Cities often get a bad rap for being unsafe places to live. They have denser populations than rural areas, so it’s natural that they tend to have higher crime rates than non-urban locales. However, the truth is that as long as city dwellers take a few necessary security measures to protect their homes and themselves (which you should do no matter where you are!), concrete jungles can be safe places for every member of your family to live, work, and play.

Choose a Secure Residence in a Safe Area

Whether you live in the heart of a major city, the suburbs, or a rural area, the same major principle of real estate applies: location, location, location. Before deciding on which building you’ll move into, do some research on the area’s safety. Look at crime reports and safety ratings on sites like SpotCrime, NeighborhoodScout, AreaVibes, and CityProtect, and check the area for sex offenders using a site like Family Watchdog. Then, visit any areas in person that pass your first round of research. Signs that you’ve found a neighborhood that’s generally a safe place to live include:

  • Attractive, well-kept, occupied buildings
  • Well-lit streets and building exteriors
  • Maintained streets, sidewalks, and other walkways
  • People who are walking around with purpose (on their way to work, school, or a nearby business, for example), not hanging out in front of buildings
  • Leashed pets rather than stray animals

Once you’ve verified the community is a safe one, you’ll be able to choose the apartment, townhome, duplex, or other dwelling you’re going to call home. Ideally, find a building that already has some security measures in place, such as:

  • Security alarms
  • Security cameras
  • Doormen or security guards
  • Front desk concierges
  • Peep holes on resident doors
  • Digital keys that can’t be copied
  • Deadbolts and chain locks on doors
  • Window locks

If you don’t find a place with every security feature you hoped for, don’t worry. There are a lot of things you can do to beef up your security after you move in.

Install a Home Security System

Installing a home security system is one of the most effective ways to protect your family, your home, and your belongings. Working with a professional technician from a reputable company will give you the confidence of knowing that every security measure you need is in place, and you’ll have a point of contact should you have questions or need to make changes to your package.

If you own your property, you can usually install security system hardware inside your home without issue. If you’re renting, talk to your landlord about having a system installed; they may give you permission to put one in, or they may do it on their own because they see it as an opportunity to protect or add value to their investment. Wireless home security systems are especially good options for renters, because they can almost always be added as nonpermanent fixtures in the home, meaning they won’t cause damage to the property (and you won’t risk losing your security deposit). 

Whether you rent or own your space, be sure to talk to the appropriate authorities in your building. Even if you’re adding a system that doesn’t require installing permanent fixtures, there may be restrictions on using security cameras near public spaces. Plus, alarms can be a noisy nuisance, and most of the top-rated models on the market contact the police if they detect an intruder or another safety threat, like a fire. Even though a home security system will ultimately help keep you and your neighbors safe, they can be disruptive, so it’s important to let your board members or management office know if you plan to install one so you don’t encounter any problems.

Add DIY Security Measures

If you want to add some additional features to complement your home security system or if installing one isn’t an option, there are several high- and low-tech DIY options you can install. After getting approval from building management, try adding:

  • Ample lighting at the entrance of your home; if there aren’t overhead fixtures illuminating your door, motion-sensored lighting is a good option
  • A video doorbell
  • Wireless cameras that film every major interior space in your home as well as outdoor areas (as allowed)
  • Door and window alarms that sound when opened; prioritize access points like balconies, fire escapes, and ground-floor windows
  • A nighttime door stop alarm, which helps prevent doors from being opened and has an alarm that goes off when someone tries to enter
  • Film to window panes, which makes glass more difficult to break and reduces visibility
  • Curtains, blinds, or shades to windows, especially if you live on a low building level
  • A dowel to sliding glass door tracks that lead outside
  • Security system signs to your windows and exterior doors, even if you don’t have one

Also be sure to put these safety-focused best practices into action:

  • Upgrade your locks. If you own your home, change the locks as soon as you move in (assuming your building allows you to). You should also think about adding a chain lock, barrel bolt, or electronic lock to your main entrance if you don’t have one already.
  • Get to know your neighbors. Having a network that looks out for one another’s property is a great way to be alert to unusual activity and can keep your home safe while you’re on vacation or just at work for the day.
  • Don’t put your address or your unit number on your keys or keychain.
  • Don’t leave spare keys out for others. If you need to get a key to a visitor, speak to your concierge (or your property management office if your building doesn’t have a welcome desk) about how to pass a spare key along to your guest (and only your guest).
  • Keep valuables out of sight. Don’t leave your laptop sitting in front of the window, don’t let your big screen TV be the first thing visitors (such as delivery people) see when you open the door, and always keep your blinds or curtains closed when you’re gone.
  • Hide small valuables. Investing in a heavy safe that’s difficult to move will give you a secure place to store jewelry, important documents, and cash.
  • Use an app for emergencies. Many home security systems come with apps for mobile phones and tablets that include a panic button feature, which you can press if you need immediate help. If you don’t already have one, you should consider getting a standalone app that you can use any time you’re entering or leaving your home, such as bSafe or Watch Over Me.
  • Get insurance. Having it won’t prevent a break-in, but it will help protect you from monetary loss should one occur. Plus, having a home security system lowers the cost of insurance for both owners and renters.

Movies often portray big cities as areas that need protection from superheroes, but you can be your own savior by keeping your loved ones, property, and belongings safe by taking home security seriously. Be wise about where you live, install a home security system, and take a few other home-safety steps so you get the most out of city living.