Starting out in new apartment after living at home ...need advice

nctrnlAugust 16, 2005

Let me explain my background & situation a bit.

I am 32 yr old male, single & finally moving out from home to an apartment. I have lived at home since i was very young. Since I started working I have had to help support my elderly parents & their moving out was never really an option since my parents depended on me & my income.

The situation has changed as of late & am able to move out & not have to worry about supporting my parents anymore.

I have found a small studio apartment in town where it is considered "THE place to live" for the more affluent. It is a nice city/town with little crime. It is basically a town that consists of suburbs. I found a simple studio apartment which basically consists of a single avserage sized bedroom, a average sized kitchen & a long hallway that ends in a small bathroom. The apartment is in a medium sized house that has ben converted into 3 apartments i think. I have my own private entrance (a porch), an uncovered parking spot just outside the bedroom window, central air, furnished kitchen (fridge,microwave,oven & stove). The rent is $350 a month which is considered pretty cheap considering the cheapest 1 bedroom apartments in this town/city are near $525 & are VERY hard to find. Most apartments are in the $700 & up range.

The area where this house is in is near the old part of town with fancy shops .... its what i would call a "snooty area" filled with cafes & shops selling overpriced goods to people who can easy afford them. House prices in this town/are expensive & overpriced because this town is where affluent people, who want to escape the "BIG" city, go. The area is a mix of medium to large old homes. The house itself must be at least 80 yrs old, but in decent shape.

My only REAL concern (actually I would call it an all-consuming obsessive worry) is getting my place broken into while I am at work. I work nights (9pm-5am) in the "BIG" city about 30 miles away. I do plan on keeping most of my small valuables & personal papers/checks in a safe deposit box at my bank.

The 2 doors to the place I do not consider "kick-in" proof & am thinking about installing heavy duty metal doors & possibly reinforced doorjams(if the landlord will allow it). I am also considering installing an alarm system myself. A cheap X-10 alarm system that calls my cellphone & local police when activated) with contact switches on all doors/windows & several sirens with flashing lights. I will also have to get an alarm for my vehicle as well.

I would like to think i am covering all my bases, but am not sure.

Any advice you long-time apartment-dwellers could give to a first time apartment renter on ANY subject would be greatly appreciated.

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well, having lived in an apt. in NYC, and had it broken into, I'll say this:

it's not as bad as you think.

For one thing, it depends on how much you have, and whether it's worth stealing. My roommate and I had small amounts of cash around (they took her $10 roll of quarters), plus some electronics. They didn't want to stop long enough to unplug everything. Cops in my highly Hispanic neighborhood said the thieves were looking for cash (since many of my neighbors keep a sizable amount at home instead of in the bank) or gold.

Sometimes they do try to take VCRs, CD players, electronics they could stick in a shopping bag or duffel and carry off inconspicuously.

of course, in your quiet building, maybe they will TAKE the time to unplug the electronics, but..

I think you'd be better off dealing w/ the securing of your STUFF in the apartment, than in investing $$$ in perimeter reinforcement for an apartment you don't own.

What do you have that's really worth $$ to a thief? And then, how can you secure it?

Electronics: There used to be pads and tethers you could attach to stuff like TVs and stereos, so that if they were removed by a thief, they'd never work again (and they came w/ stickers that it was hoped would deter the thief from testing it out). (also note that many electronics stuff is really not that expensive, comparatively, so there ain't much of a market--and the days of crackheads who'd be happy w/ $10 for their next hit have sort of faded in most places)

Will you keep much in the apt. in the way of cash, gold watch, stocks and bonds, etc? Get one of those Sentry fire safes, and screw it to the floor of the closet, then pile the clothes on top of it, and take the key with you--don't leave it around in the house where it's findable. (when you screw those things in place, you can't unscrew them until you unlock it; or you'd need one HELL of a pry bar!) I'd do that before I'd pay for a safety-deposit box, frankly. Bcs then you could get to that cash, papers, etc., should you need them. And most thieves don't care about stocks & bonds.

Seriously, what papers do you have that a thief would care about? If you're worried he'll get your credit card number from your billing paperwork, get a two-drawer fling cabinet that locks, and get in the habit of locking it (and carrying the key in your wallet). Bearer bonds--but nobody should keep those at home anyway. Savings bonds--too much work for most thieves, and he'd need an ID to cash 'em anyway.

So if someone did break in, what would/could they take? For me, it was nearly nothing. The worst part was the damage to the door jamb.

