October 20, 2013 9:53 AM   Subscribe

I was burgled again this week. Sigh. I need help asking my landlord for specific safety interventions.

I live in a high crime area and was recently broken into for the second time in the last year.

The door was cracked (photo) but I think the burglar/s actually came in through the window which was open when I got home. I believe the window was locked, but it's possible we forgot.

I would like to reduce the chances of this happening again and I believe my landlord has a certain amount of obligation to help with this project in the interest in providing a space that is reasonably safe from the threat of foreseeable criminal intrusions. I live in California, and there are some specifics spelled out in the law here. I have read this.

Anyway, my landlord is coming Tuesday to look at the door and windows, and I would like to be prepared with specific requests that are reasonable.

I got some good ideas already from really awesome metachat folks including asking for a new door, and some ideas for how to make the windows more secure (like these.)

What I'm hoping for in the answers is stuff like, which kinds of window latches might work better and be affordable (so reasonable to suggest to the landlord), arguments I could and should make about what basic house security should include, and why the door might need to be replaced (if it does) instead of repaired.

Thanks so much folks!

FYI for the please call a lawyer crowd, I am not going to call a lawyer at this point. I recognize that this is the internet and getting advice here has real limitations, however, I am making a decision as a fairly well-educated adult to get some ideas from the internet which I can then implement or not, and will take full responsibility for whatever happens as a result.
posted by latkes to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you get bars for your window?

What is the exterior of the house like where the door and window are? Are there plants that should be trimmed away, to increase visibility to the street? Is there a place that should have motion-detector lights installed?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:58 AM on October 20, 2013

Another thing to think about just for yourself is, what stealable goodies are visible from the street or from the first-floor windows? If a desirable item is visible from the street/window, maybe think about either rearranging the furniture so it's concealed, and/or getting window treatments (closed-cell blinds eg) that make it harder to see in.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:00 AM on October 20, 2013

The first thing I noticed is a lack of bars on the windows... I live in a high-crime area and it's standard for first floor windows to have bars/grates on them... they don't have to be ugly! This kind of thing is decent looking.

I had friends who got robbed 3 times in a year... it was always through the window that was missing a grate.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:00 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

You can buy a thingy called a FakeTV that runs on a timer and makes it look like you've got a television on. I don't know how much that bothers the average burglar, but it is an interesting, inexpensive device.
posted by kmennie at 10:16 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

you live recessed from the street on a low floor. few things will stop an opportunistic burglar here. your windows are easy to pry open, the walls look thin enough to punch a hole in and the door... well, gimme a crowbar and I'm done.

this is why I really like living one or two floors up. is moving out of the question for you?
posted by krautland at 10:30 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Probably can't afford to move for at least a few months. Ideally was going to wait until I can buy but may have to be sooner. I will need interim solutions.
posted by latkes at 10:33 AM on October 20, 2013

Sorry to hear it. Sucks to be invaded like that.

Seconding bars and a wrought iron barred exteriorsecurity door. The one pictured is pretty fancy, I'll bet your landlord could get someone to weld up a plain one fairly cheaply. Even if the frame isn't beefed up, just having two layers of door to go through is discouraging. My daughter had these exterior doors in NM, and we had them in Turkey. They're also great to leave open for air and light while being safe while you're at home.

I can't tell, but I'd swear your windows are installed backwards. We used to put a stick between the lower, rising, window and the top sill, which prevented the window from opening. Yours looks like the lower window slides up on the exterior, and there's no way to mechanically block them from being opened on the outside--or is there?

If you don't have one, you need to get a motion detecting security light across both the front and back. As said above, trim back bushes. Wouldn't hurt to have a light on a timer, and put a sticker on saying the place has an alarm system, even if you don't have one, which you should.

All this would definitely increase the value of the property for the landlord, and his, and your, insurance should cover some of it. (Please say you have renter's insurance?)

Suggesting this could be a really serious problem if you happen to be assaulted during a burglary might put a little pressure on the landlord. Like if you happen to survive an assault, you might sue the livin' shit outta him. Can you get the police to discuss this issue with him?

Actually, if you've been burgled before this several times, and your landlord took no action, I think he might be in line for a smackdown anyway.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:47 AM on October 20, 2013

An apartment I know of was burgled several times. Each time the burglars left a window open to make the residents think they came in that way, but damage to the doorframe (as a police detective eventually noticed) indicated a crowbar was used to pry the door open. It looked a lot like your door, actually. The landlord added window gratings, new locks, a security light, and fake-looking alarm system stickers, all of which did nothing. Eventually the landlord added an alarm system that will automatically call police when triggered, with motion sensors and door-opening sensors inside the house. (ADT in this case but there are much cheaper ones), and there have been no more problems. (Our alarm system also has enough of a delay that we have not had any accidental police calls either.) The detective said the apartment needed either an alarm system or a large dog to be secure. (I also wish the officer who responded first, who was not a detective, had suggested this earlier, instead of just collecting a list of what was stolen and explaining that nothing could be done.) A latch guard to make it a bit harder to pry the door open, and adding some heavy window coverings so the burglars can't tell if anyone's home, might help too, and renter's insurance is also a good idea. But again, you need an alarm system that will automatically call the police.
posted by sninctown at 11:06 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

