Some statistics show that apartments are 85% more likely to be broken into than houses. So, choosing the right apartment complex—a safe apartment complex—is very important. Here are some tips:
Even before you go look at an apartment complex, you can find out information and statistics about crime in the area and at the complex. Call local police and ask if any officers are familiar with and will talk to you about the complex. Search the internet for information about the complex. These websites will help you find information:
When you do go to the complex, ask management about any recent crimes. Ask management if they have issued any warnings to residents about crime or dangerous activity. Also ask any residents that you see if they know of any crime, if they feel safe, and if they think security measures are adequate.
When you first get to the apartment complex, take notice of the entrances to the complex itself and individual buildings; and when you leave, do the same thing with the exits. Gates at the entrances to the complex will help deter criminals from committing crimes on the property. At entrance points, gates prevent unwanted people from entering, and at exit points, gates prevent criminals from getting away quickly committing a crime.
Individual buildings within the complex can have security to keep criminals away. It is best if doors on the outside of the building only allow people in who have the correct key, pass code, or the okay from someone inside the building already. These so-called controlled-access doors will reduce break-ins, loitering, and the chance that you will be hurt at the complex.
If there are security guards at the complex, then you should quickly see them. The presence of security guards will help stop criminals from coming on the property. Whether you see security guards or not, you should ask whether the complex has them. If there are guards, ask how many and whether the guards travel on foot and in vehicles. Make sure the patrols are randomly timed throughout the day, so criminals can’t learn the patrol’s schedule.
If the complex doesn’t have guards, ask why not. Ask whether the complex re-evaluates the need for security on a regular basis. Also ask if the complex has ever had security before, and if so, why it stopped having security.
While you are at the apartment complex, take a look at how the complex looks in general. Boarded or broken windows, run-down or damaged buildings or parking lots, and unkept landscaping are all signs that the landlord does not properly maintain the property. Think about it: if the landlord doesn’t keep the place looking good, do you think he is worried about security?
When you walk into certain stores and many gas stations, you will be able to tell security cameras are in use because you will see yourself live on a television screen. There are also usually signs telling you that you are being recorded. These things are important because security cameras can only deter crimes if criminals know they will be recorded. If you see security cameras and signs, ask why the complex has them – find out if it is because there was prior crime. Ask whether the footage is reviewed and for how long the footage is saved for.
If there are no security cameras and signs, then ask if there are cameras that you can’t see. If there aren’t, ask if the complex is considering cameras and learn why they think they do or don’t need the cameras.
Poorly-lit or dark areas make it easier for criminals to gain access to the property and then commit crimes. Before you agree to move in, go to the complex at night. Check the entrances, parking lot, walkways, hallways, stairways, elevators, mailbox areas, laundry rooms, and other common areas to make sure all these places are well-lit. The more places that are well-lit, the safer you will be.
Every apartment complex should change the locks after a tenant moves out and before a new tenant moves in. The benefit of this is probably obvious: you have no idea if prior tenants actually returned their keys or whether they made copies. Ultimately, the less people who have access to your new apartment, the better. But, apartment complexes don’t always actually change the locks, or if they do, they will just re-use locks used on other apartment doors. Since you can’t be sure the landlord actually changed the lock, ask if the complex will change the locks in front of you – if they refuse, then you should look else where.
According to some estimates, up to 30% of criminals enter through windows. When you are inside the apartment, make sure all of the window locks are properly working. If they are broken ask for them to be replaced. Test the windows by locking them and making sure you can’t open the window. If you can, request an apartment on a higher floor—it may take longer to carry your groceries up the stairs, but it will literally help you sleep safe and sound at night.
A peephole is a simple thing that can protect you while you are inside your apartment. If there is a peephole, make sure you can look from inside to outside and clearly see a person on the other side. If the door does not have a peephole, then ask for one. Never open your door unless you know who is on the other side, and a peephole let’s you make sure you know the person at the door.
What to Do After You Move in
Once you move in, you should keep an eye out for any crimes. Regularly ask management if there has been any crime at the complex. Talk to residents and learn if they have heard of any dangerous activity. Be on the look out for any police officers or police cars on the property, and if you see them, find out why they were there. Remember to also search your apartment complex on the internet every so often to see if any crime stories pop up.
Even if you had the complex change exterior locks, consider installing a deadbolt and door-chain. A deadbolt is more secure than a standard lock to pick, because the deadbolt will only open by rotating the lock cylinder, while a standard lock is controlled by a spring bolt that can be opened by applying force to it. A door-chain, like a deadbolt, is an added security measure that lets you identify and talk to visitors without completely unlocking and opening your door.
Sliding doors are a great feature in an apartment, but can be an entry point for criminals if improperly manufactured or installed. Many sliding doors have cheap or faulty locks and can be forced off their tracks with relatively little force. Buy and use a security bar that prevents a sliding door from being opened from the outside—these bars can attach to the door itself or sit on the track.
Blinds prevent would-be criminals from window shopping into your apartment. Install blinds that will completely block people outside of your apartment from seeing inside, and make sure you close your blinds when you leave your apartment.
Studies show criminals try to determine if an apartment they are targeting has a security system before breaking in, and if so, they will look for an easier target. In the past, the cost of installing a security system made it difficult for apartment renters to do so, but now, many companies have free installs. Newer apartments may even have security systems already installed, so all you have to do is activate the system.
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