: home security subscribers and shoppers routinely place peace of mind at the head of their list of priorities. And peace of mind comes from knowing you are
– with the right alarm system, from the right company. But there are other steps you can take as well, often provided in lists of general home security tips. In fact,
are some of the most widely read posts on this blog – and for good reason: according to the FBI, there is a burglary
in the US.
As residential crime stats stay stubbornly high, and even increase in many jurisdictions, we all want to learn how to put the entire home security package together: that means deter, delay, and detect. Police across the country are offering their own advice, which we are happy to share, such as this recent advisory from Newburgh, New York. I’ve shortened their list for this post, but it’s worth clicking on the link to read the whole thing.
Tip #1 Make your home security system like an onion, not an egg.
Layers are not only the best deterrent, but the best defense against break-ins.
Reason: It is easy for a criminal to bypass a single line of defense. Multiple layers not only slow him, but serve as a means to alert you or your neighbors that someone is trying to break in. If, like the tip of an iceberg, enough of these deterrents are visible, most of the time the would-be intruder will simply choose not to even try. If he does try, then the layers he did not see will impede him. A good example of a layered defense is rosebushes outside the window, plus double-locked, barred and safety coated side windows.
Tip #2 Pretend to be a burglar.
Walk around your property and ask yourself: How would I break in? Examine your house from the street - where are the blind spots? What are the most vulnerable areas and, therefore, those most likely to be attacked? Stand outside the windows and look in: make sure no valuables, like expensive electronics or artwork, are visible. If you can see your belongings, so can criminals.
Reason: We don't tend to think of our homes in these terms, so spend just a few minutes doing this. Find where "blind spots" are (areas where a criminal can work without being seen, or would be screened from view of a neighbor looking to see what that loud noise they just heard). Also look for "weaknesses" (easy access points): for example, sliding glass doors, doggy doors or louvered windows. These are the areas that will be "attacked" by the criminal. That is also where you must focus your defenses.
Tip #3 Consider the area that the lock sits in.
A lock is not enough: you must also address the area around it. You need to extend your thinking about security measures to 18-24 inches around the lock itself. That is the area you must protect.
Reason: A burglar doesn't care how much damage he causes getting in. The best locks in the world will do no good if he smashes the door in. A pinewood door frame will splinter and give way after a few savage kicks. The backdoor deadbolt can often be bypassed by just breaking a window and reaching through to unlock it. Windows can be broken and locks undone. Many locked gates can be opened by simply reaching around and over. A hasp-and-lock will swiftly yield to blows from even a small sledgehammer.
Tip #4 As well as locking something, you must also protect the lock and its components.
A common combination of cheap locks and small construction flaws, that we tend not to notice, often give criminals the "cracks" in security they need to break in.
Reason: Many home door locks can be quickly bypassed with a knife or screwdriver slid in the gap between door and frame. After that the criminal can easily work the tongue of most cheap locks out of the door frame. A thin kitchen knife slid between sash windows can "tap" a normal window lock open. Hasps and locks can be hammered or twisted off in a few blows, or simply cut off with bolt cutters. Many sliding windows and doors can simply be lifted out of place.
Tip #5 Find alternatives to normal deadbolts in doors that have windows (or windowed frames). Talk with a locksmith about what is available.
Reason: Most burglaries occur during the day when you are away at work. Unfortunately, many back doors are decorative and windowed. It is easy for a burglar to punch out a small window, reach in and unlock the door. Since they are off the street and out of view this is why most break-ins occur through the back and side doors.
A single-key deadbolt has a key on one side and a handle on the other. After punching out a window a burglar can reach in and, with ease, open the deadbolt then the doorknob - elapsed time five seconds. Placing a secondary lock (i.e., a floor lock) outside of the reach of the windows is recommended. If that is too much, a double-key deadbolt is recommended for non-primary access doors. This secures the door while you are not at home. If fire safety concerns you (and it should) at night put your keys in the deadbolt. This not only allows you immediate exit should a fire occur, but you will also always know where your keys are.
Tip #6 Treat inside garage doors the same as an outside door: multiple locks and bracing.
Even though it is inside your home, it must be able to withstand a full out assault. Often, the doors that access the house from the garage are hollow-core and have cheap locks (if they are locked at all) which is why break-ins through garages are so common.
