Very Scared of Crime
August 14, 2016 4:10 PM   Subscribe

Living in a very dangerous apartment complex. Just signed a lease unfortenately. Felt pressured because I had nowhere to live having to move in 2 days' notice from several hours away for a job. Looking for tips to stay safe.

Don't drive due to vision deficits. Can hear people screaming at 2am to 5am in the morning. Breakins a couple times a week. Drug deals and shootings sometimes according to crime reports.

I know I should have sucked it up and stayed in a temporary place but everyone was pressuring me so what can I do to hopefully not be a victim of crime in the next year.
posted by Aranquis to Law & Government (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Many years ago, I moved into a shared house in a high-crime neighborhood. Not violent crime that I know of, but lots of drugs, prostitution, and petty thievery—unfamiliar cars parked on the street were invariably broken into, and purses or bags left on tables in view of first-floor windows were sometimes rifled.

When I moved in, one of my housemates told me that the key to getting along in the neighborhood, and learning to be comfortable there, was to treat the people I met on the street as human beings. Nod, smile, say good morning. I tried it. I got quite comfortable in the neighborhood as the people who lived there became familiar to me, and I became familiar to them. I was never more than nodding acquaintances with any of my neighbors there, but I knew the people I passed on the sidewalk or waited at the bus stop with by sight, and vice versa.
posted by not that girl at 4:24 PM on August 14, 2016 [51 favorites]

Maybe you can talk to your landlord and try to get out of the lease? Can you give more information on your location? Previously

(I would find a way to get out of there, no matter what, tbh. Whether the concern about crime is justified or not, you're not comfortable at home, at all.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:27 PM on August 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

I live in a higher-crime area compared to ambient levels around us, and spent a couple years in a much higher crime area compared to the rest of our city. Much as you describe; theft and drug crime. We occasionally heard gunshots.

What helps keep my anxiety in check? Knowing that most drug crime doesn't usually involve people outside the situation. No one is going around shooting just anyone.

In terms of theft; get yourself a really good insurance policy, and have your insurance agent go over it with you in detail; if anything in your house is not covered get a special rider for it. Insure the FUCK out of all your stuff.

Push your landlords to upgrade your front door and/or your deadbolt. Make sure there is a strike plate, and ask to install an extra lock (if you offer to pay for it, rental companies are usually a bit more into the idea).

If you have anything that is of sentimental value, and can even be remotely construed as cash-valuable, ask a friend if it can live at their house for a year, and buy them a case of beer for rent. We did this with a couple pieces of jewelry that my wife has; they're not super expensive pieces, but they mean a ton for her, and if a tweaker was going to rifle through our house, I'm sure they'd be the first to go. They lived in my folks' safe deposit box before we moved to our current home.

And also, you're totally allowed to freak out every once in a while, as long as you can come down. There were weeks where I was a WRECK because of something happening in the neighborhood, even when it didn't involve me. You're totally allowed this, just try not to let it run away from you and spiral.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:28 PM on August 14, 2016 [22 favorites]

If people are screaming, call the police. The other crime - learn to ignore it. Drug dealers are not interested in you and you are not interested in them.

Find out if there is a neighborhood watch in your neighborhood and an e-mail listserv or something like Nextdoor so that you can stay up on things. As for your own safety, hide things in your house of value (like computers) when you are out and start carrying pepper spray.
posted by Toddles at 4:37 PM on August 14, 2016

Make sure you have renter's insurance.

Don't own anything small and stealable, and if you have to own it, don't leave it visible if you can help it. Burglars will typically go for:
flat-screen TVs
ipods/mp3 players
that sort of thing
posted by Slinga at 4:41 PM on August 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

