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Apartment Safety Tips for Dangerous, High-Crime Areas

How to keep your apartment safe from intruders

How to keep your apartment safe from intruders

Apartment Security: Staying Safe in a Not-So-Safe Neighborhood

Securing your apartment against intruders can be done without a lot of expense. Here are some low-cost ways to be safer, even in a rougher part of town. An intruder's enemy is time, noise, and attention—this can be used to your advantage. Below, I've outlined steps you can take to develop a plan that will:

  • Discourage an intruder from attempting to break-in in the first place
  • Get an immediate warning when an intruder attempts entry
  • Have physical barriers in place to foil or at least disrupt and delay the intruder
  • Call for help before an intruder can gain control over you (if entry has been made)

Avoid Being Vulnerable

Here are a few ways you can help prevent your apartment from being vulnerable to break-ins.

Get a Simple Hanging Door Alarm

Purchase a door motion sensor alarm online or at a local security products store. It just hangs on the knob and alerts you when anyone touches the outside of the knob. No installation—just hang it on the knob. Get one for each outside door. (About $25.00.)

Secure the Windows

If your windows have no secure locks, you can make your own. For this, you'll need to borrow or buy a 3/8 inch power drill. Secure double-hung windows by drilling a 3/16 in. hole in the frame center (where the upper and lower window frames overlap).

Push a double-headed 12d nail into the hole, and the window now can't be opened from outside. (If you tell the hardware store person what you're doing, they'll know what you need and will explain it further, if necessary).

Lots of Light = Safety

Ask the landlord to beef up your outside lighting so that it floods the entryway and surroundings. More light is better. Even a desk lamp shining out through a window will help.

Put the highest wattage bulbs that are recommended in the outside light fixtures and keep them on all night. Solar-powered outside lights are not as bright, but they need no wiring and can be taken with you when you leave.

Doors Need Deadbolt-Type Locking Hardware

Many people don't realize how easy it is for an intruder to kick a door in. Unfortunately, many older structures have weak doors with poor locks and are breech-vulnerable. Each outside door needs a strong, double-keyed deadbolt type lock. Types with an inside twist knob are nearly worthless if the door has a glass pane.

Chain fasteners also offer little protection against a determined intruder. If you've already rented a vulnerable apartment, ask the landlord to install secure door hardware, a peephole, and, if needed, a stronger door. If they won't do this, then you should consider moving out. It's that important.

Hidden Windows Are a Concern

Any windows hidden from the street or neighbors are a prime target for an intruder. Inside the apartment, you can place something underneath your first-floor windows that would be difficult to climb over, such as workout equipment, a glass-top coffee table, or a jumble of potted plants. You can also block a window off with tall furniture—not chic but fairly effective.

(L) Most dogs offer some protection. (R) Installing a "Nail Lock" in a window. The drill penetrates the inside sash and goes part way through the outer one.

(L) Most dogs offer some protection. (R) Installing a "Nail Lock" in a window. The drill penetrates the inside sash and goes part way through the outer one.

More Safety Steps

Here are a few additional tips for keeping your apartment safe from intruders.

A Furry Sentry?

Where feasible, a dog is a good deterrent. Even a small dog will probably bark, and every intruder hates the noise and delay that a dog will cause. However, be humane and don't get a dog if you're gone most of the time. It will need constant care and commitment, and Growlie's expenses will be a constant.

Mail Box IDs—Bad Idea

Don't put your name on the bell or mailbox if possible. Instead, use a small sticker and tell your visitors to look for it. If you must display your name, use your last name only, misspell it slightly and add a military title, such as "PFC" or "Sgt."

Always Look Occupied

Make the apartment always look occupied. When you go out, leave the TV on. Leave a note on the door saying, "Gone to store. Be right back." Put several lamps on a timer which will turn them on and off at odd times.

Keep the Blinds Closed

Be sure all windows are kept covered to prevent anyone from seeing inside. A quick peek tells the intruder what is worth stealing and if anyone is home. He'll see the layout of your apartment and can tell whether the occupant is male or female and if you live alone.

Other Tips

  • If someone seems to be casing your place, call the police immediately and report it.
  • At night, keep your cell phone nearby so you can call 911 at the first hint of an intrusion.
  • Never open your door to someone saying they need assistance. Offer to call help for them.
  • Joke "pot" stickers or anything indicating there might be drugs inside WILL attract a break-in.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on July 20, 2015:

Simple and effective tips for staying safe in sketchy areas.

mplo on July 28, 2011:

When I was going to college in an urban area, I resided in a University apartment that had a fire escape on it. Fortunately, vent locks were installed in the windows to make it less likely that an intruder would try to enter my apartment at night while I was asleep, and the refrigerator in the kitchen, which was right near the window, also helped slow potential intruders down. Also, because my hours were not that regular, nobody could pin me down. If one can possibly do it, all of the above is recommended, imho.

mplo on July 28, 2011:

Good article, that contains much useful, common sense information. Spending some time in the martial arts studio, if one has time and/or money might be helpful, too.

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on February 08, 2011:

Hello tritrain -- Thanks for reading and commenting.

And Drewson from United States on February 07, 2011:

Very helpful tips! Thanks for sharing.