Of all human emotions, the desire for self-protection and self-preservation are perhaps the strongest and most basic. We all want to protect ourselves from harm and damage, and consequently will do everything in our power to ensure we remain safe and unharmed.
However, it’s not only protection from physical harm that should be of concern to us: our attention should also focus on the material world and protecting our property and valued possessions too. If you’ve worked hard to achieve a certain standard of living and been able to afford to buy high quality goods, then you’ll want to do all you can to make sure no-one else steals them from you.
If you own property, whether that’s a house or an apartment, and have accumulated a number of valuable possessions, then you can bet that there will be someone, somewhere, who would like to take them away from you. It’s a sad fact, but true none the less. Some people will always covet what you own, and if they can manage to get their hands on this without doing an honest day’s work, they’ll take the opportunity if, and when, it arises.
Burglary is a scourge. It isn’t a new phenomenon, mind you: it’s been around as long as human beings have. People have always stolen other people’s property. However, the authorities have generally been able to keep a lid on the problem with better policing and more-targeted resources. Yet, statistics now show that crime levels, particularly home burglaries, are starting to rise again. The reasons for that are manifold: some blame increasing poverty, others attribute the increase to the reduction in the number of police patrolling the streets. Whatever the reason/ reasons may be, there is now a much greater onus placed on homeowners to self-protect. The police simply don’t have the numbers or the resources to look after our valuables, so, if you want to protect your possessions now, you have to be proactive and self-reliant.
Houses v apartments: which is the easier target for burglars?
Securing a home against burglars should be easy in theory, particularly if that home is a house. After all most houses only have two doors – a front and a back, so if you follow basic security measures and keep these doors and windows locked at all times, there shouldn’t be a problem. If you live in an apartment, then the same ground rules won’t necessarily apply. Yes, you’ll still only have one entry point/door to the flat itself; but the building in which the apartment is located will have multiple entry points. What’s more, because the building will be occupied by multiple residents there will also be a greater number of people coming and going, whether that’s friends and family or service workers. Because of this greater level of human traffic, it’s much easier for burglars to gain access to the building and blend in and go unnoticed.
The only way to prevent unwanted intruders entering the apartment complex is to ensure that the communal doors at the front, rear and side of the property are never left open. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen. Residents aren’t always as security conscious as they should be and aren’t necessarily aware of, or concerned about, what’s going on around them. It’s hard to tell whether the stranger you just passed in the lobby is a potential intruder or a tradesman coming to fix a broken appliance. Besides, you’ll probably think it’s none of your business to challenge strangers, so the burglar’s job is made easier.
How safe is your apartment/flat?
Identify the weak spots
If you want to find any weaknesses in your home security set-up, the best place to start is with the exterior boundaries of your home. The protection of any flat begins from the outside. So, walk around the exterior of your apartment building and look for any weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Approach the task as a would-be burglar would, and make a note of which areas you would choose to target if you were planning on breaking in.
- Are the communal doors needlessly left open?
- Do residents always check that they have securely closed these doors when leaving?
- Do any of the ground floor windows look like they could be forced open?
- Do the locks on communal doors and ground floor windows look old or flimsy? If you suspect they are vulnerable, then that very same thought will be going through a burglar’s head.
- Does the landlord or managing agent regularly maintain the garden and cut back shrubs and borders so that they don’t obscure anyone from view or interfere with lighting or CCTV?
- Are all the security lights working properly? If not, let the managing agent or landlord know so that they can be fixed straight away.
Outbuildings and storage areas
Outside storage areas, like cycle stores, bin stores and sheds should be maintained by the landlord and kept locked at all times. If they’re not, notify the managing agent and ask for the issue to be addressed. Uncared for hidden spaces not only make great hiding places for potential burglars: they also attract loitering and can lead to anti-social behaviour, especially after dark.
A communal door is only effective if it is closed and secure, so always remember to check that it locks behind you. If it doesn’t, then report it to your management agent or landlord so it can be repaired quickly.
