by Nick Gromicko and Kate Tarasenko
For any kind of a commercial investment, such as a condo filled with renters and owner-occupants, or a light-industrial complex filled with small businesses, tenants as well as owners have a mutual responsibility to ensure a safe environment that promotes both peace of mind and business as usual. Here are some tips that you can act on now to make your commercial property safe.
You may be 20 feet away from your vehicle while you’re working at your desk, but property crimes are crimes of opportunity, and criminals don’t like to work, so don’t make it any easier for them to loot your vehicle by leaving it unlocked -- or by leaving valuables in plain sight, even in a locked car. Additionally, lock home and office doors, and use security locks on windows that allow them to open, but not too much. Pull drapes and shades on windows when the sun goes down and when unoccupied – don’t announce your absence by leaving your premises on display.
Owners should ensure that there is adequate lighting in the parking facility, whether a parking structure, individual garages, carports, or assigned parking spaces. Injuries due to inadequate light can lead to liability issues and expensive legal hassles. Motion-detector security lights should be installed at every unit’s entrance. They save energy, and alert residents and tenants when someone is in the immediate vicinity. These lights are generally hard-wired into the building’s electrical system, but portable sensor lights can be added to the perimeter of the building to make dark areas and those obstructed by vegetation better lit to discourage nighttime trespassers.
These should be kept clear of debris and obstructions, such as lawn care equipment. Sidewalk cement in poor repair can present a tripping hazard, leading to injury and costly legal ramifications. If sidewalks have graded steps, install photo-sensor stake lights at the edges to capture the sun’s energy during the day so they can provide illumination at night.
There are many approaches to this issue, depending on the structure of the complex, the cost involved, and the level of desired protection. Some condos and industrial parks prohibit additional locks on doors that may prevent owners from entering a tenant’s home or office in case of an emergency. Some gated communities go the extra mile and hire personnel to regularly patrol the area. Most small businesses have electronic security systems that must be activated and disabled, and which will automatically alert local first-responders in case of a breach. Whether you’re a tenant or an owner, make sure the terms, as well as the limitations, of the security system are spelled out in your lease. Also, make sure that you post window decals and lawn signs alerting potential trespassers of the risk they’d be taking. Again, most property crimes are crimes of opportunity, so don’t make a criminal’s job any easier by failing to use simple deterrents.
Know your neighbors. Know their hours of operation. Pay attention to the vehicles that are regularly parked in the lot. If someone seems out of place, acts lost, or is spending an inordinate amount of time on the property without entering a unit or conducting any business, consider contacting the authorities. Always exercise caution when approaching such people to question them, but do be mindful of their presence to determine whether they actually belong on the premises.