Off-Campus Safety & Security

Find Out if a Community is Safe

Before you rent in a particular neighborhood, it is a good idea to investigate its safety record.

  • Review the profiles of area communities in this guide.
  • Contact the crime prevention unit of the local police department and ask for a crime report. Many also have websites.
  • If you wish to live in Cambridge, you might want to make an appointment with the MIT Police Opens in new window to review crime statistics for local neighborhoods or check crime reports on the Cambridge Police website Opens in new window.

Walk Smart

Walking is a major part of living in Cambridge/Boston. As in any urban area, pedestrians should take certain precautions to stay safe:

  • Know where you are going and be aware of anyone who might be following you.
  • Walk confidently and at a steady pace.
  • Stay in well-lit, well-traveled areas and avoid shortcuts.
  • It’s always safer to walk with someone.
  • Stay near the curb. Avoid bushes, alleys, and dark entryways.
  • Think you are being followed? Walk quickly to areas where you see lights and people.
  • If a car appears to be following you, turn and walk in the opposite direction or walk on the other side of the street.
  • Carry as little cash as possible.
  • If you have a handbag, hold it tightly to your body, wearing the strap across your chest if possible. If you have a wallet, keep it in a front pocket.
  • If you feel you are in danger, do not be afraid to scream and run. Consider carrying a whistle or other noisemaker and use it if you feel you are in trouble. MIT Police Opens in new window have whistles available for purchase.
  • Always have your keys ready when you arrive home, so you can enter your building without delay.
  • Have a safety plan. Think about what you would do in a threatening situation.
  • At night, take public transportation or a taxi.

Ride Smart

Boston’s public transit system is generally safe, but as in any city, the crowded buses and subways can be a haven for purse-snatchers and pickpockets. Here are a few tips for riding smart on public transportation:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and of other passengers, especially when traveling late at night.
  • If you have a handbag, hold it tightly to your body, wearing the strap across your chest if possible. If you have a wallet, keep it in a front pocket.
  • Never keep anything of value in the outer pocket of a backpack—especially wallets and MBTA passes.
  • Avoid sitting near the door. A thief can snatch a bag and escape out the door.
  • Try to sit near the driver if it is late and few people are on the bus or train.
  • Don’t get into a subway car containing only one other person. Take the adjoining car.
  • Avoid using your laptop on the bus or train.
  • iPods are popular and easy to steal. Stay alert.

Live Smart

Students who are careless in securing their apartments often find themselves the victims of robberies. Here are a few key ways to keep your home safe:

  • Put only your initials, not your first name, on your mailbox.
  • Do not hide a key outside your house or apartment—even an inexperienced thief knows where to look.
  • Keep all doors and windows locked when you are not at home, and be aware that first-floor apartments offer the easiest access.
  • Get to know your neighbors. Together you can improve security in your building and your neighborhood.
  • Do not let anyone you do not know into your building. Check the identity of all visitors when they ring in the lobby and when they knock on the door. Insist on credentials from repairmen and deliverymen.
  • Notify your landlord of exterior and common-area lights and locks that are not working.
  • Lose your keys? Notify the landlord to change the locks.
  • Do not let strangers in to use your telephone. Offer to make the call for them or refer them to a nearby public telephone.
  • Install dead-bolt locks or police locks on all exterior doors.
  • Ask a member of your area police department to visit your home or apartment to advise you on how to improve your home security. MIT Police Opens in new window can also provide general information on home safety.
  • If you do decide to install new locks, check with your landlord first. Most leases prohibit a tenant from installing new locks without first obtaining permission.
  • Take advantage of the “Operation Identification” program. Area police departments (including MIT Police Opens in new window) will lend you easy-to-use electric engraving tools to mark metal, plastic, glass, and wooden objects with your driver’s license number. Make a list of the items marked and the identification number used, then place an Operation Identification sticker in your window. The police department can supply these stickers, which discourage criminals.
  • Consider purchasing an affordable renter’s insurance policy that will pay to replace your possessions if they are stolen.

Bicycle Safety

Check the “Getting Around Town” section for information on bicycle safety.

Learn Self-Defense

The MIT Police offers a self-defense program for women called Rape Aggression Defense (RAD). This 14-hour course provides basic information on personal safety, awareness, risk reduction, and avoidance. RAD teaches practical defense techniques that require no special skills. Women learn to be more aware of their surroundings and can test their new skills in simulated situations. Find out more Opens in new window.

Fire and Carbon Monoxide Safety

Check to make sure your unit has a smoke detector and that it is in working order. If your city or town requires smoke detectors and your landlord refuses to install or repair them, contact the fire department to report the violation. If you live in a unit not covered by the smoke detector law, seriously consider installing a smoke detector on your own; it could save your life. Read about the Massachusetts Smoke Detector Law Opens in new window.

The local fire department also enforces requirements for carbon monoxide detectors Opens in new window. Notify your landlord immediately if you live in a unit that does not meet these requirements. If your landlord refuses to install or repair them, contact the fire department to report the violation.

Solve an Insect or Rodent Problem

Insects and rodents—cockroaches, bedbugs, and mice, for example—can be a problem in an urban environment. State sanitary codes require landowners to exterminate if an infestation occurs. You or your landlord should consult a professional pest control company to take care of the problem safely and effectively. If the landlord is not cooperative, contact your local Board of Health Opens in new window.

Protect Your Property

Investing in apartment or theft and fire insurance is a good idea, depending on the value of your belongings. Students may be covered under their parent's homewoners insurance or they can purchase an inexpensive personal property insurance policy.


Wherever you live in the Cambridge/Boston area, if you need emergency assistance—police, fire, or medical—call 911 immediately. The Safety at MIT Opens in new window and MIT Police Opens in new window websites offer guidance on how to stay safe and who to call when you need help.