As a new studio owner, a security system is something you might not give much thought to until it’s too late. You’re more focused on satisfying the needs of your clients in the moment – providing top-of-the-line equipment and enthusiastic, knowledgeable instructors – than preventing future calamities! But a rash of recent break-ins and locker room thievery at many gyms, particularly in upstate New York, have alerted many studio owners to the importance of the issue. Luckily there are plenty of cheap ways to make your studio more secure, and spending just a few moments on preventative planning can go a long way toward making your business run more smoothly.

The security system that works for you will depend largely on how the rest of your business operates. Larger gyms with more space and higher traffic will likely benefit from a more elaborate system of cameras, as they have more people and belongings to keep track of. No one’s necessarily expecting you to employ a bouncer, but a very visible camera surveillance system can help you both maintain the appearance of a secure environment as well as help you track potential culprits.

Camera systems can be expensive, but we’ve got a few tips to help you optimize their use. One of their most important uses is not, in fact, to record criminal activity, but to deter crime in the first place. So, while small, hidden cameras (“nanny cams”) might seem like a good idea, they may be less likely to deter theft. A study done by the Urban Institute in three major cities – Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. – showed that crime dropped by 30 percent in places with publicly visible surveillance cameras installed.

Visible cameras also go a long way toward making your clients feel more secure, particularly if your gym caters to high-end clients and is located in an urban area. As for placement, you’ll want to focus on areas that are either difficult for your own staff to keep an eye on or are public areas where clients can leave their belongings. At the very least, maintaining a constant recording of your entrance and exit points can be very worthwhile, particularly for smaller gyms that don’t have a digital system (such as card-scanning or finger-printing) for keeping track of everyone on premises.

A trickier area to prevent theft is inside of locker rooms. Camera surveillance is, of course, impossible, so investing in secure lockers becomes even more important. As a studio, if you’re going to invest in your own locking system (instead of relying on clients to bring their own), quality is important. Social media sites and YouTube have made it easy for anyone to learn how to easily pick a cheap lock, so cost-cutting in that area isn’t advisable. No lock is better than a bad lock, from a client-relationship perspective: either make it clear to clients that they are entirely responsible for securing their own belongings, or offer them a quality product. Anything else will suggest that they are misplacing their trust in you, which will reflect poorly on your studio as a whole.

For smaller studios, investing in a top-quality lock system can work as an important supplement, or even a replacement, for video surveillance. Many luxury New York city studios, including Barry’s Bootcamp, Exceed Physical Culture, Fhitting Room and Row House use Digilocks, a brand of locks that allows users to make up their own four-digit security code that resets with every use. Both Exceed and Row House maintain they’ve never had a single incident with stolen items.

For both small and large fitness studios, your front desk staff is always your most powerful defense against crime and general misbehavior in your studio, so training them to be as alert as possible should be your top priority. You don’t need to pay for their karate lessons – they just need to be aware if any non-members or unregistered clients enter the studio, and when.

Maintaining a beautiful studio is a double-edged sword, security-wise. A well-kept space gives clients a sense of confidence, but to the shadier elements of society, it’s an advertisement for easy access to the belongings of people wealthy enough to purchase a fitness class or gym membership.  Client trust is critical to any successful business, so it’s important to keep these tips in mind when you’re planning your studio operations.