Multi-faceted safety often overlooked as priority

By Candace Hays

Most students cannot afford the luxury of a costly apartment. However, a cheap and affordable apartment may also mean paying for inadequate safety and security.

“Anytime, you are offered a deal, just think about what you are compromising,” Officer Tony Ortiz, crime prevention coordinator for the University Division of Public Safety, said. “You could be compromising your safety.”

Ortiz said that students should use all the local resources available to them.

The Tenant Union is a resource for students who need housing-related advice. The Tenant Union offers several services to students, such as providing landlord complaint records and reviewing leases.

The most important safety issue is finding a good landlord, said Esther Patt, coordinator of the Tenant Union.

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    “Most people don’t understand that there is a difference between good and bad landlords. Complaint records make that distinction clear.”

    Loren Zuiderveld, graduate student, said. The complaint records put things into perspective.

    “The records really show you the agencies with problems, especially those with numerous complaints,” Zuiderveld said.

    The police department provides additional information concerning location for prospective tenants. The University Police Web site offers a crime map and crime statistics, illustrating where high concentrations of crimes occur.

    Before signing the lease, a prospective renter should examine the security of the apartment. The two main entry points are through the doors and windows, Ortiz said. Renters should inspect the type of doors and locks.

    “If you buy a home with a hollow-core door, they are worthless,” Ortiz said. “You can put your foot through. You might as well live outside in a tent.”

    Doors with chains are also problematic because the chains are normally held together with small screws and nails.

    “Someone can kick the door open very easily,” Ortiz said.

    Latasha Coleman, senior in AHS, invested in a new lock when she moved into her apartment.

    “Change your locks when you move in,” Coleman said.

    “It may cost a little extra, but it will be worth it.”

    Ortiz recommends that tenants inspect locks on the windows and whether the landlord maintains them.

    “You can tell if a house is maintained by paint,” Ortiz said. “If it is cracking, they are not maintaining the property to begin with.”

    Maintenance is also important in the landscaping of the apartment complex. Certain trees and bushes could provide a hiding space for criminals.

    “If there is a lot of shrubbery, then the landlord does not maintain the area. Poor landscaping is a red flag that they do not inspect and take care of the property,” Ortiz said.

    Ortiz also recommends that tenants observe the landscaping during the night and on weekends, and also lighting concerns.

    Once a tenant finally chooses housing, tenants can invest in 24-hour timers.

    The timer can be set to turn on lighting or the television throughout the day.

    Patt says students should always lock their doors.

    “It sounds simple, but sometimes people may keep it unlocked to run to the gas station or do laundry. That gives anyone enough time to enter the place.”