I see a lot of theft, fraud and burglary reports. Burglary reports list how the bad guys get in. Here are the three most frequent ways:
1) Unlocked or open window.
2) Unlocked door.
3) Pried or forced-entry through a door or window.
Apartment residents have a disadvantage. Maintenance has a key. The good news: Almost never are maintenance crews responsible for thefts and burglaries. The same can’t be said for outside contractors, but that depends on the circumstances. Still, you can do things to prevent thefts.
The other disadvantage for apartment residents is this: Doorframes are generally old and somewhat weak. They don’t build the same support into apartment doorjambs as they do on homes. You can’t do the upgrade yourself, and chances are the apartment management won’t do it, either.
Your best bet is to check the deadbolt and make sure it’s at least one and a half inches in length. The strike plate on the jamb should be screwed in there with at least inch and a half screws. If the wood around the plate is brittle, then it’s old and there’s nothing wrong with asking the staff to replace that piece with a new piece of wood.
If you don’t have renter’s insurance, get it.
Take a rainy Saturday or Sunday and shore up some little things so that your loss, in the case of a burglary, would be minimal:
1) Take digital photos of your valuables, including all electronics, laptops, GPS and DVD units and TV sets. Record the model and serial numbers and put them in a computer file along with the photo. Put that on a flash drive and keep that somewhere where it won’t burn or be stolen, like a safety deposit box with other items of value such as savings bonds, will, whatever. You would be surprised what property we have that can’t be identified.
2) Check into a video system to record when you are gone. They are cheaper than ever and, believe me, we catch a lot of crooks who put their mug on camera when they’re burglarizing a building. Put a small plastic-made sign next to the doorbell informing the person at the door that “Premises Are Under Video Surveillance.” This is for folks who want to warn the burglar of the camera so they have the chance to reconsider and move on. The other thought is to not post a sign and when they come in they don’t have a clue and you capture the face on digital photo.
Don’t forget that crooks will steal the camera and, more importantly, the recorder, so use something that perhaps transmits on the Web to another computer somewhere off-site or some place. I leave the details to you but be sneaky.
3) On vacations, unhook the really good stuff and stash it somewhere where they can’t get to it. Have someone pick up the mail and paper. Don’t stop it at the source unless you don’t have anyone who can pick it up.
4) Back to doors. There are products that will enhance your door security. There is a metal doorjamb that fits over the existing jamb. The strike plate inserts and it makes it much harder to force the door open. There are also metal inserts with dead bolt cutouts that insert over the existing door. Stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s have them. If you can’t find them, e-mail me and I’ll give you the info.
5) Most apartment complexes have a “courtesy officer.” They call them courtesy officers because apartment management companies don’t like the word “security,” although I would rather an officer provide “security” than “courtesy.” (Let’s not offend anyone with aggressive titles!)
Anyway, ask management if they have a “courtesy” officer on site and make sure that person is a police officer in the jurisdiction where you live. For example, if you live in Sandy Springs, an officer living there from the DeKalb or Atlanta departments has no arrest powers unless he or she is specially sworn. You might as well have a rent-a-cop! (I want someone who can hook and book at the scene!)
Find out who the courtesy officer is and, when you are out of town, let that person (only) know and ask if they would check the place.
Always remember that crooks have a choice where they want to commit the crimes. This is called Risk vs. Opportunity. Give them less opportunity and the odds go in your favor that they’ll reconsider another target more appealing.
Maybe the video sign will do it, or perhaps some Haz-mat tape over the door. Or even a small paragraph on the door with the note: “Please be quiet, Swine Flu patient inside.”
Whatever it takes.