Unstaffed 24 hour gyms are really not safe

May 14, 2008

I have a membership at a newfangled 24 hour gym because it is very close to my house and is half the price of the YMCA, the only other real alternative to me. I’ve been there a while, and I’ve noticed that the ‘security’ during non-staffed hours is not too good.

A lot of the articles I’ve googled on this subject are from the Midwest and two of the largest chains, Anytime and Snap are Minnesota companies. Who says ideas don’t come from the Minnesota?

St. Paul, Minnesota, oddly enough, has an ordinance that apparently disallows unsupervised gyms. St. Paul is more worried about patrons keeling over from sudden cardiac arrest than hold-ups or assaults.

Here’s a description of how security is supposed to work at a  24 hour gym:

At his business, patrons sign a policy not to let anyone in, even if they think the person is a member, Collien said. The measure prevents people from entering with stolen cards.

Customers who lose their cards receive new ones, he added. The old code is cancelled so others can’t use it.

Even when they aren’t working, operators can still watch their establishments. All local 24-hour centers have surveillance, and many owners can control the cameras from off-site. Collien said his cameras are connected to his home computer so he can monitor the business anytime, even when he’s home with the flu.
The reality comes down to social engineering factors. If you want to get into my gym after hours, you have two options. Both involve ringing the doorbell to the facility. You have a reasonable chance of somebody just walking over and letting you in! Failing that, you could just stand at the door and wait for someone to leave the place then walk in with the door open. That’s it. There are security cameras, but they don’t deter unmasked robbers in lots of other contexts.

OK, you’re not supposed to let anyone in if they don’t have the keycard (or in my case, a keything) but this doesn’t work. Even at my highly sensitive workplace, people piggyback through the doors behind someone with card access. People (speaking of Americans right) generally don’t confront other people tailing them through a door like that. Even if you feel like minded to do so, would feel like say, confront a gang of teenagers in a fairly dark, isolated area?

It’s not so likely that anything would happen in an exurban area as opposed to an inner city or downtown area, but anything can happen.

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