were not scheduled to complete the install until the following Monday. Our Lead Installer, Brian Harmeyer, was talking to the owner and their general contractor about possibly getting everything up and running sooner, as theft from the job site had been increasing during their rehab. So, Brian and the team stayed late (even with the impending #icepocalypse looming) each night in order to get ahead. Long story short, they finished with the install late on Friday and our amazing home office in St. Louis, helped to get things recording right away. Thankfully, our efforts paid off. I received a call the next day from the general contractor telling me how all of their hot water heaters had been stolen from a building!

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So, even though we weren’t officially up and running (post installation, we have a lot of back-end work and testing to complete before turning it over), the Review Department Manager (Rian Flamenco) backdoor-ed his way into the files and was able to perform a forensic video review. And knowing Watchtower, you probably know how it plays out from here…BUSTED! We provided conclusive evidence of two males breaking and entering, grand theft, etc, while providing the vehicle make/model and license plate.

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We quickly sent our forensic review over to the property manager as well as the police, and what transpired next was some awesome work by the Kansas City Police Department. After receiving the information, KCPD ran the plates and determined that the suspect car was not stolen, so they decided to swing by this nice young man’s house. And wouldn’t you know it, as they were pulling into the driveway, this “model citizen” just so happened to be unloading some hot water heaters from his car! Needless to say, he was immediately arrested and charged with a myriad of crimes. To recap, within 2 hours of receiving the footage, KCPD had arrested this individual. That is some amazing police work!

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We’ve got to say thanks to the owners/property management group for their trust in Watchtower, one dumb criminal, and the ever amazing KCPD. Working together we’ve helped get this punk off the streets.

 

Clayton P. Burnett

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Happy New Year! It is a new year and everyone is making New Year’s Resolutions. Grandiose resolutions like losing weight, getting in shape, or saving money are great to strive for, but why not add something to that list that is not only easy attainable but will also help to keep your property safe and prevent unnecessary expenses? Preventive Maintenance around your property is a perfect way to limit unforeseen expenses and increase the property’s curb appeal. Weekly, monthly and even seasonal general upkeep goals will help to ensure ideal living conditions and even help stop accidents before they start.

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The easiest place to start is on the exterior. The outside of your property is the first thing that potential renters see, and we all know how important first impressions are. A few weeks ago we talked about Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, and one of the most important parts of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design is maintenance. By eliminating signal crimes like litter, large items in the dumpster, and broken windows, you are not only increasing curb appeal, you are also signaling to the public that this area is being taken care of regularly. A property that has a visibly active maintenance crew will make criminals think twice before taking a chance on being seen.

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In addition to checking the exterior of the buildings, while on your rounds you should also perform a simple landscape and lighting audits. Ask yourself, do you feel safer in the dark or in a well-lit room? What about if you were in an open area or a place with lots of cover? Well, criminals feel the same way you do and will shy away from a well-lit area, and open spaces that provide little concealment. Make sure to trim your bushes, shrubs, and trees so they are not blocking windows or creating possible unsafe areas.

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The same goes for your property’s lighting. Take a drive through at night, at least once a month. Are there dark places where additional lighting might help, are there lights that are burnt out or broken? Unfortunately, these questions cannot be answered during the day while the lights are off, but that little extra effort will go a long way.

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Philanthropy literally means the love of mankind, and this is definitely the season for it. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you know that we are in the middle of the holiday season. During this time of year, donating money, time, food, and services to people we don’t know personally is as central a tradition as giving boxes with ribbons and bows to family and friends.

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Making financial contributions, or volunteering this time of year is absolutely wonderful, but at Watchtower Security we take philanthropy a little further. One of our core focuses is to make a positive change in all the communities we partner with. We believe that when you partner with a community for their security needs, reducing crime is just not enough, one needs to truly make lasting positive change.

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With that belief in mind, in 2014, Watchtower Security helped to establish and continues to support, Towers of Excellence. Towers of Excellence was created with the intention of empowering and inspiring today’s youth, to be tomorrow’s leaders. Through mentorship programs, at-risk youths are assisted in discovering a successful path to high school, college and beyond.

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Towers of Excellence is now entering its 2nd year at the Catalyst Circle Rock school and has already welcomed a new class of young and eager students the program. In addition to doubling the class size this year, Towers of Excellence has also added two new mentors to the program. Everyone at Watchtower Security could not be more proud of how Towers of Excellence continues to grow and make a positive lasting impact.

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Donating and volunteering during the holidays is a great thing, but it is important to remember that the needs of these organizations, and your community as a whole, last throughout the year. This coming year, challenge yourself to continue the spirit of the holidays, every day in 2017.

For more information about Towers of Excellence, please visit http://www.towersofexcellence.org/.

