How do I protect myself and my apartment?
August 23, 2005 3:41 PM   Subscribe

I moved into my new apartment complex two weeks ago and already there's been one car break-in and one apartment burglary. What can I do to secure my apartment and my personal safety?

Checking the police reports, the crime rate in my new location isn't significantly higher than my old place, but two break-ins in two weeks have me very worried. I live in a college student area, and up 'til now I never worried about my safety. I've read up about renter's insurance and making sure your doors and windows are locked at all times. What else can I do to be secure?
posted by lychee to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have a balcony? If so, that's a good area to install a motion-sensor light and an extra lock, and don't leave the door open at night. Take everything out of your car - everything. Try to park under light or near the entrance, if possible. Get renter's insurance - it's cheap.
posted by fionab at 3:48 PM on August 23, 2005

It depends. The first thing I would do is change my deadbolt - your landlord might get huffy about not having a key, but then he shouldn't be coming inside in the first place - and make sure that you have an strike plate that actually goes into the frame with at least a one inch deadbolt. If you have a window near the deadbolt you will probably want to use a double-key lock, but that can be dangerous in a fire or other emergency.

Pin your windows. Drill a 1/8" hole into both sides of the sash at a downwards angle and put a small nail in. You windows can still be broken, but it's the best "lock" you can have.

It's impossible to tell you more without an inspection of your property, so I will refer you to the home security books at your university or other local library. I believe they're in the 600s. Good luck.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:54 PM on August 23, 2005 [1 favorite]

Vehicles are broken into to take the stereo, or other valuables that can be seen. If you have a nice stereo, take the face plate off. If its not removable and you're in a high crime area, it's just a matter of time.
posted by whatisish at 3:57 PM on August 23, 2005

Bracing windows and sliding doors with a stick cut to the proper length is probably a better idea than nails--and there's no damage, so your landlord won't charge you an arm and a leg for damaging the apartment.

I second motion-sensor lights. I don't know how it is where you live, but most leases 'round here would forbid you changing the deadbolt out--but you could ask your landlord for a better one, and a peephole in the door if you don't have one.
posted by frykitty at 4:01 PM on August 23, 2005

Get to know your neighbors. You just moved in, throw yourself a housewarming party and invite all your new neighbors. That way, you get to learn who's who. A few years ago, a new guy moved into my apartment building and did exactly that. It set off a chain reaction- people in the building became a lot friendlier, and a natural by-product was neighbors watching out for each other and their cars.

And yes yes yes to the renter's insurance. It is worth every penny.
posted by ambrosia at 4:11 PM on August 23, 2005

Know your neighbors. It is shocking at first to introduce the "ah, we know all of each other" mindset in the year 2005, but when you see somebody that does not belong in the area, and you can call them out on it in a freindly manner "hi, who are you here to visit?"; it gets the message across to them, and any buddies they may be working with.
Ah, I am in Austin too! My complex got hit by professionals a few weeks ago... looked out my window one early AM, saw one guy in the car waiting, and one outside doing the breakins. I got their tag and called it in. Too bad that is not enough for the cops to do anything with. But, it was one more piece of the puzzle for the police to work with.
posted by buzzman at 4:17 PM on August 23, 2005

Best answer: I've read up about renter's insurance and making sure your doors and windows are locked at all times. What else can I do to be secure?

Definitely GET the renter's insurance. Mine is about $120 for a whole year, and covers up to $20,000.

The sticks / wooden rods frykitty mentioned - get them and use them. Especially if you have a sliding glass door -- they're notoriously easy to jiggle open.

Use the lights to make it look like you're home, and light the outside for when you come home.

Don't keep your spare key in an obvious place: under the mat, over the door, in the potted plant next to the door. Give it to someone nearby that you trust.

Make sure your locks and doors are sturdy and properly installed -- if the door doesn't shut all the way, it won't matter how many locks you have.

