Securing a multifamily property is a wide-ranging proposition, a matter of locks, lighting and landscaping, of entrances and elevators, of fencing and fire escapes.
Things like concentric circles of protection and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) must be considered. And then a fine line must be walked, between what looks good and what is secure.
It is generally agreed that that is possible in this day and age. It’s a matter of what a property owner is willing to spend, and what sort of return on investment (ROI) he is seeking.
Not to be forgotten, either, is where the residents themselves fit in the equation. One report broke it down into Type A and Type B tenants, the first of which believes they have control of their environment, the second of which puts so little value on his or her belongings that they don’t care. In those cases, it’s a matter of a landlord pointing the Type As in the direction of some do-it-yourself apps and convincing the Type Bs of the necessity of some security.
Burglary is the greatest threat to apartment-dwellers. It is a crime most often committed during the day, when the occupants are at work or school, or at night, when they are not at home. It has been found that burglars tend to pick an unoccupied apartment featuring ease of access (and escape), and enough cover to conceal their activities.
That being the case, it is essential to secure all windows and doors — especially the latter, since burglars are apt to enter through the front, back or garage doors. That means installing deadbolts. It means using doors made of solid core wood or metal. It means using steel door frames to prevent forced entry.
A property owner can also make his building more secure by limiting the number of entrances and designing exterior areas to funnel visitors to the main entrance. That fits with the desire for concentric circles of protection, where a ne’er-do-well must negotiate several layers of security before he or she can find anything of value.
Consider, too, CPTED, which is defined as “proper design and effective use of the built environment that can lead to a reduction in the fear and incidence of a crime and an improvement in the quality of life.” That is reflected not only in doors but the locks used on them. While multifamily properties tend to have different systems for commercial locks, residential locks and gate systems, it is recommended that those systems be consolidated.
Then there is the matter of lighting, which is seen as especially critical on walkways, in common areas and entryways — anyplace where residents might be vulnerable.
As for fencing, it is possible to be decorative as well as secure, but it is important to be selective. One expert took note of a fence outside a multifamily property which, while attractive, provided a perfect ladder for someone to climb up to the second story.
CPTED can even be extended to shrubbery. It is recommended that property owners follow the “3/7 rule” of landscaping, under which bushes are pruned to the point where they are no higher than three feet and tree canopies cut to the point where they no lower than seven, to keep open residents’ sightlines.
Beyond the physical makeup of a multifamily property, there is the approach of the property owner him- or herself. Is a security plan in place? Has a security company been considered? Has a sense of community been encouraged? One study showed that violence drops by 40 percent in those neighborhoods where residents are looking out for one another.
The bottom line is, no security method is foolproof. But precautions can be taken — precautions that ensure that residents live in a place that is not only appealing but secure.