Break-ins, domestic violence, renter scams; as a landlord or property manager the safety of your tenants and security of your properties is paramount. October is National Crime Prevention Month; a perfect time to give attention to this important topic. The following crime prevention resources are intended to support and supplement your tenant, property, and office safety plans.
Neighborhood Safety Information
Apartment complexes versus private homes certainly come with different considerations as you approach crime prevention. Within those types, the location will have a recent and past history that might help understand the types of crimes prevalent to give you a starting point.
This free website tool was designed to help law enforcement share information to help build safer communities through education and transparency. It allows for drilling down to specific locations, dates, and types of crimes up to the last 180 days (6 months).
FBI Sex Offender Registry: https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/sex-offender-registry
Partnering with The National Sex Offender information from the Department of Justice and other agencies, this site has a searchable database for all 50 states, territories, and tribal lands.
Property Crime Prevention
Crime preventions through environmental design, dealing with property vandalism before and after the event, and keeping your vacancies safe are just a few of the issues to consider in keeping crime at bay. Angry tenants, teenage antics, or criminal intent, vandalism can come in many forms.
Sometimes criminals will steal or break a lightbulb in anticipation of coming back to commit a crime. Replacing bulbs promptly may signal that the property is under good care and watchful eyes.
Graffiti typically suggests gang activity (see below) and it is vitally important to contact your local police department’s gang task force before repainting or removal. This task force typically will take pictures and document the tagging and may be able to offer resources and additional surveillance.
After you’ve reported the graffiti, paint over or remove it immediately. By doing so, you are reclaiming your property and reminding gangs that their activity is not welcome. This also keeps down the power struggle between rival gangs trying to claim territory.
Lighting and Landscape
Just as replacing broken bulbs or fixtures quickly is important, the type of lighting, placement of lights, and brightness all help create a safe atmosphere for your renters.
But lighting isn’t the only way to create a safe environment. Landscaping choices can dissuade criminals by complicating access to harm from the start. Consider prickly shrubs with noisy mulch around windows, keep hedges and trees trimmed for visibility, and don’t provide easy access to second levels.
Have neighbors keep a watchful eye on the property.
Go to the property often.
Make sure all windows and doors are secure after each showing.
Hire a security company to check on the home until occupied.
Collect or stop all newspaper delivery.
Forward any delivered mail to the previous tenant.
Do not leave garbage cans out past pickup day.
Whether vacant or occupied, create and implement a rental inspection checklist that includes elements of property safety. On that checklist be sure to include checking lights, locks, windows, landscaping, etc. Multi-family units have additional concerns to include in an apartment checklist such as walk-paths, stairwell locks, security cameras and the like.
When Crimes Become Violent
Violent crime in rental properties is a serious business as it affects the sense of safety and security for your tenants. Here are some helpful links and information to consider:
Gang Violence: https://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/
The National Gang Center has provided resources to learn more about gang activity and how to prevent and reduce gang violence.
Gang activity is a very serious concern as you have two or more factions at war in and around your rental property. Where gang activity is noted, you’ll find vandalism, theft, and an uptick in violent actions. Taking action and being vigilant regarding gang activity is forward-thinking crime prevention.
A domestic dispute or arguing tenants can quickly escalate into violence. Either witnessing it or receiving reports from other tenants, it is best to call the authorities. If you do not feel comfortable, ask to be kept anonymous (see below reporting tips).
Neighborhood Watch Program
Crime prevention can start by coming together, becoming aware and educated, and taking a stand. Offer your residents information on your local Neighborhood Watch programs. If there isn’t a program in the area of your rental property, consider starting one or encouraging your tenants to start one of their own.
Crime Prevention in the Workplace
These days, most understand that a computer or smartphone password should be complex and changed often. However, you can add layers of security to keep your financial and tenant data secure with the right property management software. Look for one that offers two-factor authentication and user-specific logins.
To limit the temptation of employee or contractor embezzlement, use property management software that comes with user activity tracking and allows you to set user-specific permissions. Ideally, your office has stopped handling checks or cash and you’ve switched to a software that allows your tenants to pay electronically by check or at convenience stores in cash.
Report a Crime
Even if you’ve done all in your power to provide a safe environment for your office, residents, and properties crime prevention isn’t a crime-free guarantee. If something happens, speak out. Be an advocate for those without a voice, share information to highlight areas of concern and improvement, join together to make a difference.
National Hotline for Crime Victims: https://victimconnect.org/
VictimConnect is a free organization that provides confidential support, information, resources, and referrals for anyone in the US who has been a victim of crime. They not only offer this support by phone but also online chat.
US Department of Justice: https://www.justice.gov/actioncenter/report-crime
In addition to contacting your local authorities, the US Department of Justice offers this helpful webpage with detailed information for reporting specific crimes such as terrorism, trafficking, violence, drugs, fraud, and much more. They also offer a printable page with hotlines and online resources available here: https://www.ovc.gov/help/tollfree.html
October may be the crime prevention month but it certainly is an ongoing concern for all property managers and landlords. Staying informed, remaining active in the pursuit of prevention, and educating your tenants can go far in keeping your rental properties and residents safe.