This happened to me a few years ago when I was living in an apartment complex that changed ownership. Within 6 months all the neighbors I knew that I would speak to (young families with kids, college students, etc) had moved. I was stuck for 8 more months.
Drug dealers moved in across the hall. The constant foot traffic and people knocking all night. The guy that moved in behind me was running some kind of shipping scam. Suddenly loud music at all hours, people just hanging out in the parking lots. I was stunned how fast that place went down.
First I made a plan to move. Then I made polite and friendly with my new neighbors. Not nosy, not snoopy. Just Hey, how's it going?
They made a comment about my really nice mountain bike. SO, I put it in storage and told them I had to sell it to pay my rent.
Then I locked my shit down. I was on the first floor so I moved my tv so it could not be seen from the outside.
Used door stoppers on my front door at night. The rubber kind that slide tight under the door. Got permission to install a new hotel-door-style security latch instead of the weak chain.
Put spring rods in my windows so they could not be opened from the outside. Stopped washing my car. Yep, no wash for you. Never left anything in the car. My one neighbor's window was smashed with a rock. (I see you don't drive though but you get the idea.)
Did everything I could to make it look like I didn't have anything worth stealing. Did not carry any electronic devices in view when entering or leaving. Definitely, never walked around with ear buds in.
At the time I was teaching at a community college, so I explained the situation and asked a few of my biggest football-player sized male students to just come over, hang out, walk around with me. I gave them pizza. They loved it. Do you know any big ass dudes that can do this? Even one that come over in the morning and walk you to the bus stop?

When I moved the drug dealers said I was a great neighbor and they were going to miss me. Ha!
posted by It'sANewDawn at 5:04 PM on August 14, 2016 [43 favorites]

I would amend not calling the police to unless you witness property being damaged or someone being hurt.
posted by brujita at 5:10 PM on August 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Landlords are required by law to provide a SAFE, clean, QUIET, and comfortable living environment. They are failing to live up to their responsibility BIG TIME. Move.
Life is far too short already to spend a year gambling with stray bullets.
Sooo... "dear landlord, since moving in I have discovered that your building is full of gun-toting drug dealers, constant crime noise (gunfire, screaming, etc), and I will be moving out ASAP. My security deposit will cover next month's rent [wait until the last day of this month to send this] and you will not see me or another dime from me ever again."
Then find another place and move out...metafilter is honestly a shit place to ask for advice on dealing with landlords. Leases are not slave contracts and they are broken All. The. Time. As a tenant, the law is on your side, and your future landlord (always always always deal with the actual owners...there is a reason slumlords use an intermediary) will TOTALLY understand when you explain that you are moving because of guns and take anything your current landlord has to say with a big grain of salt...and if not: that is not a place you want to live either. Good luck. Stay safe. Get the fuck out.
posted by sexyrobot at 6:59 PM on August 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

If your neighbours are Black, you should be aware that calling the police on them could get them killed. By all means call the poliice if you actually see a gun, or if you see a beating severe enough to render someone unconscious. Do not call the police on Black people to try to teach them a lesson about how screaming is annoying, or because you think they might be drug dealers, or to protect property. Realize that you are literally risking their lives so make sure it's worth it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:00 PM on August 14, 2016 [13 favorites]

I moved into apartments that turned out to be really sketchy, about 10 years ago. Prostitution, crack dealing. The guy across the hall advised me: when someone knocks on your door, you don't have to answer it.
posted by thelonius at 7:24 PM on August 14, 2016 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: Just for the record, I am black as well as the other tenants.
posted by Aranquis at 7:48 PM on August 14, 2016 [9 favorites]

Two pointers I remember from years ago from an ex-police officer. He said keep a 5 dollar bill folded over some ones in a bill clip in your front pocket so a mugger will have something to take and not get pissed off at you having nothing. If they have a gun or knife toss the money one way and run the other: they'll follow the money and every step you take greatly decreases the likelihood of them hitting you. Second, if you are attacked in a building, yell "Fire!". People will normally ignore cries for help because they could get hurt themselves if they get involved, but a fire will hurt them if they don't respond (obviously only do this as a last resort).
Don't try to use offensive deadly weapons (knives, baseball bats) for defense, they can be taken away from you and used against you (so can a non-deadly defensive weapon, but at least you won't be killed). I've heard that the wasp spray that is advertised to have a 20 ft range (comes out in a stream made for hitting nests at a distant not a fog or mist) makes a good emergency bedside deterrent. I can't recommend that you do this since using a pesticide in this way is possibly a federal crime.
Don't carry an atm/debit card around, this can turn a mugging into an abduction where they force you to take money out of an ATM (sometimes for days, getting the maximum amount out each day, if you can believe the story of a newspaper reporter that was an FPP a few years ago).
posted by 445supermag at 10:29 PM on August 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Concurrent with the safeguards people have listed above, do everything in your power to break the lease and move.
posted by delight at 11:37 PM on August 14, 2016