Reason: Criminals often cruise neighborhoods looking for open garage doors. Once an open garage door is found, they pull in, close the door, park their car and then start piling your possessions into it. Criminals no longer need to cruise the neighborhood with a stolen garage door opener and pushing the button to see whose door will open, because an incredible number of people just leave the door wide open for them when "just running down to the store."
Tip #7 Make sure sliding glass doors and windows are installed correctly.
Not everyone in the construction industry is a rocket scientist. And their incompetence and laziness can cost you plenty.
Reason: An estimated one quarter of all sliding glass doors and windows are installed backwards (so the sliding part is on the outside track). This allows the criminal to simply lift out the panel and enter.
Tip #8 If you use a pole in the track to secure sliding doors and windows make sure it is the right length. It should be within a ¼ - inch of the track’s length.
Reason: If the pole is not long enough to keep the criminal from slipping his fingers in, it is of no use. Staple or tape a piece of string to the pole to make it easy to pull out when it is in the track. Better yet get a "track stop" or "track lock" that you can put in the tracks. They are far better than the "poor man's version" of a dowel. Better yet get sliding a window/door bar (jamb bar).
Tip #9 Install motion detectors in areas where no one should be.
This way, you know something isn't right when they go off.
Reason: Most people put safety lights where they do the least good. While they illuminate your approach as you pull into your driveway, such lights are often hard to see if you are indoors. Put them along the side of the house or back, so that someone lurking there sets them off. Position them so you can see when they go on. The lights are adjustable, so even if you have a blind wall you can turn the lights so they will both illuminate an area and attract your attention. Put them high enough so that they cannot be knocked out of service by someone jumping up.
Tip #10 Create a neighborhood watch on your block.
Even just the signs often send would-be burglars elsewhere.
Reason: An alert and involved community is the criminal’s nemesis. It is often reason enough for him to try business elsewhere. Even if you can't create an organized program, get to know your neighbors, especially retired folks who are home all day. Let them know who belongs there and who doesn't. Have them watch your property and pick up your newspaper when you are on vacation. It is also a good idea to hire a trustworthy preteen/young teen neighbor to do such mundane jobs as mowing your lawn or taking out the trash. Such kids then have vested interests in your property and they are home to watch your property when adults aren't. The kids like it because they get spending money and you get to watch TV on the weekend, instead of doing lawn work.
Tip #11 Etch your name on all electronic equipment TV/stereo/computer and then record it.
Etching, in and of itself, serves as a deterrent in case of a break-in: failing that, etching greatly assists the police in the recovery of your property
Reason : Items with your name and address cannot be easily sold. The reason for this is that anyone buying them is buying something that can easily be proven to be stolen property and they know it. Although it is better to record serial numbers, a faster way to assist the police in recovery is to video record every room and all the items in them. As you record, say what it is (for example Sanyo TV, Hitachi DVD player, etc.). This way, if items are stolen you can give the recording to the police. Video and the etching will identify your property when the police encounter it, which quite often they do: police are regularly called to homes where stolen property is present, but without a means to identify it as such, they cannot prove it. Also, send a duplicate copy to a relative.
Tip #12 Get a safe!
It's not just cash and jewels that need to go in there, but your important paperwork.
Reason: Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the US. Although many people think burglars are going to go for jewelry, silverware or electronics, what most people don't realize is that the greatest damage to you will be if the criminal gets access to your personal identification and financial records!!! A criminal can clone your identity and steal everything you have, up to and including selling your property. Passports can sell for as much as a thousand dollars. And a passport and your checkbook...kiss all that money good-bye.
Make sure the safe is bolted through the floor and cannot be carried out. If you are in a situation where you cannot use such measures (such as an apartment) then invest in a large, heavy duty filing cabinet with locks. Do NOT leave the keys nearby.
Tip #13 On top of everything else, consider an alarm system.
This is another layer of the onion. You can go anywhere from a basic system to incredibly high tech.
Reason: Now that you've made it slow and difficult for him to get inside, an alarm is far more effective since it gives the cavalry a chance to arrive in time. In addition, burglar, carbon monoxide and fire alarms do wonders to keep your home owner's insurance down. Know, however, that the bread and butter of most security companies is the service they sell you in support of the alarm system (calling the police, alerting you if there is a problem). While shopping around is important, do your homework on security systems, providers, and services first. And remember, you are investing for the long term. This is how you must think when investing in an alarm system.
Like many sets of police tips on home security, this one does include a recommendation to have a home security system – and use it. We approve! And of course FrontPoint has its own list of Top 10 Home Security Tips.