Off-Campus Rentals: Staying Safe in a College Town

Bicycle theft near college campusLiving off-campus at college brings many perks: greater freedom, broader housing choices, and possibly even some money-saving, if you play your cards right. But being out from under the university's thumb means that you're also out from under their security, which isn't always a good thing.

Though tragically high-profile stories like 2007's massacre at Virginia Tech may grab the headlines, property crimes are far more common in the neighborhoods surrounding the nation's universities.

In fact, a recent nationwide study of the most dangerous neighborhoods for property crime zeroed in on the University of California, Berkeley's neighbor, Isla Vista, as having the highest property crime rate in the country, with an average of 1,019 crimes reported per 1,000 residents. That's better than 100 percent odds of getting robbed!
The list was so chockablock with university towns that the study's authors released a followup report of the top 15 college crime areas. Even at the bottom of that list, Saint Louis University, you stand a one in three chance of becoming a victim. Why? The article pins the blame on "a young, transient population who are often on their own for the first time, living in close quarters, and not securing their belongings."

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So the bottom line is that whether you're a student or someone taking advantage of the glut of rental options typically found around college towns, you need to take steps to protect your property. Here are some simple tips:

1. Leave a light on to make it look like you're home. If you typically arrive home after dark, consider an inexpensive timer.

2. Keep items out of common spaces like porches and stairwells. Even with a lock, a bike stored outside is just begging to be snatched.

3. Lock doors and windows every time you leave. Every door, every window, every time.

4. Buy personal security gear
if your area allows it. But remember that a simple coach's whistle can be an effective tool, too.

5. Use security floodlights to shed some light on dangerous areas of your property. Check with your landlord to see if he'll install them -- it might get him a break on his insurance.

For more ideas see How Renters Can Protect Against Crime.

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