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Know how to be proactive in preventing break-ins, burglaries at home

HOUSTON – Regardless of where you live, thieves breaking into your place is a nightmare.

“I woke up and I saw this man standing in the doorway of my room and I realized I was being held at gunpoint," said Andrew Doggett, who had his downtown apartment broken into.

Doggett said not only did the thief steal a gun from his apartment, he then held him up with the same gun.

Regardless of where you live, thieves breaking into your place is a nightmare.

“I woke up and I saw this man standing in the doorway of my room and I realized I was being held at gunpoint," said Andrew Doggett, whose downtown apartment was broken into.

Doggett said not only did the thief steal a gun from his apartment, he then held him up with the same gun.

For Qusai Kalolwala, more than the burglary itself, it was the trauma of having his home broken into and his family’s belongings being taken that got to him.

“More than the stuff they took, it’s the sense that someone else was in your house going through your belongings and going through your safe zone," Qusai said.

So what are thieves looking for when they enter your apartment?

According to Jim Napolitano, former U.S. Secret Service agent to four presidents and chief of the Montgomery Police Department, it’s the small things that thieves can carry out easily they are going to target.

“They want to grab small things that are worth a lot of money," Napolitano said. “They are going to grab a pillow case and start grabbing your guns, jewelry, electronics, laptops and tablets."

[READ: 12 ways to improve security at your apartment​]

What happens when your apartment complex is broken into and your neighbors are victimized? Does your landlord have to tell you?

According to board-certified real estate attorney Richard Melamed, no.

“Legally, just because an incident occurs at the complex, there is no duty under the law for the landlord to disclose that to you,” Melamed said.

However, if you ask your apartment complex or your landlord, they are required to tell you the truth.

To protect yourself and your family, Melamed recommended asking five key questions of your landlord once a month:

  • Ask if there have been any burglaries or robberies in the complex in the last month. Which units were hit and how did the thieves appear to get in?
  • Ask what steps the complex has taken to mitigate it from happening again in the future.
  • Ask if the complex has security cameras. If they do, where are they located and what areas do they cover? For example, is the entire parking garage covered?
  • Ask if there are any registered sex offenders living in the complex. If so, where are they?
  • Ask if there is a security guard or security service patrolling the complex and what hours they cover the area.
  • Also ask any questions you consider critical to keep you and your family safe.