Remember that, even though YOU are away at night, your neighbors are not. In fact, they're inside that same house with you, and if someone tries to kick your door down while you're away, they'll hear it!! It's probably a window thief or a lock picker that you need to worry about.

For that, try these ideas:

*fire escape gate on the window ($500 when I bought mine; you do need the landlord's approval bcs it srews into the window-frame studs)

*Medeco-brand lock cylinder--unpickable enough for most purposes

And just in case someone DOES try to kick in the door, you only need a reinforced lock inside the apartment itself.

In my city, we called them "police locks"--the style popular when I rented an apt. was essentially a bar that goes into a metal "cup" fitting set into the floor (you'll need landlord permission to gouge out a hole to sink the cup into the floor). Then the key slides the 45-degree-angle bar from one side to the other, and on one side, it can slide up, and the other it cant (locked)/.
I tried to find a picture but couldnÂt.

ThereÂs another style of police lock in which bars go from side to side; this might be more acceptable for your landlord. Because instead of digging into the floor, youÂll drill deep into the doorway studs (through the decorative molding) to install the brackets on the side. Doorway molding is easier to replace, and in fact he may require you to leave the lock in place when you move, which might be an advantage to him (except, of course, that the mere presence of the lock will make a future tenant think the place is unsafe).

I donÂt think you should spend so much $$ buying such permanent stuff for a place you donÂt own. Granted, w/ that low a rent, you may stay there for a long time, long enough to justify spending it. But your landlord may not allow you to mess w/ stuff. If he does, it will be almost guaranteed that he will require you to leave it when you move out.

I wonder if youÂd be better off finding a way to assuage your fear; especially if itÂs really nagging at you. After all, you called it "an all-consuming obsessive worry."

That sounds like something rooted in fear, and not necessarily in evidence. So, gather some evidence.

Not that you should be stupid and never lock your doors, or live w/ crummy locks and a flimsy door. But there are lots of other people that burglars are more likely to hit (figuring that the other victims will have more valuable stuff than a guy who can only afford to rent an apartment in an old house). And, nowadays, burglars are MUCH more likely to work during the day, when most people are at work.

You say this is a low-crime areaÂnice, w/ lots of people paying sort of high rents, chi-chi stores, etc. If thatÂs true, then you donÂt live among lots of people who are wandering around at 3am doing drugs and getting into trouble; not w/ that rent level (of course, there are bozos in every financial level). Anybody specifically targeting the neighborhood wonÂt bother w/ youÂtheyÂll aim for folks w/ more.

Maybe you should take some daytime hours (lucky youÂIÂd have to take a day off) and go to the police precinct house, and ask to speak to the Public Affairs officer. Ask him to show you the crime statistics, and focus specifically on what happens in your neighborhood after 5pm. What sorts of crimes are being reported? I bet youÂll find itÂs almost no middle-of-the-night break-ins. And when break-ins are reported, what is stolen? What do thieves in your neighborhood look for? How much damage might they do if they *do* get in.

How many other homes or apartments in your area have security systems? If most of them don't have them, it's probably because they're not really necessary.

(auto alarms: As someone who lives in an apartment bldg in a densely populated area, may I plead: do NOT get a car alarm! Get an ignition cut-off instead--the car-insurance benefits will be the same. But I'm telling you, the ONLY thing car alarms do is annoy the heck out of the neighbors. Nobody looks to see whose car is being broken into--they all assume it's a malfunction. And nobody wants to argue with or fight a car thief anyway, so they're not going to interrupt them)

(also, as for the home alarm, you do NOT want to have one of those go off and make all sorts of alarms and flashing lights.)

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 3:19PM
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Thanks for the response tally sue.

First off... I have worked in the security field since i was 21 (YEP!... THAT's where that irrational fear comes from) and have seen many break-ins & KNOW that people/thieves in general will steal literally anything .... doesnt matter if it is worth next to nothing... they will steal it. I kid you not it is truely bizarre what work some thieves will go thru to steal the most worthless of things.

My hobby is metal detecting & most of what I have found over the years are old coins (silver & otherwise) , gold & silver jewelry (with diamonds), & a lot of modern coinage. All of that & papers/checks/personal info is what I plan on keeping in a safe deposit box. I know several people who had their extra boxes/books of blank checks stolen in bugularies & it has made their lives miserable trying to clean up their reputation & credit after the thieves go hog wild all over town using said checks. Then there is identity theft that is rampant across the nation (even though most info is obtained in other ways besides burglaries).