 

Happy Holidays from everyone at Watchtower Security!

 

 

The holiday season is in full swing. Lights and decorations are being hung with care, gifts are being purchased, and people are traveling to be with their loved ones. Unfortunately, merriment isn’t the only thing holiday season brings; theft, crime, home accidents increase this time of year. My intention is not to scare you, because with just a little forethought you and your residents can have a safe and fun holiday season. With that in mind here are some safety tips that you can share with your residents.

If you are going away for the holidays, there are a lot of ways to try to keep you and your belongings safe. The biggest way is to not tip off criminals. This means not posting on social media that you are going back home for a week. You should, however, tip off the police. It is possible that they will go out of their way to drive down your street while on patrol.

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You can also stop your mail and/or newspaper. A clear sign that someone hasn’t been around in a while, is mail and newspapers stacking up. If you don’t have someone picking it up for you, or it being held at the post office, then you essentially are putting a sign on your door that no one is home.

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Along that same line of thought, keep your curtains the same way they always are when you are away. If you normally have them open, but all of the sudden they are closed for a few days, you could be tipping off a would be criminal that you are not around. The same thing with your lights inside your apartment. You might think that you should keep them on all the time to make it look like someone is home. However, what it really is doing is raising your electricity bill and looking very suspicious that your lights are on at 4am. Your best bet is to get a timer. That way the light turns on and off at regular times, making it look like someone is home.

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If you are staying home for the holidays, you are more than likely going to decorate. One of the biggest decorations of the season is the Christmas tree. A few years ago, having a fake tree was very popular. You could have them up in a few minutes, and when the season is over you can easily store it away for next year. However, real trees are becoming popular again. While they look and smell great, they can be quite hazardous. If your residents do get a real tree, make sure they are aware of how to take care of it. The most important tip is to make sure that it is watered often. A dry evergreen tree is excellent kindling. Also, keep open flames, such as a candle, away from the tree as well. Candle-related fires are most common during the holidays.

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Most people enjoy decorating. While decorating their unit is great, residents shouldn’t attempt to decorate the outside of the building. Not only is this extremely dangerous to the resident, it also opens up the property to a lot of liability. Not everyone does celebrate the holidays, so the decision of decorating should be up to the management of the property.

However you celebrate, everyone at Watchtower Security hopes that the holiday season is a festive and safe one for you and your residents!

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More than half of Americans plan to shop online during this holiday season.  Unfortunately for employees in the multifamily industry, this means constant package deliveries from Cyber Monday until New Years.   A decade ago, dealing with resident’s packages took only a few minutes to handle and delivery.  Today with Americans spending upwards of $300 billion with online retailers, those few minutes have quickly grown to a few hours.  With online shopping expected to increase by 25% over the next year, this is a problem that is only growing.

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The challenges of dealing with packages extends beyond just the time it takes.  How do you ensure that your resident’s packages are safe?  After a package has been delivered to the leasing office of an apartment building, how are you able to track its whereabouts?  How do you ensure that another resident didn’t steal someone else’s package?  Luckily there have been a number of specialized offerings tailored for this very situation.  Package tracking and notification systems, electronic package lockers, and video surveillance have all shown to be excellent tools.

Package and tracking notification systems allow for the property staff to electronically check-in an item.  This makes managing an inventory of packages quite simple.  You are even able to automatically notify the resident through a text or email, that their package has arrived.  This is a great time saver, but as more shopping is directed online, that amount of time saving will quickly shrink.

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Another option is to completely wash your hands of dealing with packages altogether and install electronic package lockers.  These are third party lockers, that can be placed in common areas where residents are able to access them at any time.  Instead of signing for a delivery and notifying the resident, the delivery simply goes to one of the lockers on your property and the resident is notified by the company, not you.  There is a cost associated with these lockers and prices to vary depending on the company.  However, this can be an ancillary income stream for the property.  Each system on the market charges a fee on behalf of the property, which the property gets a percentage.

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With either option, there is a certain amount of liability.  Either you are accepting packages on your resident’s behalf, or allowing for an electronic package locker to be installed, keeping the packages and your residents safe when they are picking up their package is still paramount.  Installing access controls to only allow residents into the area containing the packages is a great start.  This will keep people who do not live at the property out, but what about residents taking packages that do not belong to them or packages going missing altogether?  Your best bet is video surveillance.  The simple act of putting up a sign stating that everyone in the vicinity is being recorded is a great deterrent to thieves.  However, it is not always thieves that are the issue.  Sometimes it could be as simple as the resident forgetting they picked up the package or it being misplaced before they are able to pick it up.  With video evidence, you will be able to see what happens to each package from the time it is delivered, to the time it is in the resident’s hands.

