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Apartment Building Security

copyright August 19, 2001, Robert Levitt


We are our "brothers keepers". If we don't look out for others, who will look out for us?

This is especially true when it comes to crime, whether it be potential assaults or property crimes (theft or vandalism).

Know who your neighbours are and they should know you. Not only does it make for a better community, but it is also better security to know who should be on the premises.

Each of us can do our bit to prevent crime before it happens by being alert and following the following suggestions throughout your building. Learn these tips, make them part of your everyday habits and teach them to your children.


CRIME PREVENTION IS EVERYONE'S RESPONSIBILITY


Building Entry

Suspicious or unknown people trying to get into the building should be referred to the building superintendent, management or security. If you do not want to talk to them, then let the building superintendent, management or security know about these people immediately.

NEVER allow strangers to enter the building as you are leaving or entering any apartment building. Be aware of anybody hanging around the door who looks disinterested but makes a dash to hold open the door after it has been unlocked. Make sure all outer doors are kept locked at all times.

DO NOT buzz anyone you don't know into the building. Criminals have been known to randomly buzz people's aparments saying it is a pizza delivery and another tenant is not answering so can you please let them in.

List only your first initial along with your last name in the lobby tenant directory.

Do not let canvassers into your building. They do not have the right to be in the building unless they are there for government elections, or for organizing tenants into a tenants' association, where under the applicable laws, these people do have a right to be in the building.


Doors

If your apartment door does not have a "peephole", have one added.

Criminals, or people you just don't want to bother you, can use the peephole in reverse. They can look in from the outside to see if the light coming through is changing and (if the quality of the image is good enough even if it is very small,) if it appears someone is walking across the room, to indicate someone is in the apartment even if you are not answering. The solution to this is very simple. Take a small flap of leather, plastic or other opaque material, and affix it on the inside of your door above the peephole with a small short screw or even a thumbtack so that it covers the peephole. I used a piece of a new plastic watch strap that I replaced on a friends watch for the job. That way nobody on the outside will ever see any light coming through it; It will always be dark. When there is somebody knocking at your door and you want to look out, wait until your face is close to the door (to block the light) then rotate the flap out of the way to look out, and when you are finished before moving away from the door, rotate the flap back; All the person on the outside will see is darkness through the peephole and will not know you just checked out that they were there.

Ensure that a new lock has been installed when you move into an apartment so that a former tenant can not gain entry.

Replace the entry lock from the common hallway into your apartment if it is one where the keyhole is in the center of the door knob. These can be easily defeated. Replace them with deadbolt locks (preferable with minimum one-inch/25mm long bolts). Deadbolt locks are ones with rectangular bolts that go into the door frame when locked.

"Jimmy plates" are a scam. These are pieces of metal which fraud artists claim will prevent criminals from sticking in a credit card between your door and frame to enter your apartment. This can not be done to a rectangular deadbolt. These "installers" are the criminals. They often claim they have been sent by the landlord, but want to charge you $10 to $20 for the installation. (Think about it. If they can get 200 tenants in a building to pay them $10 each for installing 10 cents worth of useless metal, they can make almost $2000 off of just one building.) Jimmy plates are useless. Immediately, call your building superintendent, security or management about these intruders. If your superintedent says these people can do what they want, then it is very possible the superintendent let these people into the building in return for some cash - so you should immediately call the police (at their general number) to let them know these people are commiting a fraud in your building at that moment, and inform the building owners of these activities.

Legitimate locksmiths can do things to improve the security of your doors. When installing improved locks, they can securely install metal sheeting that wraps around the front, side and back of the door, with a hole where the lock goes through. These plates are meant to reinforce wooden doors around the lock. If you have a metal frame for your door it is unlikely you need anything to improve it. If you have a wooden door frame, a locksmith can examine it to make sure it is solid and tight fitting, and if not, they can remove the wood moulding to add extra wood inside the frame, and then attach the strike plate (the metal plate added to wooden door frames where the dead bolt goes through when locked) with extra long screws (2.5 inch/6cm,) before putting back the mouldings. Of course the locksmith may change the lock or add a second one with a higher security lock.

If you lose your keys, you should replace your lock.

You may want to install an alarm system in your apartment.


Windows and sliding doors

You may like to keep your windows and sliding door open. Criminals also like you to do this, especially if you are in a basement, first floor or a second floor apartment.<.o<

You can limit how much your windows (for ones that slide sideways,) and sliding doors open, to an amount less than a person can fit through, by putting a piece of broomstick or other object of similar size, cut to the right length, into the sliding track. For older upwardly sliding windows in wooden frames, you can drive a large nail into the frame at a level above the window to limit its travel to just enough of a crack to let in the air, then remove the nail and then push it back into the hole that remains (you don't want this to be permanent in case of a fire where you may need to get out of the window yourself).


Elevators

Look to see who is in the elevator before entering.

DO NOT enter the elevator if you do not feel comfortable; Wait for the next one.

When in the elevator stand beside the control panel and know where the emergency alarm button is.

If a suspicious person enters the elevator, exit before the door closes.


Parking garages

If your underground parking garage is too dark, contact your municipal (city) building inspector, as most cities have building standards as to the minimum brightness of underground garages.

ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings.

If there are suspicious characters in the garage that arouse your concern, go back. If you are entering the garage from the apartment, go back quickly into the building and lock the door behind you, and if you are coming into the garage with your car drive your vehicle out of the garage. In both cases let the superintendent, building management or security know about it immediately.

Do not loiter in the garage. When going to your car, have your keys ready in your hand with the correct key next to your index finger, which will enable you to enter your vehicle quickly, plus keys can be used as a weapon to poke an attacker in the face with to defend yourself if necessary. When leaving your car, do the same.

Always check the inside of your vehicle through the car window before entering.

Always leave your automobile locked, and remove any valuables.


The Telephone

Tell you children not to let callers know if they are home alone, unless they are the ones making a call and it is to the Police, Fire Department or 911.

Don't have a message on your telephone answering machine that lets callers know no one is at home, that there is only one person living there, or that you are on holidays. Instead say that "we are "presently not available to come to the phone"; That way a caller will not know that you live alone or that you are out, only that you and others may be busy with something else but may be there. If you are going away on holidays, you will have to let friends and family know that you are away, so they do not keep calling the answering machine.


Going on vacation

Inform a trustworthy neighbour of when you are leaving and when you will be back. Have them pick up any items such as junkmail left outside of your door or in your mailbox, so there will be no visible sign left for ciminals to know you are away.

Cancel all deliveries for that period: things like the newspaper.

Use timers to turn on and off lights and/or radios at various times to disguise your absence.

DO NOT leave a note to inform people that you are not home.


Crimes

IF YOU SEE A CRIME BEING COMMITTED, IMMEDIATELY CALL THE POLICE!

If you see one or more strangers removing items out of a neighbour's apartment without the neighbour being present CALL 911. That is the advice of the Toronto Police Services.

When you arrive home, if you believe a crime may have occured, do not enter. The criminal(s) may still be in the apartment. Use a neighbour's telephone and call the police.

If a crime has occured, also use a cell phone or a neighbour's telephone to call the police. DO NOT touch anything or clean up until the police have inspected the apartment or vehicle for evidence.

Write down the descriptions of any suspicious people and the licence number of any suspicous vehicles.

You should also keep a list of all your valuables in case a crime ever does occur.


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