Statistics show that at some point in your life, you will get robbed (and we're not talking about the $9.50 you shelled out for Battlefield Earth). Things get even scarier for apartment/dorm dwellers, because crimes are easier to commit in apartment buildings. Why? Because so many people traipse in and out of an apartment building, that it's much tougher to keep non-residents out. After all, it's pretty easy to notice an extra body in a house, but it's tougher to know who should and who shouldn't be walking down the hall of an apartment building.

So what to do? WHAT DO YOU DO?! Dude, take a chill pill. Yes, apartments are prone to security breaches, but there are options other than barricading yourself in your apartment with a shotgun. Instead, we suggest that you read on and learn some simple steps for erasing that target from your door. Then the burglar will rob your neighbors, not you.


We know what you're thinking: "I'll never get robbed. Who'd want to steal a half-can of Diet Coke and an electric toothbrush?" If those really are the only things in your apartment, you have good reason to not fret. However, if you have something you'd like to keep -- say, a TV, a stereo, a computer, money, a Picasso -- it's wise to take precautions.

Your goal is not to set up a complex system of booby-traps to harm thieves (a la Home Alone); your goal is to deter criminals from even trying to break into your apartment in the first place. If someone really wants to break in, chances are that he/she is going to find a way (be it by breaking a window or climbing up the fire escape). Therefore, you want to eliminate all signs that say, "Hey, look at me! Lots of goodies and no security! Come on in!"

The most important step is to just use some common sense. For instance, lock the door when you leave. Don't leave the windows open all day long. Don't tape little notes on the door directed to your significant other reading "Gone all day! Left the door unlocked for you!" Just use your brain!

There are two different situations for which you'll need to prepare:

When you're not on vacation
When you're on vacation

When you're not on vacation

  1. ALWAYS lock your doors and your windows when you're not home. Duh.

  2. NEVER leave your door ajar (or unlocked) when you just "run out to the corner." In the time it takes you to run downstairs to the laundry room, your stereo and collection of Yanni CDs could be gone. Which would be a shame. Well, maybe not the CDs.

  3. It is possible that you could walk in on a crime in progress. If you suspect someone is your apartment, DO NOT enter it under ANY circumstances. Call the police immediately. Yanni would never take a bullet for you, so you shouldn't for him.

  4. NEVER "buzz anyone up" or let anyone in who you don't know. If that repairman or tenant-who-forgot-his/her-keys turns out to be Bobby/Brenda Burglar, you not only put yourself safety at risk, but you'll also become the schmuck who let the burglar into the building. Your neighbors will likely become slightly peeved with you. So always turn away a "repairman" you didn't call, and always insist on seeing identification and a work order from a repairman you DID call. If they can't produce these, send them on their way and call the cops.

  5. NEVER leave a spare key anywhere outside of your apartment. Yeah, they know about the old hide-it-under-the-doormat trick, 007. So go get it out of there. Now. If you're particularly nervous about forgetting your keys, then leave a spare with the doorman (if you have one) or with a next door neighbor.

  6. DO NOT write your full name on your nameplate near the front door of the building (if your building has such options). Instead, just write either your last name and first initial, or just your last name. This goes especially for women living alone, who tend to be targets -- potential criminals will look for women's names and go there first.

  7. DO NOT be overly ostentatious about expensive possessions. Remember, you want to minimize the lure of your place. So don't waltz around telling everyone about your new toys - you never know who's listening.

When you're on vacation

Obviously, when you're away from your apartment for more than a day, the risk of a break-in skyrockets. But that doesn't mean you can't travel - you just have to take precautions. The key to this is to make it appear as if you're not on vacation with a good bluff (cloning and holographic projections not required).

  1. If you have any very valuable possessions (e.g. expensive jewelry, priceless art, time machine blueprints), take them with you or leave them with a responsible friend (or in a bank safety deposit box). But if you're lugging hundreds of pounds of stuff with you, you've probably slipped into the category of paranoid weirdo. So we just recommend having a reliable friend keep your loot.

  2. Install timers for your lights and television to give the illusion of inhabitation. These are inexpensive and available at any hardware store, Target, Wal-Mart, and their ilk.

  3. Don't allow your newspapers or mail to pile up - remember, criminals are surprisingly observant. Get a trusted neighbor to pick your stuff up for you.

  4. Just in case the unthinkable happens, have pictures and/or a list of valuable possessions to give to the police and insurance company. You're probably not going to see your TV again (dry your tears, you baby), but your insurance may cover theft. And don't write down stuff you don't have - you could wind up in jail with the very person who burglarized your place. Then we'll laugh.

  5. THE BEST IDEA: get a reliable friend to house-sit for you. Many people will be willing to do it for free, or at least if you give them money for food and videos. It's just like baby-sitting, but without the noise, burping, and stinky diapers.