Open buildings are a security risk. Many art buildings have open access with limited security or surveillance. While this is great for getting the pubic in on First Thursdays or other open studio events, it also leaves the door open for some sketchy folks to poke around in your business.
As you settle into your studio, the hallways can actually be a helpful space for getting visitors into your studio. Art in the hallway can help get people in the door and a small table with your business cards and other marketing materials is great for promotion. While having these things available for your visitor when you are around and away from the studio, these items in the hallway are freebies for the amateur or criminal thief. Stuff in the hallway is fair game. Take pictures of your hallway set up for insurance purposes so you know what’s out there in case something goes missing. Tie wrap art to the hook secured to the wall and make sure no valuable work is there left unattended.
If you ever had to take a criminal justice class for college credit, then you are probably familiar with Broken Widows theory. This theory is used as a metaphor but describes how disorder in neighborhoods leads to increased crime. Basically, if a building is not maintained, it’s a visual welcome mat for criminal activity. This can be said for the building we rent from and includes the look of the hallways and community spaces inside the building as well as the outward appearance. One perfect example is the trash build-up in public building spaces. Having a dumpster sit due to construction, visible piles up of broken furniture, or overflowing trash welcomes people who like to dumpster dive. This type of behavior can then welcome additional trouble.
There are very few buildings that have the budget to pay for a security guard or a modern electronic entry so if you have this in your building this is great. If security is a bit precarious or some public access always seems available, you need to consider your methods of security. This means you need to be a good analytical set of eyes and get to know your neighbors. If someone is around who seems suspicious, call your landlord, management company, or additional help. If you have the ability to increase your door locks and security in your space, do so. Most landlords or management companies are okay with lock changes as long as they have a copy of the key.
One good habit to instill to have these conversations with your neighbors. If you share doors or areas of the building that need to be locked, get in good habits together. My neighbors and I share spaces behind 2 additional locked doors which remain accessible during normal business hours. After that time frame, either the doors are shut or I make sure to lock up before I leave for the evening. You can also get in good habits of locking doors behind you for example if you work late in the evening at your studio space, locking the door as you leave to use the restroom, or locking yourself in your studio for safety.
If your studio is a sketchy space or is in a not-so-safe neighborhood, tell someone when you head there or bring a buddy along with you. Be vocal about the security issues that are happening in your building and make sure your management or landlord knows what’s happening. Always call for help if you feel unsure about someone or something in your building. Save the management company’s number in your phone. One reason is of course if you get locked out, two is in case you need to report any suspicious activity.