How Safe is Your New Neighborhood? Things to Check Out Before You Sign That Lease

in Health & Safety, Moving on by
A residential telephone pole displays neighborhood watch signs.

Moving to a new neighborhood is exciting, because suddenly everything is different for you, from the place where you get your morning coffee to the place where you shop for groceries. On top of that, there are new opportunities to make friends, new areas to learn about, and breathtaking new vistas to soak in.

But before you sign that lease agreement, you need to make sure the area is safe. Taking these precautions will save you a lot of worry down the line, and they’re all incredibly easy to carry out.

Visit at Different Times

Every time you move, you actually have to live in the place — you’re not just a visitor. For that reason alone, you’ll want to make a point of visiting your prospective new neighborhood at different times of day. After all, a neighborhood that’s calm and quiet during the day could very well turn into a nightmare when everyone comes home from work and the sun goes down. You should also make sure to visit on weekends, when some otherwise charming areas morph into loud, rowdy meccas for street racing and more. Keep your eyes peeled for vandalism, graffiti, and folks wandering about with no apparent place to go. Check if the streetlights are numerous and operational, as well as the lighting in the apartment building’s parking lot.

Do Your Research

Do an internet search of the name of the district or the main streets and businesses around your new place. If there have been burglaries, muggings, or other disconcerting crimes there on a regular basis, it may be time to look elsewhere. You can also research crime statistics by zip code, from serious stuff like rapes and murders to far lesser but still annoying crimes like public drunkenness and misdemeanor public disturbance.

Ask Lots of Questions

Start with the apartment manager. Ask about the tenant turnover rate and if the local cops know the building address by heart. Casually inquire of both patrons and owners of local businesses, remembering that people who are happy with where they live are typically more than happy to brag about the quality of life in their neighborhoods. You might even want to visit the nearest police department and ask how much they frequent the area where your potential new home is located.

Beware of Security Gates

A gate is only as secure as the tenants want it to be. If it’s constantly ajar or you notice tenants letting people in behind them that they don’t seem know, that security gate is useless.

Look for Vacancies

An abundance of “For Rent” signs in an area is often a red flag unfortunately, whether they be on residential or commercial properties. By contrast, good neighborhoods usually have waiting lists for space. A few signs are perfectly normal, but if you sense abandonment in the air, be cautious. Also keep in mind that if the area is alive with bars and restaurants, weekends could get a little noisy.

Take Note of the Property Conditions

Regardless of your new area’s socioeconomic status, it’s important to remember that people who take pride in their homes and businesses are usually happy and eager to make a good impression on visitors and each other. Beware of communities that have buildings in disrepair, broken windows, or extensive fire damage. You should also check the area for dog waste to see if the local pet owners are diligent or not.

Use Free Sites to Find Out Everything

There are a number of free apps and websites that can help you make a sound decision on a new neighborhood without putting in much actual legwork. Remember to check more than one of them to get a well-rounded overview.

CrimeReports

This site compiles data from over 1,000 law enforcement agencies, offering distinct breakdowns based on police activity, address, zip code, or neighborhood. The details include types of crimes, dates, and locations. It also offers options for cyclic crime alerts, tip submissions, and registering your own indoor or outdoor security cameras.

AreaVibes

This site uses a school-style system of letter grades to rate addresses, cities, states, criminal activity, and neighborhoods for livability, simultaneously comparing them to other locations across the country. It also includes data on local amenities, housing, and education.

FamilyWatchdog

This website reveals the addresses of registered sex offenders in your area. You click on different icons to find out who in the neighborhood has been convicted of sexual battery, rape, or crimes involving children. Pictures of offenders and their respective offenses are included in the app. Alerts are also available when someone in this category moves into the neighborhood. For a fee, you’ll even receive comprehensive background reports on each offender.

The Neighbors App

One of the most innovative security apps to hit the market, this little wonder was created by Ring, who’s known mostly for its smart home security systems and doorbell cameras. It simply shares reports made by your neighbors and regional law enforcement to always keep you alert to what’s happening around you.

SpotCrime

After signing up on this site, you’ll receive updates on local crime in selected areas via Twitter, email, Facebook, and other sources of online media. On top of that, you’ll find that each crime is broken down by offense and details the specific reporting agency that handled it. If you have a crime tip of your own to share, you’ll be happy to hear that SpotCrime lets you provide the info anonymously.

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