Condo buildings often provide underground parking and storage areas for residents. Newer multifamily buildings have also included bike rooms or racks below ground, or somewhere in the back of the building.
Residents are grateful to have a dedicated place to park their cars and bikes, but the downside is that they are unable to keep an eye on them once they leave the garage. They cannot simply peek out the window to check up on their ride, and this can leave vehicles and bikes vulnerable to thieves.
Criminals will target condo buildings because they know how easy it is to access a garage or bike room. They often follow residents through doors or gates, pretending to live in the building. They may not even steal anything on the first attempt, but will take time to look at what’s available and what the best escape route would be.
You can imagine how devastated residents are when they come down to the garage, expecting to drive or bike to work, only to find that their mode of transportation has completely vanished. Vehicle and bike theft take a huge emotional and financial toll on people. The good news is that there are things that condo associations can do to reduce these types of thefts.
Hiring security personnel and installing cameras are two smart steps associations can take to dissuade thieves from stealing valuable assets. Read on to find out more about how to address this issue.
Bike thefts are unfortunately common because they are relatively easy to find and steal. With the right tools, locks can be cut. Furthermore, police don’t make much of an effort to find stolen bikes because they are busy trying to solve bigger crimes.
Bike owners know that a really good bike costs $2,000 – $5,000. Cyclists who own custom bikes may pay upwards of $10,000 for their rides.
Some condos have strict rules about taking bicycles into elevators or through the lobby, which puts bike owners in a difficult position. Bike rooms are certainly more secure than bike racks, but brazen criminals have no issue sneaking in to see if they can get away with a high-end bike.
A condo featured in a news story found out just how bold criminals are. Surveillance footage showed two people working together to acquire a bike. One of the suspects distracted concierge while the other followed a car through the garage door of the building. They gained access to the second floor, where a resident’s bike was parked and secured with a $100 lock.
The woman never got her bike back. She warns others to never let strangers into a bike room or parking garage, even if they are holding a bike. She has witnessed someone trying to gain access to her condo garage using this method. She was smart enough to deny the man access, but others, who think they are doing a fellow resident a favor, end up putting expensive bikes at risk.
Car thefts are on the rise. The popularity of the keyless car has actually made it easier for skilled thieves to get away with vehicles. Cars are harder to hide, which means police are more likely to locate them. However, the experience is incredibly stressful for car owners.
One owner of an expensive Lamborghini had their car stolen from a Toronto condo. Two suspects broke into the building on a weekday morning and took it to a residential area less than 20km away from the downtown area. In this case, the vehicle was recovered by police.
Drivers sometimes forget their remote fobs in their car. Others leave them in their vehicles on purpose if their fob is connected to their smartphone. If these drivers also leave their doors unlocked, thieves can get away with a car very easily.
More advanced thieves are able to clone the signal from a web-enabled vehicle’s fob in a method known as a “relay attack.” Thieves use a relay box that intercepts and stores a key fob’s radio frequency transmission. This strategy is rare because it requires a lot of work, patience and technology that is hard to find.
A more common manner of theft is the reprogramming of a dummy key fob through a car’s Onboard Diagnostic Connector (OBD2) data port. This is the access point that technicians use to diagnose a vehicle and program factory keys.
A thief has to get into a vehicle to access its OBD2 port. They will have a tool with them that will allow them to reprogram multiple blank key fobs that they have sourced through some online avenue. These aftermarket reprogramming tools typically have limited access to the key-reprogram features unless you have locksmith codes. But, codes can be sourced through the internet.
Key reprogramming can be a lengthy process, but experts have seen surveillance footage of several thefts where a person returns to a parking lot multiple times before they are successful.
Proactive theft prevention
Condos that are concerned or currently dealing with auto and bike theft issues are encouraged to invest in some of the following solutions.
Install gates and secure all access points
All access points should be gated and secured. While a barrier is still not enough to keep pedestrians out, it’s better to have some access control than nothing at all. Bike rooms must also have access control technology.
Put up security cameras
When combined with other security strategies, security cameras have been proven to help deter criminal behavior. Security cameras allow staff to monitor parking areas in real time and give them evidence if they need to go back and investigate anything that may have happened in the past. Make sure there are signs notifying people that they are being monitored. Cameras won’t work as well if people are unaware that they are present.
Hire security guards/concierge
Having security guards or concierge on the premises is a great way to minimize theft. Not only can they be the ones watching the live camera footage, but they can respond to any suspicious activity they see. Guards can also participate in scheduled patrols and check up on the areas where bikes and cars are stored. Supervisors can customize routes so that staff are passing through these areas when crimes are more likely to occur. Stairways and elevators should also be monitored as criminals may use these to gain access to restricted areas.
Seasoned guards may also have the experience needed to provide the condo association with recommendations about how to reduce thefts.
Maintain good lighting
Make sure parking areas are well lit. Not only does this improve a driver’s ability to see, but criminals are less likely to steal when they are in the spotlight.
Other steps condo communities can take to reduce theft
Board members and residents can make their assets less of a target by taking some of the following steps:
- Establish a clear rule that forbids residents from lending out building access keys/fobs to friends and family – unless they have a designated visitors pass and have been made aware of security guidelines
- Educate residents about the risks of holding doors open for unfamiliar people
- Create a safety committee that encourages residents to look out for one another’s vehicles and bikes
- Keep your bike in your unit if possible
- Invest in a quality bike lock. Use the bike storage room if one is available
- Use an antitheft lock on your vehicle
- Always lock your vehicle
- Never leave your fob in your vehicle
Condo buildings can help keep costly vehicles and bikes safe and secure by hiring a security team to monitor the area, educating residents, and creating a parking environment that discourages criminal activity.