A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.
Posted On by Ralph Goodman
Gym security is a major issue these days. There are many stories of gyms being targeted by individuals and criminal enterprises. You need to be able to protect your belongings from the types of thieves targeting gym members. It is important to understand how these types of crimes happen, and the types of policies in place that assign culpability for stolen goods. From there, take a look at the biggest issues with gym security. And once you have decided how you want to go about keeping your valuables safe at the gym, there is still more to consider. To get the best protection for the belongings you bring to the gym, read on.
Criminals are dangerous, even at the level of gym thieves. In one instance, a thief was confronted by his victim, and the criminal pulled a knife. The thief was still stopped because another bystander brought a gun for security. Things can escalate quickly in any circumstance of criminal interaction, so it is good to know how some of these people think. If you know how they choose their victims, you have a better chance of avoiding any altercation. There are two main types of gym thefts. Both are based on opportunity, but there are some important distinctions.
Marked For Value – When you are marked for the value of what you have, it is because a lookout, or the criminal themselves, has spotted something of value to be in your possession. A good example of this is a woman who had $70,000 worth of jewelry and left it in her locker every time she worked out, five days a week. The jewelry was stolen. This woman had obviously valuable items that she was reliably storing with extreme frequency. Criminals that choose marks based on value, love someone showy and who has a routine.
Criminals like this just lay in wait until the moment is right. They are patient and often take the time to gather the proper materials to execute the theft with greater precision. If they do steal impulsively, it is often due to a perception of extreme value. The more expensive your belongings are, the more risk a criminal will be willing to take on to try and commit the theft. When you are targeted based on the perceived value of your items, criminals may also have a higher skill level. Which is to say, the more people know you have, the more prepared criminals will be when they come to take it.
Marked For Method – These crimes of opportunities are just about targeting a person based on the method of theft that the criminal is most comfortable with. In gyms, these are often done used for mass thieving sprees. There might be a certain type of tool that the criminals have access to, which allows them to quickly overcome a particular type of security. Many times these will just be shims. Criminals will target the locks that they know are vulnerable, and just grab everything they can, as fast as they can. This might also be a car entry technique or tool that they can go through a parking lot and use.
The most mundane method is just walking away with anything left unattended. No matter if it is next to a machine or in a locker room. If there is no one watching your belongings, some criminals will just rely on this method for their theft. It does not matter what you have so much as how easy it is for them to get it. They will take what they can get and figure out what to sell or throw away after they have the loot. It does not matter if you just have a pile of gym clothes. They might be stolen just so someone can rifle through the pockets later. If you happen to have the poor security these criminals are looking for, then you will be targeted.
You have probably seen signs posted at your gym that say something to the effect of, “the company and employees are not responsible for anything stolen on the premises”. This begs the question of who can be held responsible for the theft? Are you being blamed for having your possessions stolen? Perhaps in some roundabout implicit way, but they are really saying that the gym will not take financial responsibility for the lost or stolen items. If you want to be reimbursed for anything that went missing at the gym, the items need to be insured, or you need to find the person that took them.
The gym is not saying that you are on your own if anything is stolen, they are just trying to keep themselves out of any legal hot water. You should still report the theft to the gym so that they can be aware that the location has been targeted. The gym can then refer to their cameras and try to gather who may have been responsible for the theft. More than likely they will coordinate with the local police, but you may need to file the report. The gym is not washing its hands of all thefts or telling you that it is not their problem. They are just warning you that they will not be paying for the damages. The only one responsible for the theft is the thief.
As I mentioned above, the gym will undoubtedly have security cameras. But due to the restrictions on where you can put security cameras, when you place something in the locker room, you are essentially keeping it out of view. Cameras are likely trained on the entrances and exits, so staff might be able to find suspects, but if the crime takes place in the locker room, specific documentation must be firsthand.
You may think that firsthand accounts would not be so hard to come by in an area with relatively high foot traffic. The issue is that people in locker rooms are, for the most part, not very vigilant. Often, they are in fact taking precautions to be unobservant. This is intended to give privacy to people as they change clothing or wander around in various states of undress. Few people are staying in the locker rooms long enough to notice people milling about, and people struggling to open their locks is a relatively normal sight. Those that do mill about are also not that unusual, as some people treat the gym as more of a social club than a place for exercise.
With heavy foot traffic, it is hard to tell who does not belong. With a location like a gym, you are also dealing with a diverse crowd. Everyone, there are at different levels of the fitness. The outfit that you need to wear in order to blend in is also very simple. As long as someone is not wearing jeans or slacks, chances are people will think they have a right to be there. And if they weren’t supposed to be there, they should not have been able to get past the front desk. Most people are strangers you wouldn’t recognize, so gym patrons take the default position of assuming everyone around them is there to work out (or at least hang out). At the risk of sounding insensitive, in a gym, it is hard to tell the harmless weirdos from the criminals.
Looking at the available and popular online advice for gym security, they tell you to travel light. This is not always possible. Ideally, you should only have your keys, ID, and wear your gym clothes when you walk in to work out. That is just not feasible for the majority of people. If you are going to exercise after work, you are stuck carrying everything you took to the office, and most likely need to store your work clothes.
And even if you are only bringing your car key and your ID to the gym, those are not things that you want to have stolen. So no matter what you do, you cannot easily get around the fact that you have valuable items you need to protect. Even if you could walk to the gym (if you take your bike you have to worry about your bicycle security), you would need someone at your home ready to let you back in, or else you will get wrapped up in having to hide your house keys. And even then, you still need to have your ID on you at all times.
