Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 245

Effective Security Measures

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Mobile home parks have no greater crime than surrounding subdivisions, but there’s no question that crime in America is way up and that holds true for all property types. So what can mobile home park owners do to reduce crime in their properties on a daily basis? In this Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast we’re going to drill down on concepts to proactive reduce crime and how to build a template to help eradicate it.

Episode 245: Effective Security Measures Transcript

You may not be Batman but you can do your part to stamp out crime. This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. We're gonna talk about proactive things that mobile home park owners can do to try and reduce crime and increase security in their properties. Let's first start off with the observation that mobile home parks are in no way a crime center in any community. There's been a study done of this paid for by the US government through the University of Chicago. It was done about 20 years ago, and what the study was sent to do was to try and figure out how much crime there really is in the typical mobile home park. And what the folks who did the study found were that the mobile home park crime rates mere the overall community as far as the single-family home sub-divisions that they in no way are big on crime. In fact, where you find the real high crime rates in most areas of America are in apartments. Why is that? 

Well, mobile home parks have never been very good as far as a place for a criminal to live or practice their craft. The problem is in a mobile home park, you have paper thin walls to protect you. You have the ability for the police, either through surveillance or actual officers, to come at you from any direction. So, consequently, you just never feel secure there. If you're in an apartment building, maybe on a second or a third floor of a nice thick masonry apartment, where there's only one or two routes to get to the apartment, that gives a criminal a much greater feeling of happiness, but mobile home parks would give you... Never any solace. So as a result, you just don't see a whole lot of crime in mobile home parks, but in some properties, you do have enough that it causes you problems. It gives you concerns, it may cause residents not to want to live there, it may cause your phone to ring a lot from people who are concerned about their well-being. So what do you do in those properties? How do we all, as mobile home park owners, collectively reduce the rates of crime? 

Well, the first thing you need to do is you need to weaponize, you need to empower your entire tenant base with your feelings of zero tolerance towards crime. Remember that mobile home parks are like high density subdivisions, there's a whole lot of windows looking out in every possible direction. It's very hard for anyone to go into a mobile home park day or night and not be observed by many different people. So what you can do now is take all those eyeballs looking through windows and make those into your own form of security camera. Let the residents know that you're wanting to stamp out crime and if they see anything suspicious going on to please call 911. Let the police know that they see something, they can make a 911 call anonymously if they so choose, but they need to go ahead and report things that they see. If they all report things that are bad in your mobile home park, it will ultimately be stomped out because the police will step in, then they will go to the person who there are accusations of, of doing something wrong, or simply by additional police patrols through the property, those kinds of things tend to go away.

So the first thing to do in any mobile home park is to send a letter, maybe on a continual basis, that you wanna make the property the best it can be, and you have a zero tolerance for crime and you urge everyone, if they see anything at any time day or night, to call 911 and report it. Often that's what the residents want to hear, they wanna hear that the entire property is on board with this and they feel safer when they know that their neighbors are also doing the same thing. Now, that being said, I would not organize an official crime watch for your mobile home park. As we all know, for the Trayvon Martin case several years ago, there was great liability to the property owner if you in fact organized crime watches. But if you wanna go ahead and advise everyone who lives inside your property to call 911 to the drop of the hat, if they see anything bad happening, it's always a smart idea. Number two, if you can identify where bad things are coming from, and in many mobile home parks, you can; it's typically, it's coming from a neighboring property, perhaps an apartment complex, then see if you can build some time of security wall.

Now, you'll know where people are entering your property at night to cause mischief because you'll see very defined pathways, holes in shrubs, holes in fences, and you'll see why foot traffic actually you'll see trails of people who are going through. Stop their ability to do that. Those are easy access points for people who are up to no good to get into your property. You can build a really, really nice security fence, I wouldn't recommend wood necessarily because wood is easier to knock through. If it's a real problem, go ahead and put in something like a metal fence, something adequately high painted Forest Service screen that's really hard to get through, or if you're in an area where it rains frequently, you could even plant thorny hedges. But do something to try and reduce foot traffic through. Sometimes when you do that, that traffic goes in a different direction, it doesn't wanna go through the more obvious entry points of your property, the regular driveways and things at the front, and by blocking access, you can reduce a lot of petty crime. Another good idea is to increase your ambient lighting.

Now, mobile home parks often have street lights, so there's may be on the streets or sometimes when you go in the entrance. But then if you look at the typical mobile home park at night, you'll see, although it may be light in some sections, it's pitch black in others. And as we all know, a good source, a good spot for criminals, people who are up to no good, are areas where they can't be seen. That gives you a lot of protection from the authorities because no one can really call and report them, and it's hard for the police, even if they show up to find them. So let's increase the ambient lighting. Now, one of the best ways to do this, in our opinion, is to install solar lights. We've been buying a whole lot of them from Gama Sonic. Now, why solar as opposed to traditional street lights? Well, traditional street lights are great and everything, but the problem is you typically don't have the power and the electricity to go ahead and attach to, and there's no polls to attach to over in those more remote areas of the property, but the solar lights can go anywhere.

And all you have to do is build them, and there's no operating cost from them, just the sun is what powers them. The new ones they have out there are much brighter than the ones of days of old. So if you haven't looked at solar lights, you definitely should revisit that topic. But whether it's gonna be solar or the addition of regular old street lights, you need to do something to give your property the ambient glow at night. Now, don't make it too bright, the problem is you have to pick a good moderate inflection point, because if you make it too bright, people will complain that it keeps them awake at night. So a good ambient light in a park is something that makes it very obvious where people are, you can see them, but it isn't like sunlight. That's why in some cases, actually using solar lights, which are not quite as bright as traditional street lights, may be the better choice.

Because I'm not trying to irritate my good residents, I'm simply trying to give them a nice protective flavor of continual ambient light. Sometimes what you can do is you could install some solar lights and then re-check the property again, you don't have to do it all at once. There's not a big price point differential from buying a whole bunch of lights from as opposed to just a more moderate number, and if you do it just right, you can ultimately get where the entire property has a nice uniform amount of ambient light, and that really makes residents feel very, very happy.

In fact, we get lots of fan mail and we install security lighting for many people who'd let us know how happy they are that we've taken that step to try and protect them and improve the appearance of the property. Finally, if you ultimately do have some kind of true crime problem, whatever it may be, your best source to eradicate it is simply to hire the police in an off-duty format. You can actually go to the police department in almost any market in the United States and if you're willing to pay for it, and it's not inexpensive, it may cost you $40 or $50 per hour, but you can get an actual police officer in uniform in their squad car, and what that does for you is it allows you to then focus the police on the problem at hand. We've used that in the past in many, many different episodes. We had one, for example, where we had someone, some young person going through the mobile home park at night banging on the sides of trailers with a baseball bat or some other object, just to fright an elderly resident. There was no other crime attached, it was just a combination of vandalism and mean-spiritness.

What did we do? Well, we hired an off-duty policeman, they were only there for a couple nights before they caught the perpetrator and that cured the problem. So whenever you have things that really do seem to be causing you problems, possibly causing you to lose residents even if you don't correct it, always the best option is typically hiring an off-duty police person in order to get that job done. Don't just go out and hire network security or a security group, the problem is nobody fears them and they're not truly professional. Instead it's better just to pay more and get right to the root of the problem with someone who's actually from the police force. They will typically get the job done, plus you'll know that they're doing it completely in line with the laws. The bottom line to it is that every mobile home park owner can be a little like Batman. There's a lot of proactive steps you could take, they're not terribly expensive.

A lot of it is simply using good common sense to help bring down the rate of crime in any mobile home park. This is Frank Rolfe From Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.