Four years ago a self-storage operator in Forsyth County, North Carolina admitted during an interview that eight of the nine CCTV cameras at his facility were fake.
Dummy CCTV cameras like the one on the left are readily available for under $10 so it is easy to see why the operator was tempted into using them. Dummy cameras may deter some criminal activity but fortunately most operators have realized that to be effective at misleading potential criminals they must also mislead customers. In the event of intruders a facility that had intentionally misled customers may well be liable for any consequential loss or damage to a customer’s property.
Some storage facilities will have a small number of fake cameras incorporated into their security systems so when you ask them how many CCTV cameras there are they can respond without giving the game away. For example they may say that they have 25 cameras but 2 of them are fake. You may consider that a reasonable response but it should be just one of your questions relating to security.
A modern self-storage CCTV installation will typically include high definition color cameras with infrared illumination (image left) and motion detection recording, with the option of remote internet viewing.
In the last few years like all technology the cost of these systems has considerably reduced and the functionality has increased. For example a 16 camera system with all these features including a high capacity digital video recorder (DVR) and everything else required can be purchased for less than $3,000.
No matter how good the technology the weakest link in these high tech systems is monitoring the camera images in real-time. This is why currently almost all incidents are reviewed retrospectively using the images stored on the DVR rather than observed at the time the incident occurred. That is if a recording exists, which was not the case at the Atlantic Self Storage facility where 30 units were burglarized a few months ago.
The problem for the consumer is that there may well be a movie of their storage unit being burglarized but by the time it is seen by the police their possessions will be long gone. Not only that but if the criminals are operating at night wearing black clothing and balaclavas the police will be unlikely to identify them. Even if the police ask the public to help identify suspects in a surveillance video, as in the 155 Extra Space Storage units burglarized two months ago, it does not necessarily result in a prosecution.
However the self-storage industry is beginning to make use of a monitoring solution called proactive live-video monitoring which takes the internet feed from the surveillance cameras and streams it to a control center where specialists watch the images in real time. On seeing something suspicious the operators can either remotely broadcast a warning through an onsite audio speaker or alert the local police department.
There are a few companies offering this service but one of them Stealth Monitoring in Dallas, TX has an interesting and entertaining social media marketing tactic. They publish a “Catch of the Month” on YouTube showing some of the best “catches” obtained by their video surveillance specialists. Below is a clip from one of their videos showing the apprehension of three would be thieves at a self storage facility in West Virginia.
The video shows two suspects with bolt cutters on the premises while another camera shows a third suspect acting as a lookout. Stealth Monitoring operators verify that nobody is expected on the property and immediately dispatch local West Virginia authorities. The two suspects with tools begin to break into the storage units when the police arrive with a K-9 unit. A Stealth Monitoring operator stays on the phone to the police providing information on the location of the intruders within the facility and as a result three arrests were made.
More importantly from the consumers point of view is that none of their stored property was stolen or trashed. If you are choosing a self-storage provider and high security is important to you then look for a facility using live-video monitoring.