Today’s commercial property managers, face a variety of challenges, not the least of which are security issues. These can vary from ensuring that contractors’ activities on site, are not disrupting their tenant’s businesses while also following health and safety guidelines, to “slip and fall” incidents, both legitimate and contrived. A lack of vigilance around such matters can result in heavy liability losses. Property managers of multi-story office buildings, usually employ a combination of security measures to protect tenants and property, including the use of concierge-guards and the installation of video surveillance equipment.
Surprisingly, some managers of buildings in suburban, commercial/industrial parks, often choose not to employ security services. When asked why they decide not to protect the premises, it typically comes down to the, return-on-investment, argument. The story goes that it’s a quiet area, with occasional police patrols; the expense of hired security services can’t be justified, when there are so few incidents.
A recent discussion I had with a prospective client, revealed how the result of this policy can cause serious damage to a location’s image and the management company’s brand, ultimately impacting profitability. The manager, Frank, had been assigned a number of buildings within a large business park, in what was traditionally a desirable suburban area. The residential neighbourhoods surrounding the business park had been quiet and trouble-free. The decision had been made years earlier, not to hire security services, as they were deemed unnecessary. Eventually, there was a change in the area demographics, and the neighbourhoods began to experience a rise in criminal activity. This led to buildings in the business park, also becoming targets for break-and-enter incidents.
Frank advised that while the tenants had begun to take security measures into their own hands, installing cameras etc., (even putting bars on the windows!), the incidents had continued. Eventually, some tenants decided not to renew their leases. This led to several prolonged vacancies. When Frank assumed management, he immediately recognized what was happening and could see where things were headed: it was apparent to the perpetrators, that the premises were clearly unprotected: no cameras, no security guards and no patrol-cars. They were operating without much fear of being apprehended. If the situation continued, the result could only be more vacancies. The continuing slide in revenues would soon become difficult to recover from. Profit was already down and lowered lease rates might soon follow in an effort to fill the vacancies.
Frank understood that an organization’s ability to retain and attract tenants, including prestige names, is directly linked to the property’s image and status. Without his tenant’s confidence in his ability to protect their property, more vacancies would result and things would continue to spiral downward. The vision of a half-empty, run-down, commercial building is a scary thing for any property manager and can only lead to a tarnishing of the management company’s overall image.
Fortunately, this story ends well. By installing surveillance equipment and employing mobile patrol service, the break-in incidents fell off and eventually ceased. The visual presence of cameras on the buildings and patrol cars and officers on-site, was enough alone, to deter the criminals from approaching the buildings. Further, Frank related that the patrol officers discovered that several locations were being used for illegal parking on the weekends; several types of vehicles including a large trailer were trespassing. A simple warning and the continued random patrols deterred the offenders from returning.
Frank’s story clearly illustrates the need for security services in property management, as a deterrent to criminal activity. Unprotected properties become prey to a wide variety of illegal activities. The damage to a property’s status and the company’s reputation, is inevitable; profitability is seriously affected by the decline in revenues that result. By simply employing quality security services that are visibly apparent, a management company can protect their tenants’ property, their company brand, and thereby, their financial health.