We have talked about the maintenance aspect of Maintenance and Management in the last post.  Now it is time to discuss how implementing a comprehensive management strategy is crucial to the continued success and security of your community.

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A comprehensive management strategy is formed through clear communication, awareness, and execution of your policies and procedures on all levels.  This extends to staff, residents, authorities, and vendors.  Without everyone’s support and buy in your measures are bound to be less effective.  So much of your communities success depends on your staff and your comprehensive management strategy.  You need everyone on board, working together and following the same set of rules.

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For your management strategy to be a success, you have to be vigilant on all of your various rules such as littering, parking enforcement, pool rules, etc.  Something as simple as inspecting cars on your property and having any that do not have a parking pass or up to date tags/plates towed.  That might seem a bit harsh, but the point I want to stress here is that the moment you start letting up, nuisance and criminal behavior starts to occur.  If you aren’t checking tags, in 6 months you might find that your property is now a stolen car lot.  We’ve seen this time and time again.  The bad guys now have a safe place to put their stolen ride, and then retrieve it at their leisure.

It would be wise to develop a plan for unrecognized guests.  If you don’t recognize someone, what harm is there in greeting them and seeing if you can help them?  If they are up to no good, talking to them will usually make them bug out pretty quickly.  It’s very important to get EVERYONE on your staff comfortable and onboard with this, as they are your eyes and ears.

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Develop a community watch program, and give them the appropriate numbers to call for various scenarios.  It would also be wise to find Building or Section leaders and have monthly meetings to discuss trends and happenings.  You’d be surprised at the information you can get out of these meetings!  Also, it is crucial that you work to develop a relationship with the police.  Doing so can pay big dividends in the long run for you.  You should research and get involved with your local police department’s crime free multi-housing program.  This is a very valuable program that various municipalities offer.  A lot of that program will mirror much of what you have learned in our series about crime prevention through environmental design, on this blog.

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Just remember one of the most important things that residents look for when choosing a place to call home is a safe and secure community.  If you can achieve the four components of crime prevention through environmental design, you will have a better quality of life for your residents and you will have achieved a safe and secure community.  Everyone’s happy, and that equals more money for your property!

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Maintenance and Management is perhaps the most important aspect of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. Maintenance and management encompass a number of sub-components, but it basically revolves around: having and active and engaged staff, proactive maintenance, providing activity generators, and having a comprehensive management strategy.

An active and engaged staff is pretty self-explanatory.  You need everyone’s buy-in and involvement to the community feel that you are trying to accomplish.  They all must buy into management’s strategy and adhere to all the rules and regulations of the community.

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Let’s talk about proactive maintenance and the broken windows theory. 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. The moral is if you let the little things accumulate and before you know it you are having real problems on your property. Along with the broken window theory, there is also something called signal crimes.

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Litter is the biggest signal crime in society. If a resident or criminal see litter, it tells them that no one cares and takes ownership of this area. No one is regularly coming through here and providing natural surveillance. This provides them a clear sign that they can get away with whatever they want. Something as small as a bent sign seems so insignificant, but it communicates so much. It says to residents and criminals alike that no one cares here as they didn’t even care enough to fix a little sign. A mattress in a dumpster is another signal crime. We see more of these on our cameras than anything else. This must be deterred as it has two costly effects. First, you are stuck with the bulk item bill and second, it signals this is a dumping zone for anything and everything, which attracts crime.

Another part of proactive maintenance is keeping a tab on various conditions of your property. Properties should perform regular landscaping audits because overgrown shrubs must be tamed. Overgrown landscaping can provide cover for a criminal to roam and hide.

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Now let’s be honest here, how many of you perform lighting audits on a monthly basis? Lighting audits should be performed routinely as well. Walk your property to see where the light is low, blocked, out, or non-existent. Walking the property at night is a must to really see what is illuminated and what isn’t. I’m shocked with how many properties I’ve spoken with that have never once seen what their property looks like at night, other than their short drive out of the complex at closing time. Lighting is something you can absolutely control and its effects are so valuable from marketing to crime prevention. There are sometimes where we turn down business sometimes because we think their money could initially be better spent by upgrading their lighting.

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Activity Generators are a great way to utilize community space that might otherwise be used in a negative manner. Something as simple as a playground, picnic area, or a community garden can work on so many levels for you. Not only do these activity generators clear out a potential problem area, it brings your neighbors together and it gives them ownership of the space and community. As we have learned in the previous CPTED blogs, if you have ownership of something, you are willing to defend it.

Next blog post we’ll continue with maintenance and management, but we’ll really key into the final components relating to “The Comprehensive Management Strategy” of your community.

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NATURAL TERRITORIAL REINFORCEMENT is defining a clear boundary between the public and private space. This reinforcement can aid in the resident’s sense of community, and it can allow management to recognize an outsider much easier.

