Apartments are 85% more likely to be the target of burglary than single-family homes. Apartments represent unique security challenges because of the many techniques which tenants are prevented from using to enhance the security of their persons and possessions. However, there are many which tenants can and should use to improve their security postures.
Start with a Secure Building
The best first step to achieving a secure apartment is to rent an apartment in a secure building. The optimal security building should feature:
- A location in a low-crime neighborhood
- External gates to prevent unapproved vehicular or foot traffic
- A keyed building entrance system for tenants
- 24×7 armed security, properly trained and managed
- Secure well-lit parking
- Effective security lighting of all entry and exit points and transit paths
- Alarms on entry and exit points, including windows
- Continuously monitored and recorded security cameras on all entry and exit points
- Proper fire security systems, including alarms, extinguishers, and escape paths
- Shatterproof windows and security bars on every ground-floor window
- Sturdy doors with secure door locks separating each apartment from the common areas
- Wide-angle peepholes in each apartment door
Once these items are covered you can move on to enhancing the basic security provided by the building. If these items are not covered, you will have to take extra steps to bring your security posture up to minimal standards.
For security purposes, you should avoid garden level, ground floor, and even second floor apartments. This removes many low-level threats and also enhances your privacy.
The general rule is that the higher the floor, the more secure it is. Some natural or man-made disasters affect the top few floors of a building though, so the most secure floor is the fourth floor from the top — as long as that doesn’t put you on the second floor or lower.
Negotiate With Your Landlord
Many security improvements will require drilling holes and mounting hardware. Before beginning, you should receive approval from the owner of your apartment. This is not an issue if you own your apartment in a condominium-type legal arrangement. If you are a renter though, you will have some negotiations ahead of you.
The best strategy for dealing with a property owner is to explain that security improvements will raise the value of his or her property. In most cases, this has the advantage of being true.
If this line of reasoning fails, the second best strategy is offering to pay for the improvements to be removed when you move out. Remind your landlord that your security deposit can be used for this purpose. In some cases, your landlord may ask for a larger security deposit.
Doors and Window Security
Most apartment complexes will not allow you to replace your door with a more secure door, because they want every door in the complex to be uniform — for cosmetic purposes. However, you should read our guide on Reinforcing Doors and consider beefing up your door security.
Even if you can’t make any modifications to the door or the frame, you can still improve security (while you are home) with the use of a portable security bar. A portable door security bar should feature a powdered steel frame with a padded foot on one end for gripping the floor and a non-marring yoke on the other end to press against the door handle. You wedge the bar between the door handle and the floor, effectively barring the door closed to anyone who didn’t bring a battering ram.
The security of sliding doors (and windows) can be improved by adding Charlie Bars. Even if your landlord won’t allow you to drill into the door or window frame to mount a permanent charlie bar, you can still use one that mounts temporarily or is held in place only by gravity.
You should maintain an alarm system for your own apartment. If you are unable to mount contact sensors to your doors and windows, motion sensors can be used instead. Wireless alarm systems can be installed with less drilling than wired systems. Read our article on Home Alarm Systems for details.
Change Your Door Locks
Your landlord, building maintenance people, and most likely past tenants will have keys to the locks protecting your apartment. It is best to change these locks immediately. Your landlord and building maintenance people should never be in your apartment without your presence and permission.
When replacing your door locks, be sure to install the highest security locks which will fit into the door and frame. Read our article on Door Locks for details.
Get To Know Your Neighbors
In an emergency, you may require the cooperation of your neighbors. Get to know them and earn their respect as a person worth listening to.When an emergency occurs, people look for leadership. The best way to ensure the best response to an emergency situation is to be the leader people are looking for.
Learn what skills each of your neighbors have which could be useful in an emergency situation. Do any have medical training or experience? How about firefighting? Martial arts? Ham radio operation? Who in your building is a police officer, a plumber, or an auto mechanic? Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes.
Upgrade Your Neighbors
Everyone can improve their security and survival skills. By helping your neighbors improve their skills, you create a pool of resources which you can utilize in an emergency. You can do this in an active way by teaching classes in fire safety or organizing a security watch. You can also do this passively by posting notices of nearby public courses in first aid and other survival skills.
With patience and perseverance, you can help your neighbors learn these good security behaviors:
- Never let anyone you do not know into the building, or allow anyone to follow you in
- Report any suspicious behavior to building security
- Report any broken lights to building maintenance
Test Your Security
Walk outside your apartment building. Put yourself into the mindset of a bad guy. Plan how you would commit burglary, robbery, assault, or murder against yourself. Write down each security weakness that you can identify. Go back inside and plan how to fix or ameliorate the weaknesses that you identified.