This past year, my apartment was burglarized. The thieves took quick cash and disposable items that were of no value to them other than simply cash. While they snatched my MacBook and other electronics, jewelry given to me for my high school and college graduations, and other items, I realized after the event happened, that apartment burglaries are quite common. Spend some time searching the Internet, and you’ll come to realize that this is an all-too-often phenomenon everywhere in the U.S.
As young professionals, many people just assume their homes or apartments are safe because “it’s home.” Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Currently, I live in a third floor walk up and returned from a business trip only to have my apartment wiped clean. We know the fact is that all material items can be replaced, and you cannot: it’s an inconvenient truth. However, when your possessions are stolen and your space has been violated by someone else, you feel like a piece of yourself is stolen too.
Whether you live in a building with a doorman on the Upper East Side or you live in a duplex in Middle America, crime occurs everywhere. We’re naive to think that things can’t happen to us, but they can.
Here are five ways young professionals can avoid a burglary in your apartment:
1. Think like a thief. I’m not a criminal, but after listening to the police officers who came to my apartment explain patterns in thieving behaviors, it made sense.
- Do you keep your doors unlocked or locked? What about your windows?
- Who has access to your apartment keys? Do you know how many copies are in circulation?
- Does maintenance come by unexpectedly without notice? If so, do they leave a notification?
- Do you have a sliding patio door? Is there a security stop in it?
- Are your valuables in a conspicuous or inconspicuous location?
- Are there shrubs or trees that block views?
- Is there ample lighting in a parking lot or near walkways?
- Do neighbors act suspiciously? (This is something you have to train yourself to observe.)
- Do you carry high value items from your home to car frequently?
- Are your locks secure?
- Do you have a wireless alarm system to notify you of intruders? Is it advertised on your property?
- Did you leave your apartment with a suitcase?
- Did your mail collect in a mailbox or do newspapers sit outside your home while gone?
These are some of the things that you should consider. Thieves look for these clues to see when you’ll be gone so they can break in and take what they want. When you change your perspective, your perspective can change you.
2. Be observant. Many people who live in apartment communities keep to themselves. Most don’t worry about meeting their neighbors or other people in the community. This can work to your advantage and it can work against you, unfortunately. For introverted people, it can be harder to train yourself to be observant, but it’s a very useful skill. When you enter and exit your apartment, take a look around. Are people loitering? Are people working on vehicles? Are they sitting in cars? Are children or teens playing unsupervised? Do you have a common area, such as a pool or basketball court, where people gather? Are the areas in the apartment complex you use (mailboxes, pathways) well lit? Are multiple people coming and going? By knowing the patterns of your neighborhood, you can be more alert if something doesn’t seem normal. If you observe suspicious activity first, you can respond to it better than in the moment.
3. Secure your trash and your property, properly. Did you recently purchase a big ticket item? Did you receive a credit card or billing statement for a student loan? If you did, take preventative measures to prohibit other people from knowing your business. If the expensive item came in a box, take it outside to the dumpster in a blackout trash bag and tie it up. Invest in a diamond cut shredder ($30 usually at a Staples or OfficeMax) and shred your bills, statements and other important items. If people go dumpster diving to look for free items, food, copper or other “treasures,” your documents will be secure and your mind will be more at ease. Thieves won’t be able to steal your identity or know what you’ve been buying lately. If you have a big ticket item like an expensive computer, invest in a good work bag, and take your laptop with you when you travel outside of your home. It’s more secure out of your house than it is inside.
4. Get insurance and keep receipts. Most housing communities today require renters to carry insurance. Make sure it’s enough to cover all of your valuables and that any object or item that might take it in excess of a limit (such as jewelry or furs), pay additional to insure. Most companies offer additions for a small price in your premium. Additionally, buy an accordion file and place all of your receipts for items that you buy over $50 in it. Televisions, couches, DVD players, laptops, iPads, cell phones, furniture, DVDs, music, iPods, stereos, jewelry, designer goods and so fourth. In the event something ever happens to your possessions, whether due to burglary, fire or other condition, you’ll have an inventory of your items. Keep the folder in another area such as a parent’s home, security box, locked at work or with someone else you trust. Make copies! It’s easier to recover your losses when you’re organized. Once your things have been stolen, it’s much easier to work with insurance companies and the police when you have a list of goods and receipts for them.
5. Simple tips. These are simple tips to consider to avoid burglary.
- Research crime rates before you move into an apartment property and sign a lease
- Keep your valuables locked away and out of sight when you’re not home
- Invest in a wireless alarm system to deter thieves
- Keep lamps on multiple timers to give the appearance you’re home
- Don’t post pictures of your possessions on the Internet
- Make sure you have proper renter’s insurance
- Have the local number of the police programmed into your cell phone
- Consider barrier measures for your doors and windows
- Keep your keys by your bedside to set off your car alarm if you experience a home invasion
- Make sure to keep your phone separate from your purse when leaving/entering your apartment in the event someone tries to rob you on your way into your home
- Make sure locks are secure in your apartment
- Before you sign a lease, ask if the locks have been changed on the apartment door since the last tenant lived there
- Ask your landlord who has access to your apartment
- Write the date and time down of suspicious activity; if you observe patterns, contact the police or your landlord