Security is an issue that has many different definitions. For occupants of multi-tenant commercial properties, it’s paramount that they be able to work with as much calm and quiet – free of the threat of outside interference – able to concentrate on the business at hand. Since 9-11, stories of violent incidents that occur without warning appear all too frequently in the newspaper headlines around the world. These are the kinds of incidents that elevate concerns for commercial tenants and owners.

The laws of our country are increasingly interpreting security and the right to live and work in peace, as a basic human right. Our legal system is tending to hold that a tenant is entitled to expect that the management of the area in which he/she works must take “reasonable care” to protect them.

A smart property management firm understands that in today’s world the superficial treatments that have defined security in the past, are not good enough now and a higher standard is expected. The property manager’s concern is to know what to do about his/her property’s particular security problems. The first step is to make security the top priority in managing the property.

The basic approach to solving any security program’s shortcomings is to understand what the exact nature and degree of the problems are, before taking varying protective measures. The solution cannot be found until the problem has been determined. For example, before installing expensive surveillance cameras or securing guard dogs on the premise, know fully the current security situation as well as the viability of the proposed solution. In evaluating the situation the following questions must be answered:

1) What is the crime patterns?
2) What are the tenant profiles of the property?
3) What are the built-in limitations of both the complex and the tenants?
4) What potential resources are available to solve the problem?

The property management firm must also be ready with information on types of crimes and the frequency with which they are occurring around a particular property. The police department is usually quite helpful in supplying this information. But in any case, the following information must be determined:

1) the date, time and place of crimes;
2) description of any crimes committed;
3) police action taken and follow-up procedures that were instituted;
4) the name, address, sex and age of the person making the complaint;
5) the name, address, sex and age of the suspect who might have committed the crime.

There are basically four components to any security system:

1) hardware;
2) design;
3) manpower
4) management techniques.

None of these four are standard. Each commercial building is unique. All four components must be considered when designing a security system for that particular structure. It must be noted that in any existing security system, the change in any one of the components will affect the other three.

The first component, hardware presents options which range from the simple deadbolt lock to the elaborate and expensive closed-circuit television system. As an example, let’s look at a simple lock. A key in the door knob with no dead latch would cost approximately $40. per unit. It would take, using brute force, approximately 10 minutes to open it. Another example of a door latch is the key in the door with a cylinder latch. The cost of the cylinder latch is approximately $60. However, using brute force, it would take as long as 50 minutes to open. Again, the effectiveness is directly related to cost.

The second component in solving security problems is design of the various parts of the property. Design is important, but sometimes it’s not possible to redesign a part of the property to provide for ideal security. Thus hardware and manpower may be a better substitute.

The third component manpower is possibly the most important part of any security system. Tenant surveillance is highly dependent on the sense of responsibility that tenants assume for one another. An example of outside assistance in the area of manpower might be off duty police, K9 patrols or security officers. The advantages of this approach are that personnel would be responsible to management and the patrols would have a certain crime deterring effect. Whether this manpower is in the form of a “tenant watch” group or an outside security company, careful supervision must be provided.
Last, the management techniques involved in the solution of security problems begins with seeking cooperation of a large majority of the tenants. If cooperation and understanding are not significantly present, no hardware, design or manpower will be successful. Whether tenants are organized or not they are often willing to help promote their own security. They must realize that they have the largest responsibility for their own protection.