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Security advice for students

19th February 2017

I was watching University Challenge the other night, basking in the warm glow of the answers I got right, whilst simultaneously bemoaning the fact that there was yet again no round about the intricacies of the Yale lock, and it got me thinking about the safety of students. No, I wasn't worried that Paxman was about to dive over the desk and begin thumping the team captains for not knowing the answers to the Latin poetry round (though you can never rule that out), but rather the security of the accommodation in which the students would be living. 

Whereas we can make improvements to our own homes and are often aware of where the strengths and weaknesses of our home security lie, it can be a different story for students. They may find themselves in digs or rented accommodation for a short period of time and, let's be honest, home security will not be their greatest priority as they begin or resume university life.

Added to this is the sad fact that students find themselves as one of the highest risk demographics in terms of being a victim of crime - their laptops, TVs, ipods etc are very attractive to burglars. Combined with frequently  poor security on cheap rented accommodation, is it any wonder student life is sadly often marred by having to deal with the real world reality of being the victim of a break in?

Fortunately there are steps that students can take to reduce this risk and to keep themselves and their possessions safe, whether they are in privately rented accommodation or university-run halls of residence.

Security in halls of residence

Halls of residence should have greater security than accommodation rented outside the university, but there are still issues to be aware of. Theft by other residents or visitors is one of the major risks so it is well worth students (or their parents) taking the time to list the details of any expensive items that are being taken in to the halls. Serial numbers of laptops etc can be crucial in retrieving equipment if the worst happens.  Securely marking high-value equipment is also to be recommended. 

Halls of residence will often use an electronic key fob system for entry to the premises or certain areas within it. This is a good sign that the university take security seriously. However, it counts for nothing if "tailgating" should occur, whereby a potential intruder follows in a resident without needing to swipe their fob. We have all been taught it's polite to hold doors open for people, so it's quite an awkward situation to question the person following you or shut the door on them if they don't have a fob, but not as awkward as having to explain why you're the one responsible for a burglar entering the premises and stealing all your fellow students' expensive items. 

What to look out for in rented accomodation

Within private accommodation, the security can be far more lax. When taking out a rental contract it's worth asking the landlord who else has keys for the property. You'd expect the landlord to have a copy but if several former residents still have copies of keys that might be a cause for concern and an instance where you could reasonably ask for the locks to be changed.  When it comes to the locks, make sure that the ones on the main door are of sufficient quality to deter intruders. If the rented accommodation is shared by several different students, it would be reasonable for locks to be fitted to each bedroom door too.  If you are unsure about the quality of the locks, a locksmith will normally be happy to visit and offer advice, and their professional opinion will be stronger evidence to present to the landlord.

When moving into new rented accommodation a quick look around the outside of the property is recommended to see if there are any places where a burglar could get easy access. If there are, this should be brought up with the landlord immediately.

Think like a burglar!

It's not all the responsibility of the landlord though. If you're a student, be sure to keep laptops, mobile phones etc well out of view, away from windows and doors. When going out for a night out, ensure your room as well as the house is properly locked and expensive items are hidden away. Understandably it probably won't be your first priority, but just taking those few steps can save a lot of pain in the long run. 

I should also break the news to any students among you that the way you're hiding that key behind a flower pot or under the door mat is NOT a genius solution to avoid burglary. The thing about burglars is that they do this "job" day in day out and KNOW about these hiding places. It's one of the first things they'll check - after all, letting themselves in with a key is far less bother than having to break a window or force a door. Don't make their job easy!

Student holidays can be absurdly long between terms. If the shared house will be empty for a long period over Christmas, Easter or Summer, ensure that all valuable property is removed from the premises for this time. Again, burglars will be aware of term times and leaving the property full of possessions whilst empty is just asking for trouble.

As we can see, a lot of these tips above apply for the non-students amongst us too, especially if we live in rented accommodation. I hope you've managed to take something from this, even if you don't have a student in your life to pass on this information to. But if you do, please make them aware of the importance of the security of their term-time homes - they'll have enough worries with getting that final grade without the added hassle of dealing with the heartache and inconvenience of losing valuable property.  Meanwhile, it's back to Paxman for me. Maybe this will be the week of the Yale lock round.. or at the very least a Starter for Ten.

For advice on anything lock-related, or to enquire about upvc door  repairs or lock upgrades, call Stephen on 01226 399 067.

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