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Dorm Security: How to Protect Your Stuff on Campus

dorm-security-main-studyingA college campus is an ever-changing, unpredictable environment; especially if you’re living in the dorms. Friends, roommates, neighbors, neighbors friends, all kinds of people are coming in and out of your dorm building on a daily basis—most of whom you’ve never met. With so much inconsistency, it’s impossible to know who’s supposed to be there and who is not. Before you ever move in you should have a plan to protect your personal property. But what can you do to protect your stuff while you’re at school? We’ve come up with some tips and best practices to follow on campus so you don’t have to learn the hard way.

Lock All the Things

Learn to lock up your stuff. These days, every student has a laptop, smartphone, iPad, or some other device to help make their school life easier. A college dorm is a virtual treasure trove of expensive electronics and personal valuables. Keeping your stuff safely behind lock and key is a must if you live in the dorms. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Doors

It seems like a no-brainer to lock your door as you leave, but college life is fast-paced and often unpredictable. You’re constantly rushing out the door to get to class on time, meet up with friends, or head to the gym. With a thousand different things buzzing through your mind, it’s easy to neglect locking the door behind you. Make a conscious effort to lock both the door to your apartment and the door to your bedroom. Your roommates may let in new people while you’re away and you don’t want someone you don’t know or trust to have easy access to your stuff.

Computer

Let’s assume that you’ve committed to locking your door and you’re not worried about forgetting that particular precaution; a college campus presents so many more easy-target opportunities than actually breaking into your dorm room that many students don’t think about until they become the victim. Consider this situation:

I’m at the library working on a pretty intense term paper that’s due tomorrow—of course I put it off until the last minute because I’m a freshman. I’ve been typing tirelessly on my laptop for several hours but I’m running out of steam. I don’t want to pack all my things just to run outside to the coffee shop and come back, and it’ll only take a couple minutes anyway so I just leave everything as is and make it quick. When I get back with my coffee, my stuff is nowhere in sight. Now I’m down a laptop and a backpack (which had my phone, my iPad, and a few hundred dollars’ worth of textbooks in it), and there’s no way I’m getting that term paper finished on time.

There are two ways I could have avoided this:

  • Option A: Pack up all my stuff and take it with me. It’s super annoying but it keeps my stuff from getting jacked.
  • Option B: Lock down my laptop and just take my bag with me.

Something like this Kensington laptop lock you can get on Amazon is a cheap and effective way to secure your laptop if you need to leave it unattended for a few minutes. In fact, we recommend locking it down to your desk in your dorm room as well, as an extra layer of security.

Theft recovery technology

Keep in mind that many electronic devices have technology built in to help you locate your stolen property via GPS and IP addresses. Here are a few suggestions to track down your phone or computer:

Phone:
Where’s My Droid
Find My iPhone
Windows Phone

Computer:
Backblaze– Backblaze can help you recover your data from your stolen PC as well as use the IP address to help authorities locate and recover your computer.
Find My Mac– Very similar to the Find My iPhone app, Find My Mac helps locate your stolen Mac as well as recovers data from your last backup.

As much as you might want to hunt it down yourself, we suggest reporting that information to campus or local authorities.

Car

If you’re like me, you keep a lot of stuff in your car. I’m pretty much always rolling with my golf clubs in the back in case I have a chance to play. College parking lots are easy targets for petty thieves, and sometimes they’ll steal what you least expect.

Every college student knows how outrageously expensive it is to buy textbooks these days. Once, I made the mistake of leaving my $125 world literature book in the back seat of my car with the windows rolled down on campus. I can assure you that whichever poor college student swiped it wasn’t looking for a little light reading material. More likely, they eBay-ed it for gas money.

Make it a habit to always lock your doors and keep your windows rolled up if you’re parking your car anywhere on campus.

Dorm Rules Aren’t Just Guidelines

Just like other housing facilities, college dorm rooms often have a code of conduct or set of building rules that you agree to follow when you sign your contract. It varies between campuses, but most dorm regulations look similar to these On Campus Housing Regulations for UCLA.