- Never allow entry to anyone either in-person or via the entry phone that you don’t know, even if they tell you they’re expected by another resident
- The best communal door entry system, as recommended by the police, is an audio and video entry system where residents can see and talk to a visitor before they let them in.
- Ideally communal doors should be robust, security-accredited and fitted with a good self-closing arm and two magnetic locks top and bottom. They should also be linked to the fire alarm and an electronic access control system operated by a key fob.
- Communal doors should automatically open and remain so in the event of a fire but be fitted buttons or handles that allow you to manually override if needed.
- If you have any concerns about the integrity or security of your building’s communal doors, then relay these to the landlord straight away.
If you would like tighter and better security on communal entrances in your blocks of flats, it’s worth considering investing in personalised security key fobs that can track who is leaving and entering the property. With all multiple-occupancy buildings, you never know who’s coming and going. And that’s why it’s advisable to get together with your neighbours and get a key fob for front and rear doors to the building. You can share the expense or, if properties are rented, then approach the landlord, explaining the benefit to them.
Consider where the post boxes are located as these are often one of the first areas targeted by criminals. Ideally, they should be in a secure lobby area and be lockable so that no one can easily fish out mail. If yours aren’t, then speak with the managing agent.
Tips for preventing apartment burglaries
The first line of defence for any apartment owner or renter is, and should always be, prevention. After all, prevention is definitely better than cure. particularly if it saves you from coming home to find your flat ransacked and your valuables stolen.
However, if you want to ensure that any improvements you will make will definitely offer the strongest form of prevention, then you’ll need to think like a burglar and put yourself in their shoes.
Ask yourself the questions they will more than likely be asking themselves: is the flat easy to break into and accessible, are there a number of escape routes I can choose if I’m disturbed and is there plenty of traffic in the shared halls and corridors where I can quickly blend in?
Once you thought these questions through, then you’re in a better position to take preventative action. So what measures can you take to reduce the likelihood of burglary? Well, you can start with the simple measures which will certainly help matters, such as:
- installing peepholes
- replacing door locks
- installing window latches, and
- removing the unit/ flat number from your keys.
All these simple jobs will considerably lower the chances of your apartment being burgled.
To increase security further and add another layer of prevention/protection, you can:
- Install sturdier doors with stronger bolts: these will prevent intruders from breaking in the door or kicking their way into your apartment.
- Make all possible escape routes more visible by installing good light bulbs that illuminate all potential hiding places.
- Keep any apartment fire escape ladder locked and secured so that it can’t easily be lowered to the ground and used as a burglar’s means of entry and escape.
- Purchase an intruder alarm system, ideally with 24/7 home monitoring for intruders and fire.
If you keep all your valuable, jewellery and precious items in one easily-found place, then you’re asking for trouble. All a burglar needs to do is break in, find your not-so-well-disguised hiding place, and they can be up and away in no time at all. They’ll probably even be able to make their getaway before anyone notices the valuable s have been stolen.
The trick is not to make a potential burglar’s life any easier than it need be. If intruders do manage to gain entry to your apartment, then at least make them work for their ill-gotten gains. Put your precious items in places they won’t expect, – thick books, empty cans and unused devices like stereos and game consoles work well.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can put your jewellery in a Ziploc bag, roll it tightly, and insert it inside any unlikely or unassuming object. If you’re really keen on throwing intruders off the scent but want to make them think they’ve won, then keep some fake jewellery in the flat and leave it in a place where it’s likely to be discovered. Burglars want to get in and out of a flat as quickly as possible, so it’s unlikely they’ll hang around to examine whether what they’ve stolen is the genuine McCoy or a fake.
Use technology to track and monitor potential burglars
There’s no point investing money in security cameras and tech gadgetry, if you don’t position these on the correct places.
The same applies to lighting. If the subject isn’t lit well, then even the most expensive pieces of security kit will struggle to pick up an intruder. So, if you buy security equipment, experiment until you get the positioning just right, and make sure there is enough light for an optimised view of the surroundings.
