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Great Home Security Tips from New York City

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October 14, 2013
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Great Home Security Tips from New York City

My son and his wife live in Brooklyn, in a lovely (and very secure) garden apartment close to Prospect Park. Home security is an issue for many residents of New York City, my son included: I read plenty of crime reports and articles on the residential crime spikes that occur around the five boroughs from time to time. So when my son forwarded this NYT article on securing your home to me, it only seemed appropriate to share it. The whole thing is worth a read, but several points are worth calling out.

In my leafy suburban neighborhood, burglaries happen just rarely enough to give me a false sense of safety. I watch our home’s security with a fair amount of diligence, but I’m otherwise as complacent about this realm of home maintenance as I am about everything else around the place. As I prepared to leave the family behind during an early-August trip, though, such negligence was slightly more than I could bear, so I called on a trio of specialists to offer some low-cost, high-impact tips on home security. My panelists included Yost Zakhary, a vice president at the International Association of Chiefs of Police; James Klein, who oversees the New York City Police Department’s crime prevention unit; and Charles Sczuroski, a master trainer with the National Crime Prevention Council.

Wow – here we’ve got three heavy hitters weighing in on how to find peace of mind in the home!

Doors and Windows are a Good Start

To start, Mr. Zakhary and his counterparts suggested a call to the local police department, because many municipalities offer free security assessments to residents. My small town’s security specialist was on vacation himself so I charged ahead with a do-it-yourself audit.

My advisers said to look first at doors and windows. Modern windows often include tabs or blocks that prevent anyone on the outside from opening the window more than a few inches. If you have double-hung windows that lack such a feature, you can improvise by drilling a hole through the upper sash or frame and placing a removable eye screw or dowel into the hole. Meanwhile, even a solid door with a deadbolt can be pushed open easily if the strike plate isn’t secured to the door frame with screws at least 2 1/2 inches long, said Mr. Zakhary, who is the chief of police in Woodway, Tex.

And for a well-designed home security system, you always place a wireless door sensor on every exterior door – even the door from the garage to the inside of the home. When it comes to windows, there are variables: focus on the vulnerable ones first, which generally means hidden and accessible. You can also use a combination of wireless window sensors and wireless glassbreak sensors, depending on how your home is laid out. A good alarm company will guide you in determining the right level of protection.

Having a deadbolt on a back door is especially important, Mr. Sczuroski said, given that most burglars try to enter more-hidden areas of the home, and doorknob locks are easy to defeat. But he added that the door between our garage and our living room was vulnerable in the summer, when people sometimes fail to close their garages.

Yup – we know all about where burglars enter. So far we are right in sync with the experts – as you would expect!

City dwellers, Mr. Klein said, should pay close attention to windows near fire escapes, as well as skylights and roof doors. “Burglars love fire escapes, because they’re a sight line into your apartment,” he said. Burglars also love thoughtful homeowners who store ladders in the backyard for convenient upper-story entries. “Get yourself a chain and a 50-pound weight,” Mr. Klein said. “Nobody’s going to be able to use that ladder.”

More Great Advice

Most homeowners understand the need to trim bushes from first-story windows, to reduce a burglar’s ability to operate secretly. Motion-sensitive lights are another oft-repeated recommendation that I had ignored. Mr. Sczuroski suggested battery-powered or solar-powered versions instead, as they require nothing but a ladder and perhaps a screwdriver. “A lot of folks say they just have regular lighting for the outside, but when motion-sensitive lighting flicks on, you’ll turn around and look,” he said. “The key is that change.”

Now we’re talking – and this list is starting to resemble FrontPoint’s list of Top 10 Home Security Tips.

Alarm Systems Can Do Much More These Days

For times when the house is vacant, Mr. Sczuroski suggested installing timers for some interior lights, to give potential burglars the impression that someone is at home. Not that all burglars operate in the dark. My father’s suburban house was robbed at midday a few years back, days after flooring contractors had completed work there. They probably knew (or shared with friends) my father’s dog-walking schedule at the time, and the whereabouts of my father’s valuables.

We love this idea – and we have taken it a step further. With FrontPoint’s advanced interactive services, you can actually control your lights, locks and thermostats from your smart phone. Remote access includes setting up a random schedule so that your lights go on and off at different times, to make it seem your home is occupied. FrontPoint even offers smart wireless cameras you can access from your smart phone – and they can send you motion-activated video clips. You’ll feel not just protected, but connected as well.

Burglar Alarms Work

“If a burglar is looking at three houses — one with a beware-of-dog sign, another with a sign for an alarm system, and another with no sign — where do you think he’ll go?” Mr. Klein asked.

We know this to be the case – and it’s been documented by a Rutgers University study on the topic. With a monitored wireless home security system, you are only one third as likely to suffer an intrusion as your unprotected neighbor.

The lowest-cost tip offered by my advisers was the most old-school: Get to know your neighbors or your building’s maintenance staff. “Have a conversation with them,” Mr. Klein said. “They’ll know if someone on the fifth floor was burglarized and how it happened. Get involved and be aware.”

We agree 100%, and think this is a great article, in many respects. And we’re happy to see that so much of what we offer is recommended by the experts. How does your home stack up? Remember, anything that increases your safety, security, and peace of mind is important to us. We’re the leader in wireless home security, and the #1 ranked alarm company in the US – and we earned that top spot with technology, pricing, and customer satisfaction that leaves the others far behind. Smart shoppers in the Big Apple - and all across the US - choose FrontPoint: just read the reviews, and you’ll want a FrontPoint wireless home alarm system, too.

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