The rate of burglaries is dropping, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen—and that doesn’t mean it won’t happen to you! According to the 2019 FBI Crime Report, there were an estimated 1.1 million reports of burglaries in the US that year.
There are steps homeowners can take to reduce their risk of theft, such as building security gates and creating privacy fences. But what about those who live in apartments?
With so much of the building and your living arrangement under the control of your landlord, it might feel like property protection is up to them. The reality is the landlord is only concerned about damage or theft to their property—not yours.
The responsibility to make sure your belongings are safe and secure often falls on you. So how do you protect yourself? In this article, we'll give you ten tips to keep your apartment and your property safe from burglars.
Crimes of Opportunity
Most burglaries only take between five and ten minutes, and, contrary to the popular idea of robbers sneaking in under cover of darkness, most robberies occur during the daytime when fewer people are home. By the time we roll up the driveway after work, our property is long gone with the thieves.
Thieves look for the easiest opportunities to steal cash and jewelry, electronics, firearms, or anything else they can grab and sell quickly. They will target homes that are easy to access and they prefer not to encounter anyone. So, if you want to keep your belongings safe, you need to do everything you can to make your apartment as uninviting as possible.
These tips come from those who know crime best: convicted thieves and law enforcement agencies—following them may deter burglars from your home and your belongings.
1. Practice Intercom Security
Many apartment buildings will have an intercom system to prevent uninvited people from entering the building. But this security measure only works if you and the other tenants follow safety protocols.
Don’t list your name next to your apartment number on the intercom system – “occupied” suffices. If you have packages being delivered to your apartment, indicate the buzzer number or code in the delivery instructions. Give burglars as little information as you can.
Thieves often ring buzzers repeatedly hoping people won’t answer. Then, they either slip into the building as someone exits, or buzz other units hoping someone will let them in. Despite what our good manners tell us, it is unsafe to hold the door open for those you do not recognize or do not have a key to the building.
Don't buzz people in without talking to them first. If you’re not expecting an Amazon package or food delivery, ask for more information. Where is the delivery from? If they cannot answer your questions about the package, do not let them in.
And never allow strangers to enter the building. Even if their excuse sounds legitimate, if someone doesn't have a key and can't get a tenant to buzz them in, they probably don't belong in the building.
2. Secure Your Doors and Windows
Apartment dwellers often believe they’re protected from intrusions because they live above street level. Thieves, however, can still scale balconies or sneak into your building. Statistics from the US Department of Justice show that almost 40% of unlawful entries are through an unlocked door or window. Secure all windows with a bar and a lock, even if they seem inaccessible or too small to be a problem.
Fit sliding patio doors with a bar in the track, an additional lock and an anti-lift device to prevent thieves from removing the door. Don’t leave your keys in the door, either—even if it’s just for a second while you drop your groceries.
Make sure all entry doors have quality deadbolts, including the one in your garage if you have one. The bolts should be at least one inch and have a reinforced metal box strike. Properly mounted deadbolts have long screws that penetrate the framing, not just the doorjamb.
If the landlord isn’t willing to pay for it, seriously consider paying for it yourself.
You may want to install a wide-angle 160° peephole, too (with the landlord’s permission, of course). See tip 6 for more information about surveillance technology!
3. Obscure Lines of Sight
Close your curtains when you leave and turn your Venetian blinds upward. You do not want a burglar to see into your home, and you certainly don’t want valuables in clear sight. Leave a light, radio, or television on, but keep them away from the windows.
4. Get to Know Your Neighbors
Introduce yourself and get to know those who live beside you. If your neighbors know you, they're more likely to be on the lookout for anything suspicious.
Consider starting a Neighborhood Watch for a small area on your floor. Everyone keeps an eye on their small territory and it’s a very strong deterrent because it teaches people how to identify and report suspicious activity. This may seem like an overstep, but wouldn’t you want your neighbor letting you know if a stranger took the Amazon package from your front door?
5. Wireless Alarm
Burglars dislike wireless burglar alarms because they cannot cut wires to disable them. Many companies now offer monitored and unmonitored wireless security products for renters. They’re simple to install and portable. Be sure to install them away from windows so they cannot be messed with easily and keep them armed.
Even if you don't buy a wireless alarm system, many experts recommend applying decals to your windows and doors that give the illusion that you have one installed. Labels for wireless systems intimidate thieves because they indicate your apartment has state-of-the-art, current, and effective technology.
6. Smart Technology
Smart technology lets you monitor your home remotely. Glass break and motion detectors, window and door sensors, timers for lights, video cameras, door stop alarms, and other reasonably-priced devices can improve apartment security without breaking the bank.
The most popular device for home security has been the doorbell camera. Some cameras provide live feeds to your doorbell and allow you to speak to the visitor at your entrance through your smartphone.
This technology is particularly useful in the age of home delivery— package theft is at an all-time high, with 1.7 million packages stolen or lost every day in the U.S., according to researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. If your doorbell app on your phone indicates someone’s at the door, check it out right away! Just speaking to the stranger can deter them from running off with your latest Prime purchase.
7. Buy a Fireproof Safe
Hiding your valuables in a closet, under the mattress, in the freezer or in an empty coffee can won’t stop a thief from uncovering them. Burglars head to the bedroom first, because it’s the most likely place to find jewelry, cash, and guns, but they certainly know these common hiding spots too.
Store your prized possessions in a safe that is bolted to the wall or floor, if your landlord permits it. Be sure to include your financial documents, passport, credit cards, and other important documents to protect against identity theft. Scan them and store copies in the Cloud or in a safety deposit box.
Read More: How to Protect Against Identity Theft
8. Inventory Your Apartment
Most people own quite a fair number of things. After a robbery, it can be hard to see what's missing. Take a video of your apartment and prepare a home inventory, too. Free apps allow you to photograph items, record serial numbers, and attach values, which are extremely important when it comes time to file an insurance claim.
9. Operation Identification
Many police agencies support Operation Identification. The program encourages property owners to engrave their drivers’ license numbers on expensive electronics, such as computers, televisions, and audio equipment. The engraving could deter thieves who see that the item has been marked, and it makes it easier for the police to identify the stolen property as yours.
10. Get Renter’s Insurance
Despite taking proper precautions, it's impossible to prevent every burglary. Even with police on the case, it's common not to retrieve the stolen items. Renter's insurance gives you financial protection when there's no hope of you re-acquiring the stolen goods.
Read More: Why Renters Need Insurance
Discuss your needs with an insurance agent. Burglary insurance may be included in your renter’s insurance already or it may require a separate clause. Some policies might cover burglary (unlawful entry to your premises) but will not cover robbery (theft using force or intimidation.)
Expensive items such as jewelry, collections, musical equipment, furs, fine art, or electronics may require additional coverage.
Read more: Intro to Insurance Sublimits
Like accidents, we often never think burglaries will happen to us. Statistics say otherwise! Luckily, you can protect yourself and your belongings by using the above tips for risk reduction. It may seem like a lot of rules to follow, but your belongings are worth it!
Still not sure it’s worth it? Look at your home inventory and ask yourself if you can afford to lose any items on that list!
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