Maximizing Your Laundromat’s Security

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Maximizing Your Laundromat’s Security (Conclusion)

Pointers from Paulie B: It’s only as good as its weakest point

GLENDALE, Ariz. — During my career, I saw years when we had relatively low crime, and years when crime was rampant. I learned a lot (the hard way) from those bad years, especially the 1980s when drugs were everywhere in New York.

The best security requires that you make everyone think that your security is sooo good, they’ll choose an easier target. And I mean everyone! The bad guys, the public at large, your customers and your own employees.

Here are some more tips for keeping your store secure:

Buddy Buzzer System — In the old days before modern security systems, I installed two simple doorbells. One had a hidden button in my mat that rang the pizza place next door, and one had a hidden button in the pizza place that rang a buzzer in my mat.

If we had trouble in the mat, we would press the doorbell and the pizza guy would call the cops for us, and vice versa. Simple and cheap. We would test the doorbells occasionally to make sure they worked.

Mirrors — I installed mirrors on some of the walls of my mats. For instance, a folding table that’s up against a wall should have a mirror on that wall. People folding there get to admire themselves as they fold but, more importantly, they can see anyone coming up from behind. This is more useful for attendants to help them more easily see who’s coming and going. A bonus is that mirrors can help a small mat feel larger.

Get to Know Local Police — Establish a relationship with your local police department. Many local departments have created a “Community Police bureau,” through which they take a proactive approach to reducing crime by listening and engaging the people and businesses in their precincts.

I used my local community police a number of times to establish a rapport with them. They helped a little with reducing transients and loiterers by sending patrol cars in the parking lots near my stores. However, that effort would fade after a couple of weeks, so I would occasionally call to get them back.

Control the Homeless — You must control the homeless in your store. If you have non-customers hanging around in your mat getting high, drunk, vomiting, passing out, smelling bad, etc., you will surely attract the real bad ones who will be looking to steal. Regular customers won’t come in and your business will suffer.

The homeless problem is sad but I believe it’s way beyond us. It’s a social problem that requires social cures outside of our control. I found that if you politely ask a homeless person to leave, it works fairly well.

Buzz ’Em In — If your mat is in an area susceptible to armed robberies, consider a buzz-in lock system on your entrance doors to protect your employees, like some apartment houses use. And make sure you have at least one camera aimed at the door outside for easy identification of who wants to come in.

Private Entrance — A card-based store offers a little more protection from crime than a coin-operated mat does, but it’s been my experience that bad guys don’t like to steal coins. What they really want is paper money that’s in your changers or VTMs.

Some smart operators are building their mats with a separate private, dedicated entrance to their security rooms. If done right, you can come to take out the cash and go without anyone knowing!

‘Pin’ Your Door — You can make your out-swinging exit doors like a safe door. It’s inexpensive and a clever way to secure those doors by creating an interlock at the hinge side. Anyone trying to gain entry by cutting off the hinges when a pinned door is shut will not be able to open the door.

First, drill a 1/4-inch pilot hole in the door edge. Next, screw in a 3-inch by 3/8-inch lag bolt and let it stick out about 3/4 inch to 1 inch, then cut off the head to leave just the bolt shaft exposed; this is now your first “pin.” Gently close the door so that the headless pin is touching the edge of the door frame. Draw a circle around the pin onto the frame edge. Drill a 1/2-inch hole in that frame circle. You now have one pin finished. Repeat with the others.

I usually did four pins so they would be above and below each hinge. You can use different-size lags and holes to suit your particular door. I would not go smaller than 5/16 of an inch for the lags.

Windows and Other Openings — I thought I had secured the back windows of my mats with steel bars spaced 6 inches apart. Guess what? They greased a kid so he could squeeze through the bars to let the big guys in! This is when I realized I had to lock the doors from the inside as well as the outside after closing that store each night. I also had my welder make better window guards.

The same goes for any other opening like makeup air vents. Just make sure you aren’t violating any fire safety laws. During the day, people must have clear exits.

In closing, remember that your security is only as good as your weakest point.

Make sure you have a secure door to begin with. A real solid commercial steel door should not be cheap. If you can’t find one, you can bolt a nice 1/8-inch steel diamond plate sheet to the inside of the door.

If the frame is attached to wood, then use some high-quality 3-inch screws for the hinges, such as deck screws that have a “bugle head” so they countersink into the hinge yet go all the way to the studs. This will help both the door and the frame weather crowbar and sledgehammer attacks.

For the locks, use heavy-duty carriage bolts, bolted all the way through the door, and epoxy glue the threads inside.

For a general rule of thumb when looking at any high-value object you want to secure, ask yourself this: Can it be opened in less than 10 minutes with either a sledgehammer or a crowbar?

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].