12 ways to improve security at your apartment

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - 12 ways to improve security at your apartment:

Before moving in:

1. Research local crime

When you think you’ve found your dream apartment, check local crime data in that neighborhood.  Make sure you know the troubling activities taking place in that area before signing your lease. Ask neighbors on the block, by going door to door, about crime in the area. Websites like CrimeReports.com, CrimeMapping.com and SpotCrime.com can help.

2. Test lighting

Check the entrances, hallways, parking areas, elevators, stairways, mail areas and laundry rooms to make sure they provide enough light at night. Thieves target areas that are poorly lit because they can more easily hide their identity. If the lighting is inadequate, tell your prospective landlord you want it changed or you will not be moving in. Hopefully they will want to accommodate you and keep their residents happy.

3. Observe general upkeep

Take in the general look and feel of your new place. Broken windows, broken outdoor fencing, broken lights and cracked drywall show a lack of concern for all things, and that should be a warning to you.

4. Check entrances

Make sure the outside entrances to your building require a key, a pass code or buzz-in access to the hallways, the parking lots, pool, gym and laundry room to keep intruders and thieves outside.

5. Make sure it has peepholes

A peephole may seem like a small thing, but it can save you and your family by allowing you to see who’s at the door before you unlock and open it. If your future apartment doesn’t have one, ask the landlord to install one for you free of charge.

6. New door locks

Many landlords will say they have replaced the door locks on your new apartment, but how do you know? Tell your landlord you want new locks put on the door and have them show you the new lock before they put it on the door.

7. Examine window locks

Good window locks keep burglars at bay. This is especially true with first-floor apartments. Check all the windows and locking devices on your windows to make sure they are working and they are strong enough to keep you from throwing them open.

8. Check the fire escapes

Exterior fire escapes, while necessary during an emergency, can provide easy access to upper balconies and windows in some apartment units. If your complex has a fire escape, make sure it is kept off the ground and not accessible to thieves, burglars and the general public.

After moving in

1. Buy additional locks

For more security, consider installing an additional deadbolt lock on your front door, as well as a chain lock. The second deadbolt should be located at least a foot away from the first deadbolt, which should already be on your front door.

2. Bolster sliding doors

Balconies are great for sunshine and great views, but they can pose a hazard if they are not properly secured. Beef up the security of your sliding door by placing a pole or pipe on the window track to keep burglars from being able to force the door open. You can also install a secondary lock with a pull-pin for further security.

3. Invest in good blinds

Good blinds prevent burglars from looking inside your home and being tempted by what they see.  They also hide the fact that you may or may not be home. When you leave your apartment, make sure you close your blinds.

4. Get a safe

A safe can be a last line of defense to protect your most valuable items and the items thieves are most likely to take, such as cash, jewelry and guns. The important thing is to buy a safe that can be bolted to a shelf or to the wall, so the thieves can't just walk off with it. Safes can range in price from under $100 to thousands of dollars for larger ones.

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