Roads are an example of natural territorial reinforcement, as they can clearly delineate public space from private space, e.g., there is really no reason to be on this block unless you live there or are visiting someone. Trees, signage, roadways, and sidewalks help to clearly define the boundaries of a community.

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Signage is one of the easiest and best ways to start defining your property’s boundaries, make sure it’s well lit, and well kept. A decrepit sign welcoming people to your community is not a great start.

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Speaking of signage, how many of you have reserved employee parking spots designated by a sign? Get rid of them immediately! Think about it, everyone can tell when the community manager is there or isn’t. That may not be the message you want to achieve, as the criminals know when they have a greater chance of success.

In the next and final part of this CPTED series, we’ll cover Maintenance and Management.

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Natural access control refers to limiting crime opportunities by restricting access to your property. This can be done naturally in the forms of geography or can be artificial in the form of a gate. If a criminal can’t get to their target easily, the less inclined they are to commit the crime. Don’t make it easy on them!

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Many properties today will utilize the geography to their advantage. They may have high iron fences along the front, but the sides may purposefully be built into the surrounding woodlands, or perhaps a lake to limit access. Granted this is often done for looks, but there’s more than meets the eye with this design. These properties will also have a minimal number of entrances, maybe only one, which greatly limits access to their community.

Other examples of Natural surveillance include:

• Pedestrian or vehicular gates – used for artificial access control
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• Simple doors or signage in your office designating areas that are off limits is a form of natural access control too.

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If these components are not implemented properly, it doesn’t do you any good! So it’s very important that you ensure your access control features are working! Make sure your gates close and lock properly, ensure you don’t have holes in your fences, etc.

I do want to warn you a bit about going overboard with your access controls. Sometimes you can go too far. (Like attempting to secure your property with excessive fencing or with barbed wire…) Do you think anyone feels safe in an environment like this? Probably not, and you won’t attract the resident that you had hoped for.

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NATURAL SURVEILLANCE
is all about VISIBILITY!

Natural surveillance involves taking the steps to increase the chance of visibility.  Criminals don’t want an audience, so don’t give them an opportunity to hide!

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Going back to our modern multifamily housing block, you can see how every part of this block there are clean sightlines.  Nowhere does an area exist where you are not at least visible from two sides and in most parts of this block you are visible from 3, if not all 4 sides.  Where you can’t be seen is where trouble lurks!

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Let’s look at a few examples in the modern day multifamily design.  If your community was built after 1995, I’d bet that a number of your laundry rooms have either a glass entrance door and/or an additional window instead of a closed off room.  You can see in, and you can see out, and that makes people feel a lot more comfortable and criminals more exposed.

Even things like stairwells can use characteristics of CPTED to make it safer with their “open air/floating stairs” instead of closed off risers.  You can see in-between the individual steps, promoting natural sightlines, which allows for natural surveillance.StairTread021-650

One of my favorite ways to promote natural surveillance is a centrally located community mailbox.  Modern multi-family housing generally has community mailboxes in a central location.  By placing them here, you can promote natural surveillance.  Think about this, each time the mailman comes by to deliver the mail, or every time a resident goes to collect their mail, they are making a “round” just like a security guard.cbu_stacked

 

Again, a criminal doesn’t like to be observed and this simple act creates more opportunities for natural surveillance.  In the next blog post, we’ll continue breaking things down while we cover NATURAL ACCESS CONTROLS.

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The early formation of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design began to formulate about 60 years ago out of the early failures of public housing. Public housing is a new a relatively new concept that was born out of overcrowded cities in the first half of the 20th century. As those cities became overcrowded, public housing sprung up all over the highly populated areas of the country. Unfortunately, the very first attempts of public housing didn’t end well.

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One of the first major government-sponsored public housing developments in the nation was in St. Louis, named Pruit Igoe. I’d urge to read up on this on your own as it’s a fascinating case study of what I’m preaching today, and if you have Netflix, check out the documentary on it. Long and sad story short, this densely populated housing development quickly succumbed to deplorable conditions…but most notably of which was the rampant crime, and lack of community.
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design was born because this early model of public housing design simply didn’t work for a multitude of reasons.

However, if you were to take a look at the history of housing development, you’d see a progressive trend of improvement. While the first attempts, like Pruit Igoe, were too densely packed, the 70’s and 80’s designs were lower density, garden style developments. Over the last 30+ years, we have seen the rise of the modern day multifamily housing block that has been built in accordance with CPTED standards. The developers of this type of property truly understand that by shaping the physical environment, they can control their own destiny. In this new design, there is not a high rise building, rather they are designed to be lower density multifamily housing with defined boundaries, clean sightlines, and well-manicured grounds.

In the next blog post, we’ll begin to break down each of the components of CPTED.
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