The FBI’s 2015 report on crime in the U.S. showed a 7.8% drop in burglaries, but they’re still a major problem. Almost 8 million people were victims of theft, with stolen property losses exceeding $12 billion.
There are steps homeowners can take to reduce their risk of theft, but what about those who live in apartments? With so much of the building and your living arrangement under the control of your landlord, you might feel a bit helpless when it comes to keeping your property safe.
Thankfully, you don't have to do nothing and hope for the best. 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 popular beliefs, most of them occur during the daytime when fewer people are home. It’s hard to catch thieves, never mind recover stolen property.
Thieves look for the easiest opportunities to steal cash and jewelry, electronics and firearms, or anything else they can grab and sell quickly. They will target homes that are easy to access and 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.
10 Tips for Keeping Your Apartment Safe
These tips come from those who know crime best: convicted thieves and law enforcement agencies. Following them may encourage burglars to bypass 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 safe protocols.
Don’t list your name next to your apartment number on the intercom system – “occupied” suffices. 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. Don't buzz people in without talking to them first. 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. In fact, statistics show that almost 30% of apartment invasions 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 the keys in the door, either.
Make sure all entry doors have quality deadbolts, including the one from 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).
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. Even if you don't want to head up a traditional watch, the program offer many alternatives.
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 and keep them armed, not in "ready" mode.
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 (find out How Smart Devices Can Protect Your Home and Help You Save on Insurance).
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 (learn 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 filing an insurance claim (find out How to File a Claim that Gets Paid Sooner).
9. Operation Identification
Many police agencies support this program. It encourages property owners to engrave their drivers’ license number on expensive electronics, such as computer, 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 stolen property as yours.
10. Get Renter’s Insurance
It's impossible to prevent every burglary, and 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 (to learn about an alternative, see Are You Eligible for Victim Compensation Insurance?).
Renter's insurance policies are very affordable. Unfortunately, only 41% of renters buy it.
Discuss your needs with an insurance agent. They'll be able to make sure you have enough coverage. Expensive items such as jewelry, collections, musical equipment, furs, fine art, or electronics may require additional coverage (learn more in An Intro to Insurance Sublimits).
Burglary isn’t going away, even if you choose to ignore the risk. However, you’ll greatly reduce the chances of apartment intrusion and theft and protect your valuables if you follow these tips.