Most of us try to keep our wits about us on the street or while driving through an unfamiliar neighborhood. But the one place we’re supposed to be able to relax and not think about the potential of danger is in our own homes. That’s why it’s so deeply disturbing when we hear about a crime committed by a stranger in the victim’s own home. It’s horrible and it does happen. The chances are slim, but it makes sense to be prepared on the off chance that someone tries to break into your apartment.
Though statistics vary by region, a great deal of apartment crime occurs during the day, when you’re probably off at work. You can take steps to help reduce the likelihood of a break-in with these apartment safety basics:”
- Properly secure doors, windows and other entrances such as balcony doors and fire escape exits.
- Keep valuable items locked up or well-hidden.
- Develop a relationship with at least one neighbor you can call for help. Your neighbors can also help collect your mail and newspapers while you are away so that would-be thieves don’t know you’re out of town.
- Have your valuables engraved or tagged so that they can be easily identified if they are stolen and then recovered.
- Consider purchasing renter’s insurance for your more valuable items.
Coming home to find that your apartment has been robbed is awful, but it’s probably worse to be at home while a break-in is actually occurring. Here are some things you can do to increase your apartment security:
1. Identify a safe area (and make sure it has a lock):
The safest place you can be during a break-in is outside of the apartment. But if you can’t get out without alerting the intruder to your presence, you’ll want to secure yourself inside a safe area. Since the bedroom is the most likely place you’ll be at night, make sure there is a lock on the door. If you live in a studio or one bedroom apartment, you may want to select a closet as your safe area instead. Of course, your closet won’t lock from the inside, but you can install a lock or use a latch and padlock instead.
2. Keep your cell phone charged and in your bedroom at night:
After you’ve secured yourself in the bedroom (or another room with a lock), the next thing you should do is call the police. It’s better to have your cell phone nearby than rely on a land line. The land line phone may be out of reach and the cord can be cut.
3. If you keep a weapon in your apartment, make sure you know how to use it:
Keeping some kind of weapon in the home makes many people feel more secure. But whether you have a baseball bat, can of pepper spray, or a gun, make sure you know how to use it. A weapon can be used to protect yourself, but it can also be turned against you. Using a can of pepper spray may seem easy now, but if you’re panicked and frightened, it may be harder than you think to figure out how to open the can and aim properly.
Now we’ll review some apartment safety tips to remember if you’re sure the sounds outside your bedroom door are those of an intruder in your home:
4. If possible, get out:
If you can escape without being seen by the intruder, do so. Don’t forget about fire escapes and ground floor windows as possible exits.
5. If you can’t get out, barricade yourself in a safe area and call the police:
If you think the sound of your voice on the phone with911 will give your location away, just dial the number and sit quietly. The emergency operators may be able to trace your call. Don’t announce that you’ve called the police. Remember that an intruder is unpredictable; a warning from you may increase the likelihood of violence.
6. Don’t use force unless you absolutely have to:
It’s not worth risking your life (or the lives of your family or roommates) to protect your stuff. Even if you’ve got a can of mace and three years of judo experience, the intruder may have a gun and a black belt in karate.
7. If you come face-to-face with the thief, be compliant:
Thieves are more likely to be violent if they feel threatened. Make no sudden moves and keep your hands where the intruder can see them. Avoid direct eye contact–you don’t want the intruder to think you’re studying his face for a police report.
8. If you’re able to remain hidden, don’t come out until the police arrive:
It’s not worth it to survey the scene for yourself. Stay hidden and quiet until you are sure that the police have arrived.
Remember that no matter how much your stuff costs or how much sentimental value it has, nothing is more important than your life. Your stuff is replaceable–you are not.