“If you think living in a multi-storey residential apartments means break-ins aren’t possible, think again!” said Acting Sergeant Danielle Bright in a recent Queensland Police blog.
Thieves can be very opportunistic, often on the lookout for not-quite-shut balcony doors and other access points. And don’t underestimate their determination – or their athleticism. Acting Sergeant Bright reported situations where burglars had climbed several stories, shimmied up drain pipes, and accomplished other physical feats to reach their targets.
Once these people are in one apartment, it can be easier for them to access others, or other parts of your building.
So what can we do about security in residential complexes? How do your keep your home, and your building safe and sound?
In your apartment
- Secure or store furniture that an intruder may use as a ladder, or as a battering ram. The same goes for bins and other similar objects someone may be able to use to access higher levels.
- Intruders can cut or break the surrounding material and unlock the door by hand, so be sure to use your key to lock your security screens and sliding doors before you leave your apartment, or before you go to bed.
- Remove keys once you’ve locked doors and windows.
- Even when you’re home, a cheeky hand can slip in and grab your keys or your wallet from its spot next to the door. Always keep your valuables out of plain view—in a drawer, or on a shelf behind some books. You may even want to consider installing a small personal safe for things like valuable jewellery or documents.
- If you’re going to be spending some time in another part of your apartment, lock the doors in the vacant area. That is, if you’re going to work in your office, or take a nap, and you won’t be moving around your courtyard or balcony, lock any doors before you leave the area. If it looks like you’re not home, and have left the door unlocked, those opportunists might take a chance.
In your building
- Get to know your neighbours, and look out for one another. That doesn’t mean being nosey. It’s just about showing care and concern for others. Are there residents in your building who live alone? Who are elderly but independent? Or who are single parents? Do you regularly see one another around the complex, or in the neighbourhood? If you notice people’s patterns change, check in on them. You may even want to exchange phone numbers with a couple of them in case one of you needs help and can’t leave their current location.
- What’s your building’s security like? Do you have a monitored CCTV (closed circuit television) security system installed? What about access to parking and other common areas? Are they open, or do residents and visitors need a security code or pass?
- Do you have an active Neighbourhood Watch group in your area? These groups often work closely with the local police, and as well as keeping your streets and neighbours safe, can keep you informed of any criminal activities in your area such as a spate of car thefts, or nearby break-ins. This extra intelligence helps you be more aware of what to be on the lookout for, and what extra steps you might need to take to protect your belongings while the police investigate.
- Make sure all doors close properly behind you and don’t prop doors open. If you’ve got a guest staying with you, introduce them to some of your neighbours, so they know who the person is, and who they’re with.
- If there’s someone you don’t recognise, say hello and ask them if they’re new or whom they’re staying with. Challenging someone doesn’t have to be confrontational. If you feel uncomfortable saying anything, simply make a note of the time and the person’s features, and talk to your building manager or another resident about the incident. Often, it turns out to be nothing, but your actions, however small, could be just the information someone may need later on. And you’re still playing your part to keep your building safe.
- It’s not just human incursions that can be a cause for concern. Queensland’s storms are notorious, as is our community’s spirit of coming together to help people whose homes have been affected by the damage they can create. Securing balcony furniture can stop someone using it to break in, and it can also stop it becoming a projectile during storms. And if you can, pitch in with your neighbours to secure any common area furniture when there’s a storm coming.
What do I do if someone has broken in?
If someone has broken in to your apartment, call the police immediately. The officers will tell you what to do next, and may want to inspect the scene and collect any evidence. They can also take a report from you, which you’ll need a copy of as part of any insurance claim you may need to make.
If you discover someone has broken in to a common area, like the garage or elsewhere in the complex, call your building manager straight away. They may ask you to call the police directly and help with reporting the particulars of the incident. The police may wish to take a statement from you as part of their report and further investigations. They will give a copy of the report to the building manager for any insurance claim the body corporate committee may need to lodge.
In her article, Acting Sergeant Bright encouraged people to call Policelink on 131 444 with any information they may have of other incidents they are aware of. You can also call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 if you want to report information anonymously.
No one wants to live in fear, and it’s important we all feel safe in our homes. But as the saying goes “The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance”, and getting into positive habits like we’ve suggested here can help you feel more secure when you’re at home, and when you’re away. You’ll find these habits become second nature in no time, and you and your neighbours will appreciate one another more for sharing these basics of communal living.
The good news is crime rates are always lower in close-knit communities, and there’s something comforting about knowing help is never that far away when you need it. Importantly, remember you don’t need to compromise your privacy to enjoy better security in residential complexes.