These rules are not the campus pirate code—they’re more than just guidelines—they exist to keep you safe and you should get to know the rules and do your best to follow them. We recommend getting to know your dorm’s guest policy and building security procedures to avoid putting yourself at risk.

Guest Policy

A guest policy basically tells you what your responsibilities are when you bring someone into your dorm. Anyone you let through the door is considered your guest per most contract agreements, and you are responsible for everything the guest does. Don’t let just anyone into your building or your apartment, especially if you do not know them personally. They might say they’re a friend of your neighbor (and they probably are), but that doesn’t mean you need to give them access to the building you sleep in.

Not everyone will follow the guest policy; in fact, most probably won’t, which means you’ll constantly see new, unfamiliar people in your dorm building. That’s campus life for you, but knowing and following the guest policy will help you avoid being responsible for a stranger’s actions.

Building Security

Get to know your building’s security procedures. Many exterior doors require keys just to get into the building. Some campuses will leave these doors unlocked during the day and have a curfew or “quiet hours” where the exterior doors cannot be accessed without your dorm key or key fob. Most college campuses mirror UCLA’s building security policy on exterior doors:

Tampering with, or bypassing the safety and security systems of On Campus Housing facilities (including but not limited to, propping open, forcibly opening, or unauthorized use of emergency and exterior doors) is prohibited.

Room doors must be closed and locked when the room is unoccupied and no resident of that room is in the immediate vicinity or when occupants are sleeping.

Never Let Anyone Borrow Your Key…

The only way to access your building, apartment, or dorm room is with your dorm key. Lending out your keys, even to your roommate, is a bad idea. Keys are easily duplicated, lost, or even stolen. When you loan out your key to someone, you’re not just doing them a quick favor. Instead, you’re exposing all of your valuables to potential risks. You’ve put your security in the hands of the person borrowing your key.

…or Your Student ID Card

Student ID cards these days carry a lot of personal information. Many student ID cards are preloaded with money for things like meal plans or copy center credit. Student ID cards are like your access key to a variety of campus amenities. When you lend your student ID card to someone, it’s kind of like giving them an all-access pass to your campus profile, and all the things attached to it. Keep your student ID card on you at all times, and don’t lend it out to anyone.

Have a Self-defense Plan

You should create a self-defense plan so if you do find yourself in a threatening situation, you’ll know what to do. We suggest carrying a self-defense device of some kind at all times and practicing with it often so you are comfortable using it.

Always Let Someone Know Where You Are

dorm-safetyCollege life can be unpredictable, but everyone has routines. Part of your self-defense plan should include sharing your routine with someone you trust. Give a family member, close roommate, or friend a copy of your class schedule, work schedule, or other daily routines. Shoot your friends a text before you head out on a date, that way, someone always knows where you should be. Also, plan to mix up your travel routine. Don’t always take the same route to class or work to help prevent someone from following you and learning your routine.

Renters Insurance

Renters insurance rarely crosses the minds of most college students, but it’s something you should definitely investigate if you plan on making the dorms your home away from home. A renters insurance policy won’t physically deter theft, but it can protect your wallet if someone breaks in and steals your stuff.

The average renters insurance policy costs $184 per year, which breaks down to only $15 a month. But think about it like this: You buy a new iPhone for $500 and three days later someone swipes it while visiting your roommate. Your iPhone is covered and your renters insurance just paid for itself threefold.

What we really like about renters insurance is that it covers your stuff even when it’s not inside your dorm. If someone breaks into your car and steals your laptop, your renters insurance policy will cover it.There are all kinds of insurance companies with low rates you can choose from. Here are a few you can scope out for a quote:

Have a Safe Semester

You shouldn’t go to college expecting to be victimized, but using your head and applying some preventive measures will go a long way to ensure that you won’t be. Lock up your stuff, have a plan, follow the rules, and maybe even get some extra coverage for your personal belongings. Most importantly, work hard and have fun. It’s easier to do that when you know you’re safe.

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