Police talking to students

Safety and Security

This webpage, designed to give you information on personal safety, has been prepared for you by the Rutgers University Off-Campus Living and Community Service, Rutgers Campus Information Services, and the Rutgers University Police Department-Division of Administration and Public Safety.

The tips outlined below are useful for anyone living off-campus in any town. Off-campus housing is not immune to criminal activity. However, common sense precautions can reduce your vulnerability to both personal and property crimes.

Before Renting

Before renting an off-campus apartment, you should survey the residence to ensure that it has the following security-related features:

  • Does the apartment have metal or solid core wooden entry and exit doors? Are these doors equipped with deadbolts or shielded doorknob locks? Are the locks and strike plates mounted securely? Have the locks been re-keyed since the last tenant moved out?
  • Can visitors be observed without opening the apartment door either through a door peephole or window?
  • Are all first floor, fire escape, or other accessible windows equipped with locks? If equipped with security gratings, can they be opened from the inside for emergency exit?
  • Does any outside vegetation block doors or windows from public view? Does the vegetation provide places of concealment at entrances and along walkways?
  • Is there adequate lighting at the building entry doors and along walkways? Are the outer doors kept locked at all times?
  • Does the apartment have a smoke detector and at least two emergency escape routes?
  • Does the apartment have provision for the installation of a telephone?

Personal Safety Tips

  • Always keep doors and windows to your apartment locked, especially when you are alone or sleeping or the apartment is left unoccupied (even if only for a few moments). Most burglaries involve unlocked doors, so locking up is the single most effective action you can take to reduce theft.
  • Keep first floor, fire escape, and other accessible windows closed and locked unless they are equipped with security gratings.
  • Do not leave the exterior doors of your building unlocked or propped open. When entering or exiting, make sure all doors are securely locked. If you see a door that is not secure, make sure you lock it.
  • Do not allow strangers into your building or apartment. Observe visitors through your door peephole or window prior to opening the door. Have repair or service personnel show official identification and confirm their presence with the person requesting the service. Delivery persons should remain outside to await the person requesting the delivery.
  • Report all obscene or harassing phone calls to the police. If someone calls with the wrong number, never give the caller your name, address, or number that they have called.
  • Report all strangers seen wandering inside or loitering outside your house or apartment to the police.
  • Question un-escorted persons in your apartment or building. If you are uncomfortable doing this personally, call the police.
  • Never loan anyone your key. Non residents—even close friends—do not have the same level of concern for the security of your house. Do not leave your keys unattended in your room or apartment. Do not put your name or address on your key chain. If keys are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the police, and have your locks changed. At night always have your keys ready before you get to the door.
  • Have your local police telephone number posted near all telephones in case of emergency.  Program it into your cell phone too.
  • Always keep your windows covered at night and leave lights on in two or more rooms. Never reveal to a visitor or telephone caller that you are alone. Call out in a loud voice, “I’ll answer it!” when there is a visitor at the door to imply that you are not alone.
  • Do not use your first name on mailboxes or in telephone directories. Use your first initial only.
  • Be aware of deserted laundry rooms, common lounges, basements, parking garages, and elevators, especially late at night. Consider using or entering these areas when others are around.
  • Try not to enter elevators with a stranger. Stand next to the control panel. If confronted by an assailant, push the emergency alarm and as many floor buttons as possible (do not push the stop button).
  • Immediately report malfunctioning doors, windows, security gratings, lights, overgrown shrubbery, etc. to the person responsible for maintaining your residence.
  • Always escort your guests in and out of the building. Remember, you are responsible for the conduct of your guests while they are present in your building. Individuals not living in your building may not feel a sense of obligation to you, your property, or other residents.
  • Avoid walking alone at night, but if you must, stay in well-lighted, open areas.
  • Stay sober and coherent. Persons under the influence are much more likely to be the victim of a serious crime or accident or to victimize others.

Protecting Your Property

  • In your apartment, keep such valuables as currency, wallets, jewelry, and purses out of plain view. Do not leave valuables unattended in common areas such as laundry rooms and lounges.
  • Engrave property such as computers, stereos, other electronic equipment, etc. with your driver’s license number and state. This will aid in the recovery of your property if it is stolen. Participate in “Operation Identification” through the Rutgers Community Policing Offices. Contact them for more information and to borrow an engraver.
  • Avoid carrying large sums of money on your person. Open a savings or checking account rather than allowing large amounts of money to accumulate in your room.
  • If your bicycle must be stored or parked outside, make sure that it is secured to an immovable object with a high-quality locking device; RUPD recommends using a “U-lock” and removing your front tire.
  • Make sure your car is always locked and that any valuables left in the vehicle are locked in the trunk or placed out of view.

What Is Suspicious?

You should be alert to anything that seems even slightly “out of the ordinary” for the area or time of day in which it occurs.

The most obvious things to watch for and report are:

  • strangers entering your neighbor’s room or apartment when it is unoccupied;
  • strangers on your block trying doors to see if they are locked;
  • screams heard anywhere, anytime may mean an assault or robbery is in progress;
  • the sound of breaking glass or other loud, explosive noises may mean an accident, burglary or vandalism;
  • persons around bicycle racks carrying bolt cutters and tools;
  • a person running—especially if carrying something of value—could be leaving the scene of a crime.

While these situations described above could have innocent explanations, your police department would rather investigate crime-prone situations than be called when it is too late. Your call may save a life, prevent an injury, or stop a criminal act.

Assist Your Police Department

Be aware of your surroundings. Safety and security are everyone’s responsibility. You can reduce the possibility of becoming a crime statistic by being alert to your environment.

Your safety and security ultimately depend on you as an individual for their effectiveness and success. You must take responsibility for your own safety. You must be security conscious at all times for your benefit and for that of others.


If you live off-campus and notice a burnt out streetlight please write down the number of the street light (engraved on a metal plate towards the bottom of the pole) and contact PSE&G at 1.800.436.7734 or go online for more information.

For more tips and checklists for home security or fire safety, click here.

To view RUPD’s annual “Safety Matters” report, click here.