Where’s the best place to hide security cameras in an apartment? Well, that really depends on the apartment, its size and the type of equipment used. If you want to use security and surveillance cameras, then it’s best to keep these hidden utilise everyday objects. You can hide cameras behind clocks, amongst books and even hide them in plant pots. If they are difficult to spot they should be effective. The same rule applies to other rooms in the flat. You can hide surveillance devices in bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens too: all you need to do is to make sure their view is unimpeded and clear and that they aren’t immediately obvious to intruders. At the end of the day surveillance equipment might not be able to prevent a burglary, but if you’re left with visual evidence of the burglary the police are much more likely to be able to bring a successful prosecution.
Make better use of smart technology
Most apartment owners will have at least one piece of smart technology these days, whether that’s a smart phone or a tablet. Both give you access to information wherever you are. Therefore, it makes sense to integrate this mobile capability into your home security system. Many modern burglar alarm systems allow users to remotely check on their home and manage their home security remotely. Another additional benefit is that they are capable of sending regular real-time alerts via text message or email if anyone attempts to tamper with your system or break into your flat whilst you’re away. The best part of this technology, however, is that smartphone-integrated home security systems allow you to actually see what’s going on inside your home via live video feeds: so, if a burglar does break into your apartment you can watch them and gather the evidence for a future prosecution.
Apartment security tips.
Apartment doors and windows
- If you live on the ground floor, ensure that your windows are closed and locked every time you leave your flat.
- If your door has a letterbox, a guard fitted to the rear of the door will prevent someone reaching in with a stick and a hook to fish for any nearby items such as a handbag or keys – which should never be kept near exterior doors. Consider cat flaps and dog flaps too.
- Windows can be reinforced by using special film or by installing laminated panels.
- Line any vulnerable windows with privacy film to distort the view from the outside and reduce the chances of window shopping or alerting an unwanted visitor to your presence – or lack of. This can be especially sound advice for anyone who lives alone or lives in an apartment with children old enough to be left on their own.
- Spy holes and security chains are recommended so that anyone visiting can be identified before you open the door.
- Always remember to use both locks – deadlock and mortice locks – and ensure that the mortice lock is double-locked every time you leave your home.
- Install a door bar. This will reinforce the doorframe and provide excellent protection against anyone trying to force a door open or kicking it down.
- A lockguard does exactly what it claims to do; it protects the keyhole and lock from being tampered with and is a great deterrent to potential burglars.
- If you are putting in a new front door, always fit security accredited products as these are tested to national standards and approved by the insurance industry. Talk to your locksmith about the standards if you need advice.
Always lock your apartment when you leave
This might sound obvious and self-evident, yet statistics show that 60 per cent of all successful, residential robberies happen through unlocked doors and windows.
- It’s always advisable to lock the door to your apartment, whether you’re at home or away.
- If you live in a rented flat, ask your landlord to install deadbolt locks and a peephole in your front door.
- Keep your windows locked too, especially if you live on the ground floor or in the basement. And if you have sliding glass doors, invest in a dowel or steel bar you can slide into the door track for added security.
Protect and safeguard your keys
- Always change your locks when you move into an apartment or ask your landlord to do this for you and carefully monitor any spare keys you might have.
- Avoid giving keys to anyone doing maintenance or renovation work in your home, and don’t let workers or other strangers into your apartment if you or someone you trust isn’t present.
- Don’t label your personal keys or hide spares outside your flat in shared hallways. If your keys are labelled and get lost or stolen you could be in trouble, especially if your wallet with your ID and address are lost with them.
- Don’t hide keys under doormats or close to the entrance door to the flat. Thieves always search these places for spares. Only leave spare keys with a trusted neighbour.
