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You're all alone. A light breeze is making tree branches scratch against a window. You're fading between sleep and consciousness when you hear...something. A crash? It couldn't be. You tiptoe to the door only to have your worst fears realized. There are flashlights dancing circles around the living room. You can see pieces of broken glass scattered across the floor. You can hear hushed voices, frantic yet determined. You try to step lightly back to your room, but your heart stops as the situation turns from bad to worse: A floorboard creaks. They've heard you, and they're coming.

Every year, millions of property crimes occur throughout the United States.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that between 2003 and 2007, there were 3.7 million burglaries per year.

Even more frightening? In 28% of those burglaries, a family member was present. If you're into doing math (we are), that's over 1 million burglaries a year where a family member was there at the time. By definition, this turns those burglaries into home invasions. And while the number of households that experience a burglary each year makes up a seemingly small 2% of households in the U.S. each year, that still leaves us with an average 1 in 50 chance of becoming a burglary victim. Chances are, you have at least one neighbor who has already been one.

It's important to keep in mind that your property crime risk is probably not 1 in 50. Depending on where you live, your chances could be much higher. In California, for example, your chances of becoming a burglary victim are 1 in 41. In the nation's capital, Washington D.C., your chances are an astounding 1 in 19! Victimhood can happen to anyone. But that doesn't mean you have to play the victim or leave your chances in the hands of fate.

Follow this helpful apartment safety checklist to make sure your apartment home is ready for a break in. Apartment safety is both easy and increasingly important. After all, apartment living presents its own, unique set of challenges over living in a detached or semi-detached home. Whether you're simply protecting yourself or looking to protect your family and your belongings, having a useful set of apartment safety tips can go a long way!

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Apartment Hunting Tips | Apartment Security Tips | Infographic Checklist

Things to Consider When Looking for an Apartment

  1. Avoid getting an apartment on the first floor!

    Getting stuck in a first floor apartment is sometimes unavoidable. Especially in today's crazy rental market, you're often left with little choice of what kind of apartment you can actually get. Still, if you can manage to get an apartment on a 2nd floor or above, do it. First floor apartments are attractive to burglars for two reasons. First, it's easier to get in and out of a first floor apartment due to the easily accessible windows and doors. Secondly, it's easier to cart your valuable items away, and easier to do so without being seen.

  2. Find an apartment with a washer and dryer in the unit--or always do laundry with a friend.

    Many apartment shoppers overlook the importance of the washer and dryer location. While it's great to have an apartment with a laundry room on the premises, there are safety concerns associated with washing your clothes outside of your own apartment. Burglars could use the opportunity to break in while you least expect it. Meanwhile, someone who sees that you're alone in the on-site laundry room (usually in a basement, no less), may use that as an opportunity to turn you into a victim. If you must use a building's laundry services, make sure you never go alone, especially at night.

  3. Research crime statistics for your area.

    Don't go into a new apartment without full knowledge of what the area's crime is like. You can use websites NeighborhoodScout to explore the frequency of different crimes in your area.

Apartment Security Tips

  1. If you have a building access code, keep it safe.

    Try to cover your hand while typing in the access code. That way, no one can see what you're typing. Try to avoid typing it in if someone appears to be lingering near the entryway. Similarly, never let others tailgate into your secured building. Even if they claim to be a resident or waiting on a friend, it's best not to trust someone you don't know who is trying to gain access. However…

  2. Be friendly! Get to know your neighbors.

    There's no replacement for knowing your neighbors. Take the chance to get to know the people you live with. Familiar faces help recognizing who lives in the apartment and who is an actual stranger. This should avoid embarrassing situations that can result from misidentifying one of your neighbors as a possible threat. It also increases the likelihood that you, and your neighbors, will look out for each other.

  3. Be aware of fire escapes.

    All apartment buildings must have a form of egress for residents. This means a way to easily escape in case of a fire. While fire escapes used to be a common method for this, most laws have changed to only require internal staircases that fit the bill. However, if you live in an older apartment with a fire escape, know where it is and whether it's in good, working condition. In the case of a home invasion, this could be your only escape route.

  4. Know all entrances and exits.

    While most apartments will only have one way in or out, depending on where your apartment is located, you may have options. For example, a first floor apartment could have windows accessible to the outdoors, or a patio door that allows you to escape easily and quickly. Familiarize yourself with any escape routes, and just how easily they can be used as such.

  5. Be careful at night when traveling around the apartment building or complex.

    Night can provide the perfect cover for burglars and thieves, many of whom will literally hide in the shadows. Be conscious of the lighting situation in parking lots, laundry rooms, entryways, elevators, stairways and any other areas outside of your apartment. Avoid areas that are not well lit, have low amounts of foot traffic, or both. Always try to have someone accompany you if you must go out and about in these areas at night.

  6. Keep your windows and balcony doors covered.

    Whether you use blinds or shades, make sure that the whole world cannot look directly into your apartment. This will keep potential criminals from eyeballing your personal possessions, will help avert prying eyes from Peeping Toms, and should dissuade potential burglars trying to determine if anyone is home.

Additional Security Tips

  1. Perform a safety check on all doors and locks.

    For first floor apartment safety in particular, a safety check on your doors and locks is incredibly important. Many older apartments may have doors that simply don't sit properly on the frame, making them easy to push open with a little added force. And many apartments may only have a lock on the door handle while failing to include a deadbolt. If your apartment lacks proper door and lock safety measures, request an upgrade from your apartment manager. Also, be sure to ask your landlord to do all of the following apartment safety tips:

    • ❏ Re-key or replace deadbolt locks at resident turnover
    • ❏ Use 3" screws for strike plates on wooden doorjambs
    • ❏ Use secondary blocking devices for sliding doors and windows
    • ❏ Use anti-lift devices on sliding doors and windows
    • ❏ Use wide-angle 160-degree peepholes on entry doors
  2. Take extra caution with sliding windows.

    If your apartment has sliding windows, this could be an easy access point for burglars. Unsecured sliding windows are easy to open, even from the outside. If they are installed on your apartment, you may not be able to convince your apartment manager to change them out for a more secure window style either. If this is your situation, consider all of the following apartment safety tips for sliding windows:

    • ❏ Secure all accessible windows with secondary blocking devices
    • ❏ Block accessible windows open no more than 6 inches for ventilation
    • ❏ Use anti-lift devices to prevent window from being lifted out
    • ❏ Use crime prevention or alarm decals on accessible windows, if applicable
  3. Invest in a security alarm system.

    Most apartment security measures do not involve alarm systems. After checking with your apartment manager, see if you can install a system in your apartment. Some systems require very little alterations to the apartment, meaning your manager should not be inclined to say no to your request. Consider a wireless monitoring system as well. This will quickly send you alerts when things are amiss, such as doors or windows opening when you're not around. Just be careful. An enterprising criminal may disable your Internet connection, rendering your wireless monitoring system inactive.

  4. Don't forget the balcony.

    Although most burglars prefer first floor apartments, there's no reason to believe they won't try to get into yours. Make sure to keep your balcony doors and windows locked, even when you're home. Although daytime entries are unlikely, night presents an opportunity for an opportunistic criminal to sneak right in.

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