The car alarm is to alert ME (not the neighbors) when I am sleeping during the day or sleeping at night on my nights off. Jeep wranglers are notorious for being easily broken into. Jeep harddoors are easy to remove and sell & are VERY expensive. Then there is my car stereo, cd changer, amps, etc. etc.

The 2 exterior house doors I was referring to in my original post are truely pathetic when it comes to being secure. They look like they are at least 30 years old if not older, one has many glass windows in it(very easy to break & unlock). I could probably kick open either door on the first try. I have thought about those side to side locking bars (I have seen those in new york apartments in movies ), but the doors just dont look sturdy enough to hold up to any abuse.... lock or no lock.

I am also not really concerned about annoying the neighbors with an extremely loud house alarm with strobe lights.... if a thief breaks in & sets off the alarm.... the thief will leave in a hurry & take little if nothing at all. If the neighbors get woken up every time a thief attempts to break in.... then i am not too worried about annoying the neighbors. I dont plan on having any false alarms unless the landlord comes snooping while i am away. The alarm can be deactivated before even entering the home. The alarm calls my cellphone & the local police when activated which would allow me to immediately come home. I On the way home i would be alerting police to the burglary & that I will be arriving on the scene shortly. I have used similar devices in my job & they work extremely well alerting you within about 30 seconds of being activated (and allowing you to listen in to hear any burglars).

Now I HAVE thought about buying a jobsite box (the kind used to lock up tools & expensive power equipment at construction sites) to keep all the small to medium things I have lying around that I dont use much that ARE valuable (extra metal detectors, power tools,firearms,etc,etc). A jobsite box is a big heavy metal box/chest with recessed spots for padlocks (padlocks cant be cut off of it).... they are pretty hard & time consuming to break into. I figure it would be a better purchase ,cheaper & have more room than the average BIG firearm safe. It wouldnt protect things from fire, but would be VERY hard for a thief to get into.
I dont keep a lot of cash laying about, but i DO have firearms & Small electronics.

I just want to prevent a thief breaking into my new place.... or at the very least minimize the damage & things taken. That is my main concern.

You have to understand.... I am the type of person who does not like to take chances.... it doesnt matter if it is unlikely that my new place will get broken into... it is still possible. I like to cover my bases.

BTW ... about having the daytime off.... I usually spend most of that time trying to get enough sleep so I can stay awake at work & keep from falling asleep at the wheel on the way to & from work. ;) It isnt all sunshine & roses. Imagine having to get up at 2 am to go to a doctor/dentist appointment or taking your car to a mechanic.... doing so really just thows one's sleep schedule off for at least a week. Yhat's pretty much what I have to do & it isnt fun.

again Thanks for your lengthy response.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2005 at 8:41PM
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kinda like Donald Trump asking my advice on real estate development, from the sound of it-

I take the opposite approach you do-

I leave my windows down in my car (my plain-jane, 12 year old station wagon with the ratty seats and the stock radio)

my front door is made largely out of GLASS (original to the 100 year old house)

my bicycle is kept, unlocked, in a shed in the back yard, with a door with no handle, much less a lock.

this is on the wrong side of the railroad tracks within walking distance of Trenton, NJ, a place with a deservedly bad reputation for crime and violence.

before this, I lived off MLK Blvd in Oakland, CA, and my sole concession to security was to plant poison ivy at the base of the porch columns, since some of the kids were climbing up to sit on the roof, and I wanted to keep a garden up there (ok, I wanted to grow medicinal herbs on the roof, behind a screen of other plants ;)

most smash and grab crimes I've ever heard of personally were committed by people's children, or ex-friends, or some other person who was invited into the house at some point. most people do NOT want to admit that their kid sold their DVD player for drugs- certainly not to the security expert, or the insurance company.

one neighbor insists there is a crime problem on our street, and cites 'those kids who got their bikes stolen'...not knowing, or not caring, that the kids in question were stealing the same two bikes back and forth as part of a clique conflict.

but I can see where your profession would tend to make you more nervous about crime than most- but there are only two proven deterents- one is camoflague, the simple ability to be un-noticed by predators.

the other is poison ivy. no one in their right mind try breaking in through a window draped in poison ivy ;)

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 2:19PM
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Do your research and actually go to the local police department and ask them how safe the area is. They keep records of all the crimes and mishaps in each area. Don't phone - actually go to the police.

In some cities the police and fire department will actually come to your place and check how safe the doors are and stuff like that.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 10:56PM
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