My advise would be that when you are out and about, look confident in where you are going - walk with purpose, and keep yours eyes up but don't make direct eye contact with dodgy people who might be hanging around.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 4:33 AM on August 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

As a tenant, the law is on your side, and your future landlord (always always always deal with the actual owners...there is a reason slumlords use an intermediary) will TOTALLY understand when you explain that you are moving because of guns and take anything your current landlord has to say with a big grain of salt...

Depending on where you live this is awful advice. In New York for example, 90% of landlords, no matter how legit, use an intermediary company; and the rental market is so tight that a bad reference from a prior landlord WILL sink you, since the vacancy rate is so low that there will be plenty of other people willing to take the apartment and the new landlord generally won't want to take the risk if they don't have to.

Not saying that you should disregard that post's advice altogether, just make sure that it still applies to your rental market. This situation sucks but you don't want to screw yourself over in the future unless you absolutely have to.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:00 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

> What helps keep my anxiety in check? Knowing that most drug crime doesn't usually involve people outside the situation. No one is going around shooting just anyone.

Seconding this.

Also seconding the advice above to say good morning/hello in passing . No more than small talk -- don't invite them into your business or get into theirs, obviously -- but a nodding acquaintance will both keep you from looking like a mugging target, and will greatly reduce your anxiety.

The noise, if it's just people being loud and screamy, is unfortunately something you're going to have to get used to. Use fans or something for white noise to dampen it while you're inside your apartment.
posted by desuetude at 8:44 AM on August 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Per Jane Jacobs: the key to safety is eyes on the street.

Since you walk, bike and take the bus, you living there may actually improve the situation. Criminals do not like witnesses. Your visible presence will help keep other people safer. That can result in other people being out and about more. When it hits some critical mass, the place gets safer.

I moved into a sketchy apartment complex that the cops routinely staked out (parking near the entrance on weekend nights, for example, just waiting for trouble). After I gave up my car and I and my sons began walking everywhere, other people began walking more. Eventually, the police stopped staking the place out. We also stopped feeling unsafe taking the trash out at midnight (I was working the night shift and got off at 11pm).

As others are suggesting: Downplay your wealth. Do not flash your cash, do not show off nice things, arrange your apartment where nothing enticing is visible from the front door and if you engage in small talk (or even talk on a cell phone outside), be mindful of information security. No commenting on anything that makes it sound like you are better off than them and/or might have something worth stealing.

Don't carry a weapon unless you are fully prepared to use it. This means not only that you know how to use it, but you are, in fact, prepared to kill someone. My dad fought in two wars and had guns displayed on the wall visible from the door we used as the main entrance. Other neighbors had break ins. We never did. This was not just because people could see the guns. This was also because he was a two time veteran with a purple heart who absolutely was prepared to cap your ass. If you have weapons and are not absolutely prepared to kill someone, you are just arming the people victimizing you. You are also daring people with shitty lives to get into an egomaniacal pissing contest with you and shoot you on principle for suggesting they aren't nice people or something.

Do exactly what the first comment suggests. Be friendly to people, but do not get close to anyone. Treat people with respect. Be cordial. Be warm, but not too warm. But don't invite people into your place or anything like that.

If you can, invite friends of yours over. They don't have to be football players. Again: Criminals do not like witnesses. They also like having the advantage. They aren't interested in playing hero and standing down multiple people. They want to get their victim alone under circumstances where they have the advantage. Simply having company will make you safer.

A wise man is humble. No bragging. No looking down on these people. No giving them any reason or excuse to feel provoked. Do not insult anyone. Do not lecture anyone. Do not sound judgey. Do not bring up religion. If you are religious, go pray in your closet. Do not wear it on your sleeve.

Do nothing that would make people around you feel like you think you are better than they are or deserve better than the shitty hand life dealt them.
posted by Michele in California at 10:18 AM on August 15, 2016

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