Promoting Personal Safety
Burglars strike in any neighborhood. They are opportunistic and always look for such easy targets as homes that are left open, not well maintained, out of eyesight or earshot of neighbors, or obscured by landscaping or fencing. The best way to minimize your chances of becoming a victim is to take sensible precautions.The following tips are designed to help you reduce your chances of becoming a victim of crime. You may already be aware of some strategies, but others may be new to you. Remember to trust your instincts and use common sense. Do not let yourself become a victim of a crime!
Before Renting an Apartment
Survey the residence for the following security features:
- Does the apartment have metal or solid core wooden entry and exit doors? Are these doors equipped with deadbolts? Are the locks mounted securely? Have the doors been re-keyed since the last tenant moved out?
- Can visitors be observed without opening the apartment door either through a door “peephole” viewer or window?
- Does any outside vegetation block doors or windows from public view? Does the vegetation provide places of concealment at entrances or along walkways?
- Is there adequate lighting at the building entry doors and along walkways? Are the outer doors kept locked at all times?
In your apartment:
- Keep your doors locked at all times, especially when you are alone, sleeping, or the apartment is unoccupied (even if only for a few moments).
- Determine who is on the other side of the door before opening it. Have repair or service personnel show official identification and confirm their presence with the person requesting the service. Delivery persons should remain outside to await the person requesting the delivery.
- If you return home and something looks questionable (e.g., a slit screen, broken window, or open door) do not go inside. Call 911 from a safe location.
- Be sure you have blinds or curtains on your windows to discourage window peepers. Always keep your windows covered at night and leave lights on in two or more rooms.
- Keep an updated inventory of your valuables by writing down the serial number and description of each item. Photographs or video should be taken of all valuables. Keep this information in a safe place.
- Be sure all outdoor lighting fixtures are in working condition. Ask your landlord to make immediate repairs.
- Turn your porch light on every night to make sidewalks more visible for pedestrians.
- Place items of value out of sight and in locked areas. Do not leave valuables unattended in such common areas as laundry rooms and lounges.
- Ask your landlord to maintain and trim shrubbery.
- When you’re on the phone with a stranger, never indicate you are home alone or reveal personal information.
- Consider using an answering machine to screen calls. Use “we” terminology, as in, “We are unable to come to the phone right now. We will return your call…”
- Remove trash, newspapers, and advertisements promptly. Litter implies that the occupant is out of town.
- Collect your mail daily.
- If you have a doorplate, list just your initials to prevent prowlers from determining if the resident is male or female.
- If your landlord allows pets, dogs, even small ones with loud barks, provide some additional home protection.
- Never hide house keys outside your home or loan them to workmen.
Before Leaving for Long Breaks:
- Make sure all windows are secure and have curtains on them.
- Lock sliding doors and place a wooden or metal bar in the track of the doors.
- Unplug all electrical items. Refrigerator and lights with timers can remain plugged in.
- Do not hide spare keys outside.
- Be sure there is good lighting around doors, especially those not visible to passersby.
- Use light photocells or timers that automatically turn on interior and exterior lights at a predetermined time or when there is motion.
- Take valuables with you if possible. Do not leave any valuable items near windows.
- Make sure beds, couches, and other flammable objects are at least two feet away from heat sources.
- If you have a security alarm, make sure you turn it on when leaving.
- Arrange for a trusted neighbor to watch over your house or to store your valuables while you are away.
- Remove all air conditioner units from windows.
- Keep your thermostat set to a temperature no lower than 55° F. You must keep your apartment heated all winter so your pipes will not freeze—even while nobody is living in the house. Frozen pipes cause extensive and expensive damage to a home’s plumbing and heating systems. If you turn off the heat, you could be responsible for repairs!
- Ask the post office to hold your mail until you return from break. Forms are available at www.usps.com. Complete the form and put it in your mailbox.
- Arrange to have a neighbor collect your paper or have the delivery service held. Accumulated papers suggest the tenant is out of town.
On the Street:
- Avoid walking alone when possible.
- Walk facing traffic.
- Use well-lit and well-traveled routes, away from alleys, entries, and bushes. Avoid parks, vacant lots, and other deserted places.
- Walk purposefully, confidently and keep moving. Be aware of your surroundings.
- Always let someone know where you are going and when you will return.
- Dress sensibly. Do not flaunt expensive jewelry.
- Carry only necessary credit cards and cash.
- Carry purses or handbags close to your body.
- When using public pay phones, once you have dialed the number you are calling, turn your back to the phone and speak looking outwards.
- Trust your instincts. If something or someone makes you uneasy, avoid the person or situation and leave as soon as possible.
- Try to use ATM machines during the day. If you have to use an ATM during evening hours, use an ATM machine that is well lit or in an attended gas station or grocery store.
- Always know where you are and where you can find help if needed. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going.
- Keep your head up and do not be afraid to make eye contact with others.
- If you think someone is following, change directions several times. Go to a public place or a police station. Do not go home.
- Stay sober and coherent. Persons under the influence are more likely to be a victim of a serious crime or accident.
In Your Motor Vehicle:
- Turn the ignition off and take your car keys with you, even it you just have to run inside for a minute.
- Be sure to lock your doors and close your windows when exiting your car.
- Avoid parking in isolated areas. Park in well lit areas and near other cars.
- Keep valuables out of sight, preferably locked in the trunk.
- Have your keys ready when you approach your car.
- Lock your car as soon as you get in. Always drive with your car doors locked.
- Keep your car in good running condition. Make sure you have enough gas to get where you are going and back.
- Always inspect your car before entering. As you approach the car from a distance remember to look underneath it in case someone is hiding there. Check the back seat as well.
- Be sure smoke detectors are in proper working condition. Install new batteries at the beginning of each semester.
- Do not overload electrical outlets. If you need to plug multiple appliances into an outlet, use a power strip.
- Put out candles and incense when unattended.
- Extinguish all smoking materials thoroughly.
- Clean up immediately after parties and take all trash outside.
- Don’t leave food unattended on the stove or in the microwave.
- Plan your escape routes in case fire does strike.
- Place grills at least 12 feet from your apartment
- Be aware of your surroundings. Many crimes occur literally “under the nose” of people who just did not notice anything suspicious.
- Safety and security are everyone’s responsibility. You can reduce the possibility of becoming a crime statistic by being alert to your environment.
- Your safety and security ultimately depend on you as an individual for effectiveness and success. You must take responsibility for your own safety.
- Report all crime and any suspicious activity to the Lake County Police Departments (911) or the Purdue University Calumet Police Department (989-2911).
- If you return home and find an open/broken window or door, do not enter! Go elsewhere to call the police. Do not clean a burglary scene before the police arrive.
What Is Suspicious?
Suspicious activity is anything “slightly out of the ordinary” for the area or time of day in which it occurs. According to the Syracuse Police Department, the most obvious things to watch for and report are:
- Strangers entering your neighbor’s apartment.
- Strangers trying doors to see if they are locked.
- Sound of breaking glass or other loud noises.
- Persons carrying bolt cutters and tools – especially near bicycles.
- Persons running – especially if carrying something valuable-could be leaving the scene of a crime.