Get to know the neighbours in your building as soon as you can. Crime tends to be lower in tight-knit communities because neighbours are far more likely to look out for each other and tend to spot strangers roaming the halls and corridors. Being neighbourly can be beneficial. Join a scheme if you can spare the time, or at least speak to your neighbours every now and then. If your neighbours warm to your approach, they’re far more likely to take an interest in you and what goes on at your flat: especially if you offer to reciprocate and keep an eye on their place when they’re away. Remember, another pair of watchful eyes is always useful when burglars are on the prowl.
- Good lighting is one of the best and most-effective deterrents to night time burglary. When you’re away from your apartment for any extended period, consider using a timer to turn inside lights on and off.
- Invest in smart lightbulbs. They don’t cost a lot but are extremely effective. Smart light bulbs can be programmed and turned off and on remotely with a smartphone app.
Consider investing in a security system
If you want to improve the overall security in your apartment, then it’s probably worth investing in a security system.
- If you own the flat, you can choose between either a wired or wireless system: if you rent your flat you may be better off investing in a wireless security system. Wireless security systems are generally simple to install and set up and are more portable. They can be taken with you when you move, and they are also less invasive and messy to install. Before you undertake any work, however, check the lease, as this may prohibit you from drilling into walls and hooking up wires.
- Ideally if you’re thinking of installing a security system look for one with 24/7 monitoring, as this will trip and alert help if suspicious activity or any type of emergency is detected.
- Install and set up security cameras that you can monitor via a smartphone. By doing this you will be able to alert the authorities when something triggers them.
- If you do decide to install a security system, you may be able to recoup some of the outlay through reduced insurance premiums.
Keep a list of your valuables, serial numbers and photos of all that you hold dear and value and email it to yourself
It always pays to keep important information like this to hand, even if you aren’t burgled. Should the worst happen whilst you’re out of the flat, at least you’ll have something definitive to show to the authorities. It will also help to speed up the insurance claim process if you can provide them with this important information.
Build a relationship with the building’s security staff
- If your apartment building has a doorman or front desk staff, find out whether there’s a system to log visitors as they come in. If there isn’t a system in place, suggest that one be started for everyone’s peace of mind and security.
- If there are no security personnel in the building, ask the landlord to have a security camera installed in the lobby. Security cameras can help to deter burglars and help to give more information to tenants and landlords should anything untoward happen.
Keep valuables out of sight and mind
If you have to keep valuable possessions or documents in the apartment, it’s probably worth investing in a safe, or a safe store. You can keep your treasures here, but make sure the safe store is well hidden. The point is to make a burglar’s life as difficult as possible, so don’t store your valuables in plain sight, even if they secured by lock and key. If your valuables are protected by a passcode or combination, only give/share that information with a trusted loved one in case of emergencies. Don’t leave that information visible in your home so it is easily accessible to an intruder.
Use curtains and blinds on windows
What can thieves see from outside your flat? You might have an expensive painting that you’re extremely fond of, proudly displayed on full your living room wall, or you might even have all sorts of expensive electronic equipment dotted around the apartment. The problem is if this stuff is on show and easily viewed from outside, then you are putting temptation in a thief’s path. No-one is suggesting for one moment that you have to hide away everything of value or redecorate your flat so that it looks like you have nothing worth stealing, but it doesn’t hurt to make some small adjustments. Display the picture you’re so proud of and keep on playing games on your consoles and music on your top-end hi-fi system, but just keep them out of sight of passing strangers. There’s no point tempting fate, and hoping you get lucky.
So, if you live in a ground or first floor flat, by installing curtains or blinds you should be able to stop potential burglars from peering into and scoping out your property. Curtains and translucent blinds are essential if you live in a flat where your windows are easily visible from the outside. If you live in a flat on a higher floor, it’s still worth installing blinds and leaving these blinds partially open when you’re out of the flat so that timed lights can still shine through and be visible from outside.
Be alert and stay vigilant
Be aware of any strange visitors and delivery people who may be lingering in your apartment building. Note any suspicious behaviour, and if you feel comfortable and confident enough challenge them. Otherwise, alert the police and your landlord or management right away.