A little over a decade ago, I was fresh out of college and living in New York City with two other girls in a 500-square-foot apartment on the Upper East Side. I lived (very snugly) for a year and a half as a renter in one of the safest and most highly sought after neighborhoods in the city, and yet I was also a victim of an apartment burglary.
I got the phone call from one of my roommates on my way to the subway after work and rushed home to discover that our tiny apartment, stuffed to the brim with the belongings of three girls straight out of college, had been robbed – yet there was no sign of forced entry. We lost heirlooms, jewelry, cash and laptops. We were diligent about locking our door and there was no access to our apartment from our tiny balcony. We came to the scary conclusion that our apartment was most likely burglarized by someone with a key.
Over a decade later, I am back in an apartment in my new city of Seattle and this time around I’m much more aware of the importance of protecting my rental unit. Living in close proximity to others in a gated or key card-access dwelling can offer a false sense of safety, but as I’ve discovered, renters are just as vulnerable to burglaries as home owners.
Here are five of my favorite tips for staying safe and reducing your risk of becoming victim to a burglary when living in an apartment.
1. Know your neighborhood. Do your homework when selecting the location of your apartment. What types of crimes are prevalent in the neighborhood? There are many websites that give you easy access to this type of information, like crimereports.com. Learn whether burglaries, robberies, car thefts, bicycle thefts and other crimes are happening in the area and at what times.
2. Change your locks. When you moved in, your landlord told you that they changed the locks, but what many renters don’t know is that locks are often recycled between units or properties. Talk to your landlord about installing a new lock so you can reduce the risk of unwanted access to your apartment.
3. Check your windows. Windows closest to ground level have the highest chance of unwanted access, but checking that all window locks are working properly is an important step to take in your apartment. You’d be surprised at the determination of burglars when they zero-in on a property, regardless of risk. Make sure all window locks are working properly when you move in, and consider adding an inside bar lock or pole to the track of any sliding doors.
4. Add a chain-lock. After being a victim of a burglary with no sign of forced entry, this tip is one I wish I had considered previously. While a chain lock is not going to prevent someone from forcing their way into your apartment, it will make it more difficult for someone with access to enter without notice. It also offers you the protection of a partially opened door when someone knocks.
5. Automated lights. Often times burglars will become familiar with your routines before deciding to break-in to reduce the risk of your being home. Install automated lighting in your apartment that turn on and off on a schedule or can be instantly adjusted from your phone. This will help keep burglars guessing when someone is inside and will also allow you to arrive to a lit home.
Are you an apartment dweller? I’d love for you to share other tips for protecting an apartment from burglary. Please leave them in a comment below!