Use curtains / blinds so people can't see into your apartment.

Lots of other good tips here and here
posted by geeky at 5:10 PM on August 23, 2005

A tamper proof plate installed over the deadbolt, something like this(bottom of page), might not be a bad idea. Ask you landlord, they make plates that bolt through the door, the idea is to cover everything except for the keyhole, foiling certain methods of tampering with the lock.

Use timers on your lights and/or stereo.

Maybe make a little effort to get to know your neighbors.

But don't freak out, there have been strings of break-ins in my neighborhood, and then they stopped.. The 2 events could be the same person/people. Also, don't confuse your personal safety with burglary. Break-ins seem to be a problem at borders of better and worse neighborhoods, but I don't think assult and robbery should be assumed to follow. Someone correct me if I'm off base.. This is based in part from studying the crime rates in NYC. Rape and assult vary throughout the city by 400-500%, but larceny is more like 150%, it's easy to find a safe neighborhood, but more difficult to find a secure one.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 7:27 PM on August 23, 2005

Optimus, it is usually illegal for a tenant to change the locks without permission or giving the landlord a key, which may be needed for emergency access (electrical fire, flooded toilet, etc.). Sniff if you will, but it's grounds for eviction in some jurisdictions.

Most landlords should be cooperative and give you a new one themselves (keyed to a master, for example) or allow you to put your own in.

The main thing is to provide a minimal deterrent. There's no lock or window made that can withstand a determined assault, but most burglars are looking for easy pickings -- the classic being the unlocked back door, or upstairs window. Think like a burglar for a few minutes. Are there overgrown shrubs which obscure your windows, allowing someone to skulk there while they work?
posted by dhartung at 8:41 PM on August 23, 2005

Optimus, it is usually illegal for a tenant to change the locks without permission or giving the landlord a key, which may be needed for emergency access (electrical fire, flooded toilet, etc.).

I understand that, and I've made modifications to rented space nonetheless. It is merely an option I gave lychee because I wouldn't trust most landlords with a key to my apartment in the first place.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:46 PM on August 23, 2005

While I agree with Jack Kereoke that break-ins don't suggest an assualt risk, I'd recommend not getting the fort-knox mentality to the point where it is made more difficult to leave the premises. If a burgler is in your home, you want them to be able to leave easily, not get trapped trying to unlock the exit and become more stressed or desperate. Likewise, if you're at home and someone breaks in, you don't want your exit slowed down by security either.

Did the break-ins happen at day or night? If at night, investing in some power-saver lamps to put around the place is cheap and doesn't produce the security-lockdown effect.

I also find it works well to keep spare keys on yourself instead of hidden near the apartment (eg, one permanently in your wallet, one permanently in your favourite coat, etc, one in your car (hidden and unmarked though - cars can be broken into) so that it's practically impossible to find yourself without a key, but no-one else can get them).
posted by -harlequin- at 11:19 PM on August 23, 2005

Pin your windows. Drill a 1/8" hole into both sides of the sash at a downwards angle and put a small nail in.

By the way, this is a bad idea. You don't want to have to worry about prying nails out of your windows if you need to escape a fire. A wooden rod works just as well, and is removable in case of fire.
posted by geeky at 3:18 PM on August 24, 2005

I used to live in Texas:
Do you have the three locks required by law (usually doorknob, deadbolt, chain or lever thingie)? If not, make sure the landlord installs the missing lock. Also, make sure you clean out your mailbox frequently (burglars may look to see if it's overstuffed - possibly meaning you're not at home). And if you're worried about invasions - get another deadbolt, the kind that's only useable from inside your apartment. Check with your landlord to see if you can place a Brink's (or other alarm system) sticker in your window(s).

And what everyone else said:
Renter's insurance, motion lights, indoor light timers, sticks in sliding windows/doors, get to know your neighbours, trim bushes (or have the landlord do it).
posted by deborah at 10:26 PM on August 24, 2005

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