Reporting Dave Savini
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Criminals have figured out how to get your possessions without getting caught. They are breaking into rented units at some Public Storage facilities and they are getting away with a lot of these burglaries.
CBS 2′s Dave Savini investigates problems with security measures.
Cassandra Williams says she was victimized when criminals gained access to her Public Storage unit and stole $2,000 worth of tools and fishing gear.
“It just amazes me how easily somebody can come in, rent a storage unit, and walk out with your things,” said Williams.
Williams rented her unit at the East Hazel Crest Public Storage. Lindell Austin rented a unit at the same facility and his was also burglarized. His 2009 Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle was taken along with a jacket, helmet and motorcycle cleaning supplies.
“Don’t use Public Storage,” said Austin. “Yeah, don’t use Public Storage.”
Police say a white van caught on surveillance camera at the storage facility is suspected of being used to haul out the motorcycle.
“It meant a whole lot to me,” said Austin about his bike. “Something that I worked up for, saved up to get, and to get it taken away felt like I had been violated.”
Austin and Williams both thought their property would be safe behind locked gates and security cameras. They did not know the only cameras at the facility are at the front gate and office.
Also, a master key that can unlock the storage locks has fallen into the hands of thieves, said East Hazel Crest police detective Mike Tuley.
“This key could probably work at any Public Storage facility,” said Tuley.
Another problem Savini found is an unsecured fence. A broken piece of wire holds part of the fence together and someone cut a hole in another part. Tuley says this is how thieves gained entry.
“They are going in there with bolt cutters,” said Tuley.
He said criminals are cutting locks or the metal part holding the lock. They are even renting units then smashing holes thru the walls and climbing into adjoining units in order to steal everything.
“It’s not secure at all,” said Williams.
Burglaries have been reported at other Public Storage facilities, too. Cook County Sheriff’s police recently arrested three men for breaking the locks and burglarizing 17 units at a Bremen Township facility.
“Somebody knew the system,” Williams said about the break-in of her unit. “Somebody knew there were no cameras back here, there was no security, they could come back here anytime they wanted and that they had all the time in the world to do it.”
Williams and Austin say they did not know hundreds of units have been burglarized at this East Hazel Crest facility in the past three years, according to Tuley.
He said they have tried to get Public Storage officials to beef up security — put cameras down each aisle and install electronic keypad locks on each unit.
“We’ve contacted the higher ups and they say it’s been a consideration,” said Tuley. “For the last few years that’s been the answer we’ve gotten.”
Calls CBS 2 has made to Public Storage have not been returned.
CBS 2 called other types of self-storage companies and found several that had security cameras monitoring the aisles and units. Some also have electronic locking systems on individual units and even an electronic lock similar to a home security system — it notifies police when there is a break in at the unit.
“I’m hoping to get all of this out soon,” Williams said about the possessions in her unit. “So I feel better in my own home.”