Security Tips for City Dwellers | Lauren Beckerle

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city-ins.jpg1. Purchase homeowner's or renter's insurance.







Due to a recent burglary (as in every apartment in my building), I've been in PSA mode. Fortunately, the most violent act committed was toward our former doors. All of this happened in broad daylight during a variable two-hour period when nobody was home. None of us have big parties or invite strangers into the building (minus service professionals); nevertheless, the police claimed it was probably someone from the inside. The neighborhood is (was) pretty safe, catapulting the realization that a worsening economy is creating serious desperation.

Aside from checkbooks, DVD players, a PC and a new ceramic space heater, quirkier theft choices include: laundry detergent, a keepsake bag with a few puppy baby teeth, Buffy seasons one through seven, ten Crest Whitening Strips, the two-disc English Patient set, and a small oriental area rug that really tied the family room together. Interesting loot taken from neighbors include chick flicks, used makeup and clothing. Surmise what you will about this special breed of street scum. What's important is that St. Louis city dwellers build their fences during economic meltdowns. There's no such thing as robbery prevention, but you can insure possessions and make the break-in process as difficult, annoying and confusing as possible. Here are some obvious and creative tips for protecting yourself against nonviolent theft:

1. Purchase homeowner's or renter's insurance (sometimes, the latter can be bundled with car insurance). This is a necessity and also covers fire and water damage. Each time you make a major purchase, send a copy of the receipt to your agent.

2. Record manufacturer numbers from all electronic equipment, as well as computer IP addresses. Keep this information in a secure and separate location.

3. There are a few options when hiding small and valuable objects. Bank safety deposit boxes are inconvenient, but reliable (since the portable versions are obvious and easy to break). Diversion safes are also a decent tactic. Here are some examples. Note the more creative and discreet items. Avoid using anything remotely desirable, such as fake snack food or car product containers.

4. Eat lunch at home every now and then. Burglars thrive on routine and will usually stake out a location. Unpredictability puts them off.

5. Give spare apartment/home/car keys to relatives or close friends who live elsewhere. It's convenient to keep these with neighbors, but multiple robberies are common.

6. Back-up PC/Mac info onto a USB or external drive. Both items attract theft, so keep yours in a safe and separate location.

7. Set up password-protected user accounts on your computer. It makes it harder for a thief (or anyone down the chain) to access files and attempt identity theft.

8. Purchase identity theft protection from one of the three major credit bureaus. It's worth it.

9. Keep financial records, extra checkbooks, passports, birth certificates and other important documentation in an unusual place. Diversion safes are one option. Small suitcase pockets or large books may work, as well.

10. Security systems are always a good thing. However, noisemakers without surveillance may prove useless (unless you have homebound noise-sensitive neighbors). Most passerbys will dismiss it as a dysfunctional alarm. Less expensive faux surveillance systems are also available.

11. Large parties bring security risks (unless you know all attendees reasonably well). This is a common way for strangers to get the lay of your land. Don't become reclusive, but realize that friends of friends are sometimes unfriendly.

Note: If you have a bad memory, record where you put certain items. Email the info to yourself, a close friend or a relative.

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