I Got Robbed -- Here Are 5 Precautions I Should Have Taken (And That You Still Can!)
Last December, I was robbed. They took the Apple products and fistfuls of costume jewelry, of course. Then they took my grandmother's engagement ring, my great-grandmother's wedding ring, and my sense of safety in my own apartment. Those last three are impossible to replace.
In case they hadn't demolished my emotions enough, they left my door open and my cat got out. Spolier: She didn't get out of the building, and is currently purring on my lap. Still. Kick in my door, take my stuff, and place my cat in harm's way? I wish you dead. I wish you dead right now.
I was being an idiot. I consider this burglary my fault. The only way I'm ever going to feel better about it is if I can prevent others from being idiots, too. You're going to read this post and it's going to sound insane, paranoid, and silly. You won't be rolling your eyes at me when you walk in to find the contents of your bedroom spilled out across your bed with a knife -- A KNIFE -- sitting on your pillow.
Disclaimer: I live in a building with no doorman, and only one key necessary to enter the building. It's really, REALLY easy for someone to get in. I can't change that, so I've changed how hard it is to get into my apartment. I used to think that my 4th floor quiet apartment in my quiet building on my quiet street was totally anonymous and insignificant, and I liked it that way. But someone saw my quiet nothingness, my anonymity, and my comfort as the perfect way to make (a lot of) quick cash. Everything I'm talking about sounds like common sense. But that common sense is only beneficial if you TAKE ACTION. Don't just agree with these safety measures. USE THEM.
1. Lock it up
My door had one (heavy) lock. It was kicked in within seconds. Now my door has three. "Oh but I have a deadbolt, I'm fine." You are so not fine. According to the (amazing, helpful, kind) police officers* I met that day, your door should have multiple locks, spaced evenly along the door frame: one high, one in the middle, and one low.
If your door frame is splintered, cracked, old, or damaged, ask your landlord to replace it. The frame is what holds the door in. If the frame can go easily, so can your door, regardless of what locks you have. Go outside and lock your door, then try to turn the knob and shake the door a little. If it moves at ALL, that's like an invitation for thieves to give your door a try. Locks are cheap. Calling a Task Rabbit to install them is cheap. Losing your sense of safety is expensive.
2. Hide Your Stuff
I will never forgive myself for this one. I hid my priceless rings inside two (separate) boxes hidden within other boxes at the bottom of what looked like useless crap. I didn't hide them well enough. Get Sherlock Holmesian with this. Carve out the insides of a book. Stuff things in an empty Pringles can or cereal box. Wrap them like steak and hide them in the freezer. Misdirection! The pearls they miraculously didn't thieve from me are currently hidden in the most random of objects, my too-late attempt at protecting my valuables.
While I'm at it, I know you use your laptop every day. Netflix isn't going to watch itself. When you leave the house, please hide your laptop. Under a table leaf, behind a bookshelf, behind a vanity mirror, anywhere. If you leave it sitting on your kitchen table, guess what's getting stolen first? Oh, and they'll take the charger, too.
If you rely on prescription drugs for an illness or condition, do not keep them in your bathroom. Your bathroom will get ransacked for pills. Either keep these on you at all times, or hide them the same way you'd hide an expensive heirloom.
These are points of entry too! If you have a gate or bars on your windows, good job! Make sure people can't easily get in, but that you can get easily out in case of a fire. Worried? Confused? You can ask the police about the best kinds of window bars for preventing theft. There are non-emergency helplines in every city. If you're in NYC like me, it's 311.
Another window option, and this one really pertains to when you're home, rather than away: Battery-powered alarm systems specifically for apartment windows. When they sense movement, they go off. You'll need to manually shut them off, which is why you probably don't want them on when you're three trains away at work. Also, I don't use these because I'm worried my windowsill-loving cat will set them off all night and scare the piss out of me.
4. Extreme Measures
This is where I will start to sound a little crazy. Laugh all you want ladies, but I sleep just fine at night.
1) Alarm Systems: They're expensive, they have to be installed, and they usually have monthly bills along with them, but they're an option. I do not have one, but if I could afford one, I would. Cheaper option? Put an alarm system STICKER outside your front door. It may make burglars think twice.
2) Bars. There are security bars you can purchase that fit inside your door frame and add an extra layer of anti-kick-in security to your door when you're at home. If they get a lock open, they won't get this thing open. I'd buy two if I were you, one for the middle of the door, and one for slightly higher.
3) Mace. If you've read my xoJane work before, you know I'm a huge proponent of non-lethal personal safety devices. I HIGHLY recommend taking a training course before relying on anything like mace, tasers, etc. I sleep with mace in my nightstand.
4) Extra door locks, window locks, etc. You can never have too many. Your super might think you're crazy, but I won't.
5) A safe. If I'd had a safe in my apartment, maybe the burglar would never have stolen my things. Or maybe if he'd tried to knife it open, someone would have walked by and seen the situation and he'd have run off. Who knows. Every police officer I've spoken to recommended one, and uses one.
Again, if you've read my work before, you know about Clementine. If ever a woman loved her cat, it's me. And that cat was HOME when someone came into my apartment, ransacked it, and then left the front door open. Clem made it to the 2nd floor (I'm on the 4th) before someone spotted her and tried to catch her. She bolted back home. Good girl. One more floor and she could have been on the street. This is where I start crying and change the subject.
If you know your neighbors, let them know to please scoop up your pet if they ever see it wandering about the building. Give them your cell number to call if your pet gets out. Don't know your neighbors? Put up a flyer in the mail room. "This is my cat. I live in #11. If my cat gets out, please hold onto her for dear life and call this number." I don't really believe in electric fences, so this is the only other option I've got. And yes, obviously microchip your pet, but this is for closer-to-home incidents.
In conclusion, don't be an idiot. I was an idiot. I didn't have a single one of these totally easy, totally logical methods in place the day I was robbed, and I was robbed. Please don't wait until you get robbed to take some action. Please.
*I would like to dedicate this post to the NYPD, who sent no fewer than eight (EIGHT!) officers, detectives, and evidence collectors to my home the day I was robbed. I felt like they took the situation seriously, and they came by to check up on me a week later. They were empathetic, offered helpful advice, and made me feel like my little incident mattered. I am very appreciative.