Woman says Millcreek storage facility did little to protect unit from thieves

May 2, 2022, 9:01 PM | Updated: Jun 10, 2022, 11:11 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTYA Salt Lake Valley woman is sharing a warning with others after finding her storage unit cleaned out. She’s also concerned with how the facility responded to the theft.

Set back from 3900 South with a gate, cameras, and an office guarding the front, Public Storage seemed like a secure spot for Kate Van Wagoner to store her belongings.

Van Wagoner explained that she was moving from her downtown Salt Lake City apartment to a home in Holladay and needed a unit from early April through early June as she waited to move into her home.

Keeping only clothes with her, Van Wagoner described how she stored every single piece of furniture, houseware, and sentimental item she owned.

“I probably had up to 20 boxes. My apartment was about 2,000 square feet,” Van Wagoner said.

Last Saturday, a few weeks after originally storing her items at Public Storage, Van Wagoner recounted how she went to her unit to grab a few things.

Immediately upon arriving, she described noticing that things at the facility were different than what she would expect.

“When I got there, the gate to the storage unit was open,” Van Wagoner explained.

The front desk, she said, was empty during normal business hours, with a note on the door saying no one was working.

When she arrived at her unit, Van Wagoner said the door was bent and the latch was tampered with.

The lock itself was completely intact. Van Wagoner removed it but couldn’t get the door to open because it was stuck.

Upon calling another Public Storage location, Van Wagoner said an employee agreed to meet her on-site to help her get in.

“As soon as we opened up my unit, it was bare,” Van Wagoner said. Only a single mattress was left behind, she said. All her other furniture was gone, and so were items Van Wagoner can never replace, like journals, scrapbooks, and letters.

“My grandmother just passed away in December, all of everything that I received from her,” Van Wagoner explained. “All important things that I really can’t put price tag to, or I can’t ever duplicate.”

What made her feel even worse, Van Wagoner continued, is how she said a Public Storage employee handled the theft.

“There was just no protocol of like, ‘Hey, let’s call my manager,’ or, ‘Let’s have the police come,’” she said, of the employee’s response to her. “It was just, she kind of left. Since then, we have yet to get ahold of anyone with Public Storage.”

Van Wagoner did get ahold of Unified Police, who she said discovered that there was no real way they could effectively investigate the theft because of how the facility’s cameras operated.

“The only cameras they have on that property is entering and exiting the gate,” Van Wagoner explained, of what police relayed to her.

Sgt. Melody Cutler with Unified Police said they took the theft report and explained that the large time frame of when the theft could have occurred and lack of surveillance has left them with no leads.

“If it’s surveillance that merely films people going in and out, there’s not a lot to go on at that point,” Cutler said.

Van Wagoner indicated that she thought security was stricter when she signed up at Public Storage.

“I just am wondering what security am I paying for if there isn’t someone working there, if the gate to which I have an access code is constantly open, and there is no footage or cameras?” Van Wagoner wondered.

KSL TV called the Public Storage general number and went into the Millcreek office, and in both cases, got referred to the same person working in the corporate office. A voicemail to that person was not returned Monday.

Cutler said UPD has taken reports of eight thefts at that specific location in the past year.

She looked at theft data from other storage unit facilities.

“Other storage units that we’ve looked at have, you know, average of probably around five a year, so they’re just slightly over an average,” Cutler said.

Van Wagoner and Cutler both urged anyone with a storage unit at any business to check their units often, keep an inventory of what’s inside, and double check security measures at the facility.

Cutler recommended that people make sure there are security cameras pointing down each row at the unit complex, rather than just at the gate.

She said some companies offer alarms in individual units as well.

Van Wagoner knows that whoever stole her belongings would have no use for the items that meant the most to her.

“It just feels targeted, and personal, and violating,” she said. “And I can’t even put into words how much I’m going to miss all that stuff that I’ll never be able to get back and… it’s super disappointing.”

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Woman says Millcreek storage facility did little to protect unit from thieves