By Maryanne Hunsberger of the Tampa Police Department.
Burglary, by definition, is a non-confrontational crime, but being victimized can leave a family feeling vulnerable and violated.
To prevent a burglary, it is important to first gain an understanding of who commits them and why. The majority of apartment burglaries occur during the daytime when most people are away at work or at school. Burglaries also occur at night when there are obvious signs that no one is home. Most apartment burglars are young males looking for things that are small, expensive, and can easily be converted to cash. Items like cash, jewelry, guns, watches, laptop computers, and other small electronic devices are high on the list - quick cash for living expenses and drugs.
Statistics tell us that more than 30% of all apartment burglars gained access through an open door or window. Ordinary household tools like screwdrivers, channel-lock pliers, small pry bars, and small hammers are most often used by burglars. Although apartment burglaries may seem random in occurrence, they actually involve a selection process.
The burglar's selection process is simple. Choose an unoccupied apartment with the easiest access, the greatest amount of cover, and with the best escape routes.
No non-violent crime is so devastating as coming home to find your apartment trashed, your precious belongings stolen and your personal space violated. Don’t be a victim!
The following tips will help you, do your part in keeping your apartment building safe and secure from theft and other crimes:
- If you suspect a crime is in progress, do not investigate or ask questions! You could be putting yourself in danger, as well as warning the criminal. Call 911 immediately. Never become physically involved with an intruder.
- If you see any suspicious looking people in or around the building, call police immediately, then notify the resident manager.
- Keep those doors locked
- Make a habit of locking the door when you come into your apartment. A thief can steal your valuables in the time it takes to shower. Remember that even if you live above the first level, you could become a victim.
- Always lock your apartment door, windows and patio doors when you leave, even if you’re just going to the laundry room or the mailbox. The same advice for bedtime use a drop bar to secure sliding glass doors.
- Make sure all doors with locks have shut behind you after you come in or leave. • Never prop open the entrance doors and leave the unattended. If you’re moving, have someone posted at the doors.
- Report any burned-out lights, non-functional locks or doors, or broken windows to the resident manager and request they be replaced as soon as possible.
- Report lost keys to the resident manager immediately.
- Never put your identification or address on your apartment or car key rings.
- Never hide spare keys.
- If your apartment door doesn’t have a deadbolt lock or peephole, it’s a good idea to ask the resident manager for permission to have them installed.
- Have your keys ready as you approach the door.
- Get to know your neighbors. Then you’ll know if someone doesn’t belong. Arrange to keep an eye on each other’s apartments while you’re away. Don’t tip them off!
- Never leave notes on your apartment door indicating your whereabouts or return time – this tells a potential thief how much time they have.
- When you go out, leave a radio and a light on, or hook them up to a timer.
- Draw curtains or close blinds after dark. When the curtains are open at night, you can’t see out, but others can see in.
Security in common areas
- Common areas in your apartment building may include laundry rooms, lobbies, party rooms, recreational facilities, parking garages and storage areas. Items in storage areas, cars and contents, and coins in the laundry machines tempt thieves. Here are some ways to help keep these areas safe from theft or personal injury for you and everyone in your building.
- It is safer to leave the lights on in common areas at all times. Then you can see if anyone is in the room before you go in.
- If your laundry room door has a lock, always make sure the door closes behind you when you leave. Make sure the windows are also locked.
- Do not linger alone in any common areas.
- Do not store valuable items in storage areas, especially if they can be seen from outside the room.
- Do not advertise your expensive car stereo to thieves. Turn it down well before you enter your garage.
- Have your keys ready as you approach your car.
- Make sure valuables are locked out of sight in your parked vehicle.
Be a Good Neighbor!
- Good neighbors should look out for each other. Get to know your neighbors on each side of your apartment and the three directly across from you. Invite conversation often, and establish trust. Good neighbors will watch out for your apartment and vehicle when you are away, if you ask them. They can report suspicious activity to management, to the police, or to you while you are away.
- Take advantage of Operation Inventory, or engrave valuables with your FDL, such as FL12345DL, for identification purposes if they are stolen. This is called "Operation ID" and not only helps law enforcement identify your items if they are stolen, but also decreases their value to pawn shops. No one wants to buy items that have someone else's information engraved on them. District Crime Prevention Teams have engravers that your Neighborhood Watch group may borrow for this purpose.
- Attend your Neighborhood Watch meetings. This has been proven to be one of the most effective tools against burglary or other crimes in communities.