And if your answer to keeping your ID and keys safe is leaving them in the car, then you have to think about your car security. Is your vehicle going to be safe while you are in the gym? How are you going to lock your car and then open it without the key? If you are bringing the key with you, are you going to put it in a locker or keep it on your person? Neither of those options is necessarily more secure than the other if you do not understand the risks you are facing. When it comes to storing your belongings at the gym, it is impossible to get around thinking about security.
You have to decide where you are going to put your belongings. Whether you are going to store valuables on your person, leave them in the car, or decide to use one of the lockers. There are considerations for each, as no method of mobile security is ever foolproof. Depending on your intention to protect, and how serious you take security, you can achieve a gradient of protection. These ways of protecting your belongings are similar to how you would protect your beach bag. But there are some important differences between the gym and other venues where you are forced to bring your belongings.
A lot of professionals in the security and law enforcement industry will suggest that you keep your valuables to a minimum and then keep them in your pockets or hidden on your clothing. It not a bad idea, but it is not free from flaws. The biggest issue is how they are attached to your person. Anything in your pockets is not secure unless your pockets can be zipped shut. In a gym setting, you will be moving and sitting down over and over. Many of the loose gym cloths create the issue of smaller items falling onto the floor. If you don’t realize what has happened, you may lose your belongings to someone with sticky fingers.
I have seen the people hold their belongings in their hands. They will put them on the floor and try to remember to pick them up when they move onto something else. This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, you are advertising to everyone in the gym what you have. A thief who is on the lookout for a mark (this is one of the ways criminals approach gym thefts) sees your keys, phone, and/or wallet, and then they just wait for your to be distracted or wander away absent-mindedly. You may also have people walking up to your stuff believing that someone has dropped these things, which is the perfect cover for a thief.
Using a necklace attachment, or putting things in your socks, is also not for everyone. It is better than your pockets, but it can make exercising difficult or uncomfortable. It is difficult to notice exactly when you lose something you have been holding onto. Often, things just become less of a hassle and no one questions why they feel more comfortable until they have been separated from their belongings for an extended amount of time. In a gym environment where you are trying to get to a machine before someone else occupies it, putting weights back, or getting some water, you can forget to grab the things in your care.
Cars in a gym parking lot are an easy target. When the lot is not shared with any other businesses, criminals assume that once a person walks away from the vehicle, they will be gone for a while. And even if your gym’s parking lot is for multiple businesses, your destination may be obvious due to your clothing. It is rare that people spend only a few minutes in the gym, and this can give a criminal more than enough time to get inside the car. If everything of value is just in the car, then it is hardly any different than a locker. Maybe you have an aftermarket car alarm that calls your cell phone, but is that phone in the vehicle? If you just have a standard car alarm, don’t count on it deterring a car thief or doing much good to attract the attention of pedestrians.
If you do not hide your belongings within the automobile, you are showing anyone walking by what they have to gain by just breaking out your window. And if the criminal is familiar with any of the widely available professional ways to open a car door, then they don’t even have to be so violent about it. A car large areas of glass, and once that glass is broken, the car is almost always completely vulnerable. It does not do your belongings any good being left in a car if you are not focused on security.
People that are trying to minimize what they are taking into the gym will sometimes have a physical key on their person that will not start the car. This means that if your key is stolen in the gym, the thief will still not be able to start your car. But if the criminal in question knows how easy it is to open a car door, then they may be able to get into your vehicle. Then they will have access to whatever you put in the trunk, under seats, in pouches, etc. If you are planning on keeping your ignition key in the car while you work out, be aware that you are making it simpler for someone to steal the car once they gain access.
It is a very unpopular opinion in the security world to advocate for the use of gym lockers. And I would not go as far as to advocate them, but they may be the best of the bad options for some people. Unlike your car, walking up to your locker means that the gym cameras have recorded this person at some time. If they do not have a membership, then will also have to get past the employees. And if they are a member, then it will be easier to track them down. So there is a bit more security than using your car. But you need to be using a lock on your locker. There are many people that put their items in a locker without placing a padlock on it afterward. This is not secure.
If you are looking to upgrade the security on your locker, you can use one of the best padlocks on the market. Once you put a high-security product on your locker, no one is going to shim it open. Picking is unlikely to work. And unless your gym is empty, has horrible employees, and terrible surveillance, anyone bringing in equipment (let alone use equipment) strong enough to open these locks violently, is going to be caught. Some people say that you are going to put a target on your locker if you use an expensive high-security lock, but you are not securing a storage unit. People may have some level of discreet access to your lock, but it will only be during hours of operation.
We are also not talking about an industrial-sized storage facility. This is just a locker room, which always has the opportunity of people showing up to disrupt a break-in. There is the noise factor of violent entry as well. It is always possible for someone to pick the lock on a gym locker because every lock can be picked, but with a high-security lock, there is little chance of that happening. There have been many upgrades and interactions on padlocks throughout history, but the base level of security that your padlock should have is ball bearing locking pawls that prevent successful shimming. And when it comes to the physical security of the lockers themselves, they are more like lock boxes then they are safes.
Now that you know all of the considerations about preventing thefts at the gym, it is just time to implement them. There is enough information here to make a plan that will work for you. No matter what you have to secure, there is a way to store it safely while you are at the gym. Striving for better gym security is not a something you have to do in vain. Improve your security, and give yourself some peace of mind while you are staying healthy. You have taken the steps to get stronger, now it is your security’s turn.