Dorm living security hacks
May 5, 2021
While your college dorm should be a safe place where you can grow and pursue your studies with total peace of mind, unfortunately this isn’t always the fact of the matter. College crimes are a very real presence in dorms and students need to be both alert and prepared in order to not become a victim. In the article below we focus on the most prevalent form of college crime burglary and theft, and look at some ways that it can be prevented.
How common is dorm theft?
A study by the National Centre for Education Statistics shows that burglary or theft is the single most common form of crime accounting for 38% of crimes committed on college campuses. Of these, the vast majority of theft will occur in dorm rooms or residence halls. Before we look at how you can keep your dorm room safe with some security hacks, let’s take a look at why dorm rooms make such popular targets.
Dorm theft security statistics
While the study referenced above puts the number of reported burglaries on campus at over 11 000 per year, the truth is that the number may be higher with some degree of theft going unreported. It is important to remember that a lot of theft is opportunistic and dorm rooms provide a very fruitful location for these types of opportunities to arise. They provide public spaces, easy access, anonymity and often have lax security as a result.
Dorm security isn’t just about protecting your belongings. Another statistic from the NCES study is that sexual offences are the second most common form of on-campus crime with 34% of crimes reported relating to sexual assaults and similar crimes. Having a more secure dormitory doesn’t just keep your possessions safe it also keeps you safe.
Robberies are a distinct form of theft separate to burglaries and involve taking something from someone through force or threat of force. Surprisingly, the same NCES study indicates that campuses have a very low rate of robbery with these types of crimes accounting for only 0.7% of reported crimes.
Vehicle theft accounts for a surprisingly high percentage of reported campus crime with 12% or about 3500 cases per year. Some of this theft may include joyriding rather than theft by syndicates, but the statistic is still quite high.
Top items stolen from dorms in the USA
The items favoured by dorm thieves are no different from things that thieves in the real world will take from a home. These types of criminals like lightweight, portable and high value items. Knowing what items may tempt an opportunistic thief or burglar and securing these items out of sight can go a long way towards reducing your vulnerability to dormitory theft.
Electronics tick a lot of boxes for would be thieves, they are easy to conceal and carry, and can be very valuable. A lot of college students will leave electronic devices unattended in public spaces thinking that they are secure.
Ok, this one is pretty specific to campus, but as you probably know textbooks can be very expensive. They are also something that may be left on a table in a public space, but provide an easy target for thieves whether they are outsiders or other students. A security guard will also not suspect a young person walking around college with a textbook under their arm.
Leaving your wallet or purse unattended or out in the open, whether it is in a study hall, a canteen or in the dorm itself, is never a good idea. Not only will you lose out on the contents of the wallet, but losing your bank cards, student identification and available cash can cause a heap of admin that few students have time for.
It goes without saying that valuable jewelry items should be stored out of sight and preferably locked away, but college thieves have also been known to steal clothing from dorms. It is important to not leave clothing in bags that can be easily carried away or lying around the dorm room where it can be snapped up by a passerby.
How to prevent dorm theft
So now that we know how dorm thieves think and what they are looking for, let’s take a look at some of the measures you can take to make your dorm room just that little bit safer.
Dormitories provide a lot of opportunities for easy access with strangers coming and going. Whether you are in a public space or in your dorm room, always keep your belongings with you and be aware of who is around you and anyone acting suspiciously. Getting to know the other people you share a dorm with is a great way to know who should be there and who shouldn’t.
Keep valuables out of sight
As we mentioned earlier, a lot of dormitory theft is opportunistic, so one of the best things you can do is to remove the temptation. If there is nothing of value in plain sight then there is less reason for a person with bad intentions to enter your dorm room.
Check in with neighbors
Neighbors can be a great support system and a way to help keep your space secure. If you foster good relationships with your neighbors they can help keep an eye on your space and vice versa, and spot any suspicious activity if you aren’t around.
Use secure passwords
When it comes to securing your digital life ensure that you follow best practices when it comes to digital security. All your electronic devices should have strong passwords to prevent access to your personal information and if your device supports it location tracking security features should be activated.
Ways to enforce dorm security
When it comes to adding more security to your dorm room your options may be limited. Because the dorm is owned by the university you won’t be allowed to make any structural changes or renovations that permanently alter the state of the room. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t measures you can take which will still be in line with the dorm’s rules.
Get a safe
Whether it is a safe mounted on the wall or in a cupboard, a safe provides a secure space for you to keep your most valuable items. This is the ideal place for you to store jewelry, your passport, or any cash you may have in your dorm.
Add locks to your cupboards
For less valuable items a cupboard provides secure storage as long as it is fitted with a lock. While a burglar will often be able to force a cupboard lock open they will generally look for easy targets and a room with locked cupboards makes it just that little bit harder for them to get to your things.
Install adjustable window locks
One of the biggest issues with securing dorm rooms is the lack of ventilation and airflow. These types of rooms often only have a single window and door so it can be hard to get enough fresh air when the windows are closed. This is where lockable window latches such as LockLatch or MiniLatch really come in handy. These devices can be fitted onto any type of window or door and allow the opening to be locked open. This is a great way to let fresh air in while still keeping the room safe from any burglars.
Install door locks
You should also consider installing a LockLatch on the dorm room door. This is because the secret to adequate airflow in a room is cross ventilation. For this to occur you need both an entry point and an exit point for the airflow. The only way to achieve this in many dorm rooms is by opening the door, and this poses a security risk. LockLatch can be fitted onto any type of dorm room door in minutes and let’s you keep it ajar, but firmly locked in place.
Security cameras are becoming increasingly smaller, cheaper and easier to install. They can also be connected to your smartphone allowing you to be notified of any suspicious activity. While this is great for single dorm rooms, if you share a dorm your roommate would need to be onboard too.
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