How to Avoid an Apartment Burglary

Living in densely packed urban areas opens you up to a higher rate of burglaries and break-ins. Here’s how to protect your home when living in the city. | Photo credit Mr. Tin DC

If you rent in a multifamily apartment building or townhouse, it’s easy to feel more secure than living in a single-family home. Having more people around can give you the idea that someone always is watching when potential intruders could threaten harm. Right?

The unfortunate truth, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), is that burglary rates are much higher for renters than for homeowners.

Consider the following from the BJS:

  • In 2011, the rate of burglary for rented households was 3.27%. Owned households saw a rate of 1.83% – almost half during the same year.
  • The average burglary rate encompassing the years from 2003 to 2007 was 22.1 burglaries for every 1000 single-unit homes, owned or rented. Rates for 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5- to 9-unit homes were 31.3, 26, 28.7, and 25.1, respectively.
  • Buildings with 10 or more units typically experienced a much lower burglary rate – with 19.7 burglaries for every 1,000 units.

So, if the bad news is that apartments experience burglary at a higher rate than single-family houses; the good news is that there are easy ways to thwart many of the factors that help burglars.

Why do burglary rates matter?

Burglary causes losses of about $1 billion annually in homeowners insurance claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). It says the average claim for burglary reaches $2,500, and those numbers only represent homeowners’ claims.

Contrast that with the average cost of renters insurance – less than $16 per month – which also covers other problems, including losses caused by fire and water damage.

Apartment advantages for thieves.

So why do burglars steal from apartments at a rate nearly twice that of owned homes? Apartment thieves have a number of advantages on their side.

1. Anonymity

It’s true that more people might be paying attention when a sketchy-looking person is in an apartment complex. But is that stranger a burglar, or your neighbor’s aunt? Outsiders can easily blend into the background of an apartment building.

The best way to combat anonymity: Get to know your neighbors. You don’t have to be best friends, but cordiality can make a huge difference. Fellow tenants already have a partial investment in your property because of its proximity to theirs. Making connections can help you better protect your space.

2. Limited security

You’re probably thinking this: What can I do to further secure my apartment if I can’t alter a rental? Burglars typically work limited security measures to their benefit. Tenants typically don’t invest in heavy-duty locks, alarm systems, or other security measures which require retrofitting.

Talk to your landlord about what you can and can’t alter. Sometimes even the most simple of solutions can save the day. For example, installing a heavier duty strike plate on your door, the entrance point for 74.5% of burglaries, can deter criminals. And if you do have an alarm, you’ll have the advantage because sirens are much more noticeable in the tight spaces of apartment buildings than in single-family houses with yards to separate them.

3. Convenience

Multiple housing units in a building mean greater opportunity for a burglar. About 43% of burglaries occur from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. – the time when most tenants are at work or school, according to the BJS. This is another reason to get to know a range of your neighbors. If your place borders that of a college student who comes home during the daytime, burglars might avoid it.

4. Easy Entrance

If the entrance to your apartment is off the street and away from the public eye, burglars have a covert entry and exit. It comes as no surprise that burglars strike at restricted access buildings and gated communities at lower rates, according to the BJS. But there are security measures you can take if you don’t live in one of these building types. Lighting on timers, or motion sensors outside and inside your apartment, can deter potential burglars.

Garage doors also are easy points of entry; if you have one, lock it and secure the door that leads from it to your residence.

5. Simpler to Search

Apartments typically have fewer nooks and crannies to hide valuables than homes. The most commonly stolen items? According to the BJS, household appliances and portable electronics; personal portable objects such as jewelry, clothing, and watches; and cash, checks, and credit cards are among the first things a burglar will go for upon entering your living space.

Make sure you secure these items by stowing them out of site or locked up in a safe. When you move into your apartment, you should also create a home inventory (a list of all possessions and their values) so that you can quickly and easily make a renters insurance claim should something go missing.