At the very least get some dowel rods to jam in the windows so they cannot be lifted or slid open. Any big box hardware store can cut them to size for you.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:08 AM on October 20, 2013

I would replace the door with a steel one - that's a given, BUT i would just expect them to go through a window. You do have easy windows. I too was dealing with a rash of burglaries once. The cops said once people know how to get in they come back over and over. Even giving you time to get insurance money and replace things. That's what happened to me. The first breakin i got a steel door so they went through the window. I had to replace the window too. Then i got a dog. So the third time they went around the dog, through another window, and were probably playing with the dog the whole time. Finally, i got a security system. It only allows 3 "false" calls before fining you, but it only took 2 to do the trick. Me and my friendly dog weren't bothered again. I should have gotten the security system after the first time. I lost more than the $50 month it cost in the next two burglaries, even not counting dog care (she was the only good thing to come out of that). Get the landlord to pay for physical security, but you pay for the system. That's my advice.
posted by dness2 at 11:20 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Put in another, double key deadbolt on the bottom and if you can afford it the top of the door. Replace all the hinge and plate screws that are probably 1" long or so with 3" heavy duty deck screws. This secures the door to the actual wood frame of the structure not just the door jamb which is usually really soft pine or cedar.

A good way to beef up a door is to put 1/2" thick plywood on the inside and outside with carriage bolts through the existing door (you make a sandwich with the door being the lunchmeat and the plywood the bread). The plywood needs to be as close as possible to the size of the outside door opening. This makes the door virtually impossible to kick through without the kind of equipment the swat team uses (and even then its tough). This modification is much cheaper than a new steel security door but it is also much uglier and probaby a tough sell to the landlord. The screws and deadbolt thing is much easier and pretty cheap.

The window catches you already show are a great way to secure windows, as is a dowel in the groove the window slides in that will block the opening of the window. A good, cheap way (but also ugly) to secure window openings is to screw (using the 3" deck screws) expanded metal grating to the inside of the window frame (non stainless is much cheaper but won't look as nice).

the goal is to make it so hard and noisy to get into your house is isn't worth their time.
posted by bartonlong at 12:05 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Grates/bars on the windows, of course.
Cutting back any plantings/bushes that hide your windows from the street.
Some kind of window coverings that are opaque from the outside. (This is the only thing that's on YOU to do, the rest of this list is your landlord's job.)
And most of all, replacing that door: I'd recommend a quality steel door AND doorframe (it's no good putting a strong door into a weak frame!), preferably with a solid core and AT LEAST four hinges.
Two deadbolts, one each high & low, with long shafts, rather than one shortish bolt centered in the door edge, would definately help.
posted by easily confused at 1:59 PM on October 20, 2013

What I would ask for in your situation is a steel exterior doors with solid deadbolts and new, stronger hinges, exterior bars for the windows (or security bars that stop wthe windows from opening, but those can be defeated tby breaking the glass) and motion detector lights all around. Possibly also a security system that will contact emergency services in the event of a break-in.

If you can get all that, you should be in pretty good shape. Only a seriously determined thief will get through a steel door or a set of burglar bars (assuming correct installation) and motion lights will make it hard for that thief to defeat the security measures without being noticed. If they do get in (unlikely) a good security system will hopefully lead to their getting caught and your property being returned.

You could also look into getting a good safe for any small valuables (passports, jewelry, cash) which will also give you protection for important documents in the event of a fire. Also if you've been thinking about getting a dog anyway then that might be a good idea, though you should think of a dog as a companion with possible security side benefits, rather than as a security measure in and of itself.

You could also see about having a camera system put in, though I am doubtful that cameras accomplish much.

You could also see if it's possible for you to get a security fence installed around the building to make it harder for intruders to get on and off the property, and to make it harder for thieves to scout around your apartment looking for points of entry.
posted by Scientist at 3:26 PM on October 20, 2013

GE makes self-install door and window alarms - it's like $20 for a set on Amazon. I swear by these.

Nthing reinforcing the door, especially of the landlord won't spring for wrought iron gates.

For goodness sake, make your landlord install a motion detector light!!
posted by jbenben at 3:52 PM on October 20, 2013

If you do decide to get a safe for valuables, per Scientist's suggestion, make sure that that safe itself can't be stolen: either get a safe that's big enough/heavy enough so that it can't be carried out; or if you get a small safe, make sure it's bolted down (even better: bolted down AND hidden).
posted by easily confused at 5:18 PM on October 20, 2013

We have security screen doors on our Oakland bungalow. They could probably be pried off with a crowbar, but you'd make a great deal of noise when doing so.

I've been thinking about getting these simple sash stops for our double hung windows.

I had a lecture from a security expert who consulted on the Golden Gate Bridge and some Federal sites around the Bay Area and he said from a landscaping point of view, thorny shrubs under windows and next to fences are great. People are highly reluctant to hurt themselves when they can go somewhere else.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:28 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

It might be worth a call to your local PD to ask if they have a "security consultant" that can come out and assess the risks to your property, then make suggestions to minimize those risks.

I had this done once, it was free, and the consultant went over the suggestions, then returned the next day with a nicely done folder in which all was outlined. A folder of this type would probably be helpful when talking to your landlord.
posted by PlantGoddess at 5:46 AM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

« Older Print to FAIL on trying to figure this out on my...   |   How to buy a new iPhone 5 (not 5s or 5c)? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.