It’s the holiday season, which means it’s the most wonderful time of the year…to be robbed, that is. At least that’s what the police officers gathering in my building told me last week. Unfortunately for my neighbors, somebody had broken into their apartment. And it’s does make sense for these kinds of crimes to increase during the November and December months. Think about it. You’re off visiting family, you’re keeping plenty of gifts in your house, and it gets dark around 4pm. What’s a robber not to love? But I already knew this: there was an attempted break-in to my last building when I left for the Thanksgiving holidays a few years ago, and while they didn’t manage to enter, I wanted to learn how to prevent break-ins in the future. So I did.
If you rent your apartment or home, you might wonder how much power you have to ensure your place is harder to break into. For example, my landlord might be upset if I covered the place in barbed wire and hired a 3-headed attack dog to sit outside my door. There’s not much you can do, right? Not true! After the dog-poo-year we’ve all had, I’m sure you’re aware you can never be 100% safe anywhere, but here are my tips on protecting your pad a little more:
1. . Know Your Tenant's Rights
Even though you’re paying an exorbitant amount of money to live in an expensive closet with a radiator that sounds like fiery marbles are being released on your floor, you might not be getting what you’re paying for. You need to make sure your landlord isn’t saving money by jeopardizing your safety. Look up the tenant’s rights for your state (which is good to be familiar with anyway) and make sure your basic security needs are met. For example, in New York, entrances to an apartment building must be secured with a self-locking door and must be lit up at night. If you live in a building with multiple dwellings, your landlord must install a peephole and a lock with a chain. If you find that your landlord is being negligent, call them up and ask them to secure your apartment with the minimum required by the law. If they won’t, perhaps you should remind them that landlords can be found partially responsible for crimes that happen in the building if they do not meet that minimum requirement. Fight for your basic needs.
2. . Install More Locks
In New York, you can also install your own locks to your own door in addition to the locks provided, so long as you give a landlord a key upon request and it’s not bigger than 3 inches in circumference. If that’s the case in your state, don’t be afraid to do it. If an apartment in your building is robbed through a front apartment door, maybe it means that the locks aren’t as much of a deterrent as you thought. Call the landlord and see if they will pay for a locksmith. If they don’t, a good lock installed by a locksmith can cost anywhere from 150-250 dollars. If that’s in your budget, consider it. If it’s not, get some fake security stickers for your door. They can both work as deterrents.
3. . Secure Your Windows
The window that leads to your fire escape can be another easy entryway for robbers. Make sure the ladder to your fire escape is secure and not easily accessed by somebody with a high jump. All windows should securely lock, and you should remember to lock them whenever you leave the house. And if you live on the ground floor of an apartment, see if you can get bars installed on your windows. If not, try an alternative, like these wireless window alarms.
4. . Get Renter's Insurance
I know you have heard this one before, and it’s because it’s a super-easy fix. All you need to do is fill out a brief form about your place (how many locks it has, if the building has a doorman, etc) and then you spend a yearly fee to protect it. It’s not as expensive as you think if you don’t have a million jewels and paintings lying around. I spend around 150 dollars a year for renter’s insurance, and it protects what little I’ve managed to afford the last few decades of my life. In addition: make sure you know how much you’ll have to pay out of pocket if you are robbed, make sure you have access to the receipts for your electronics and valuables that you are protecting, and make sure a basic plan covers what you need it to. For example: if you get engaged after you’ve paid for your renter’s insurance, you will probably need to ensure it separately.
5. . Prepare Your House When You Leave
If you’re leaving for the weekend, you don’t want to come home to a messy house that also has been robbed. So take some minor precautions when you are leaving for an extended period of time---hide your jewelry in something less suspicious, like those carved out books you also put your weed in. Buy a safe and put your laptops in it, or just bring them on vacation. And dude! Make sure you don’t have packages coming while you're gone. You don’t want those left in your hallway for days on end, making it clear you aren’t home.