Keeping an Eye Out Residents' Role in Building Security

New Yorkers have always been vigilant in keeping themselves and their apartments as secure as possible. The doorman, security guard, building superintendent or concierge is traditionally the first line of defense in controlling the cadre of visitors, residents, building staff and delivery people that routinely enter a co-op or condo building each day. But, especially in the aftermath of September 11th, building owners, managing agents and residents can no longer be complacent that an appropriate level of security is being provided. And how does one keep their building reasonably secure without installing the technological equivalent of Fort Knox?

Awareness and Common Sense

For starters, say security experts, a little common sense and some basic safety skills and training are required. Simply put, resident shareholders and unit owners must be aware of their surroundings and be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary, says Mark Lerner, Ph.D., a criminologist and security expert, who is the president of Manhattan-based EPIC Security.

One of the most crucial elements is limiting access to your building and to your apartment, says Lerner. "One of the important things is having control of who they give out keys to their apartments, and they should keep a list of who has keys, in case, there's a question of who entered their apartment. For example, if they have a housekeeper, children, relatives [who have keys] and then when someone is removed [from the list] and a key is not returned, they should change the locks or a code if they use an electronic device."

If a homeowner suspects there is a duplicate key around or one has been made, the locks should be changed immediately. A locksmith will tell you that building keys that are not supposed to be duplicated often are, Lerner says.

"So their first concern is the entrance to their own apartment. Although the guard at the lobby of the building or a doorman can control the people coming to the building if someone has a key to your apartment, but, generally, once they're in the building, you should have some [of your] own responsibility yourself. Certainly you should lock your door when you're leaving even if there's a doorman in front or a guard. Lock your door and know who has keys."

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