Melbourne Break-In Reminds Owners Corporations Of Communal Effort Required For Building Security

Building Security For Apartment Buildings

building-securityThe recent shocking and violent attack at a St Kilda apartment block serves as a timely reminder that building security is a communal effort in Owners Corporations.

Apartments are often highly rated by property purchaser and renters alike because of security benefits.

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Most modern buildings have intercom systems which allow occupiers to identify owners before allowing them access to the building, while there are often registered key systems and fob access systems in place.

However, all the security systems in the world won’t be enough if occupiers are not as security conscious.

While this most recent attack is particularly shocking because of the particularly violent nature of the incident, apartment break-ins are unfortunately common.

In the last six months alone Strata Plan’s systems show over 25 cases relating to a break-in, theft or CCTV requests relating to thefts or break-ins.

How Do People Bypass Building Security?

More often than not, would-be criminals are able to access the property simply by walking through the front door or tailgating an occupant into the garage.

The most common ways this can happen include:

  • Loitering at the entrance of a building and waiting for someone to enter/exit the building
  • Tailgating an occupant into the building garage in their vehicle
  • Entering a garage on foot behind a vehicle
  • Using the intercom system to request access to the building, either pretending to have lost their keys or pretending to be a courier making a delivery
  • Airbnb or other short-stay guests
  • Former tenants who did not return their access devices
  • Friends of occupants allowed into the building specifically to steal items
  • People blocking common access doors open while they move into the property.

Almost all of these occurrences can be easily stopped.

Owners and occupants should be wary of the following suspicious behaviours:

  • People loitering around apartment building access points
  • Motorists tailgating other drivers into apartment car parks
  • Strangers peering into storage cages
  • Damage to common property, such as lifts or foyers
  • Finding doors that have been chocked (i.e. blocked or jammed) open

To prevent unauthorised access from happening, owners and occupants should consider the following;

  • Don’t be afraid to ask the person where they are going.
  • Trust your instincts and refuse them entry and ask them to use the intercom system to contact the person they are visiting.
  • When entering or leaving underground parking, wait and ensure the door is closed before moving on. This will prevent a person walking in behind you.
  • Take down the registration of any suspicious vehicles hanging around the area.

If you view any of these behaviours and are in any doubt, phone the local police station first and your Owners Corporation manager second.



What Do Criminals Target

Fortunately, most break-ins are non-violent, unlike the recent incident in St. Kilda.

However, they remain a nuisance and often result in theft.

Most thefts occur in the basements of buildings, where cars are parked and valuables are left in storage cages.

Bikes are another very common item to be stolen from basements.

These are particularly vulnerable areas as their often little CCTV coverage, occupants are only in these areas when they’re entering or leaving the building, and the contents of storage cages are usually in plain sight.

Basements are also one of the easiest parts of the building to access, either via the lift or stairs if the thief has gained access to the building lobby, or directly into the basement if tailgating someone.

Basements often have “loops” in place which allow vehicles to exit the basement without a remote or access device, making it even easier for criminals to leave the basement after completing a robbery.

Storage cages are often vulnerable as they are usually constructed with simple cyclone wiring and are easy to see and cut into, leaving most padlocks completely useless.

To help prevent storage cage theft you can:

  • Line your storage cage with dark plastic or cloth to prevent people from seeing in, hence removing the temptation to steal
  • Remove any truly valuable items from your cage
  • Wherever possible, store bikes in your apartment. There is a range of cheap wall mounts which can be used to conveniently keep your bike in the apartment.
  • If you must store your bike in the basement, invest in a high-quality D lock and a good quality cable

Strata Plan has not had to deal with many reports of motor-theft, although most thefts from cars involve the offender breaking a window to take valuables or building access devices from the car.

It is hugely important that occupants remove all valuables from cars and don’t leave their remotes in the car.

Improving Building Security

While individual vigilance is important, making improvements to the building’s security is often a communal effort and is driven through the Owners Corporation.

Common methods of improving building security include:

  • The installation of security cameras
  • Upgrading the building security system to a registered access system

The installation of security cameras is one of the best ways to deter crime and catch those responsible when it does occur.

Strata Plan recommends that owners corporation committees concerned about the security of their building consider the following options:

  • Install a combination of real and dummy security cameras on the common property
  • Install ‘screechers’ on doors that are main points of access to stop people blocking doors open
  • Remove loops from garage doors that automatically open them from inside to trap trespassers in the garage

It is important that lot owners in strata complexes think about the community they live or have invested in.

Another great way to improve security is simply getting to know your neighbours and having an understanding of the people who actually live in the building.

 If everyone in that community shares the interest and responsibility for securing their property – both private and common – it will go a long way to helping them create an amazing life space that everyone can enjoy.

If you would like to start a conversation about your building’s security, get in touch with Strata Plan to learn more about your options.

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