Home Burglary Prevention

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Home protection zones

Many people believe there is nothing that can be done to prevent someone from breaking into their home. The truth is that most burglaries can either be prevented or the risk reduced by some rather simple and inexpensive methods. Understand that in almost every case the burglar will attempt to enter your home while you are gone. This is safer for him and gives him more time to make entry and find what he is looking for. Keeping him guessing whether you are home is a first step. You know what an empty house looks like. Chances are you can spot one without thinking about it. Well think about it. What makes that house look empty to you? Make yours look occupied. Is it dark? Can you see there are not cars in the garage? Leave lights on in the house, even during the day time. Consider leaving a radio playing tuned to a "talk radio" station so conversation can be heard from inside instead of music. Cover garage windows so no one can tell if your car is home.

A study which the police department did showed 38% of the time burglars were getting in through unlocked doors and windows. This does not mean the home owners routinely chose to leave their houses unlocked. But they failed to keep ALL of their doors and windows locked. Lock your doors and windows. Too simple? Remember, your home is apt to be burglarized by someone who finds it easy to do.

"Professional" burglars are few and far between. Even they often use simple means to gain entry. By protecting yourself from the most common means of entry, you will be stopping or slowing down the vast majority of burglars.

Doors are usually used more often than windows to gain entry. Burglars will either kick the door open, break out the window in the door to reach in and unlock it, pry it open with a tool or in a variation break a "key-in-the-knob" lock by twisting it with a wrench fastened to the knob.

Most of these door entry methods can be defeated by simply installing a deadbolt lock and using it. They are called "deadbolts" because unlike the "key-in-the-knob" locks, the bolt that slides into the wall actually locks in place when it's thrown. That way the bolt can not be pushed back with a knife or credit card. But that is only one of the advantages.

DeadboltThe deadbolt usually has a bolt about 1" long, compared to 1/2" or shorter for the other type. Obviously that extra 1/2" is a real plus when someone tries to kick the door open, or pry it open with a tire-tool. In addition, most, though not all, deadbolts have a rotating collar that fastens around the lock on the outside half of the door. If someone tries to fit a wrench to it, to twist and break it, the collar will rotate around harmlessly, protracting the lock. So, a deadbolt can help protect your door from kicking, prying and wrenches.

Let's talk more about your door. Often one of the weakest points on the door is the strike plate. The strike plate is the metal plate that fits over the hole were the bolt goes. Part of its design is to strengthen the soft wooden frame so the bolt will not be ripped through the frame when the door is kicked. But this strike plate is almost always installed with very short screws that fasten into that same soft wooden frame. The kick will often rip the strike plate right from the door frame and allow the bolt to rip the frame as well. A simple fix is to replace the screws in the strike plate with ones that are 2-1/2 or 3 inches long. These will screw through the frame and into the 2x4 stud in the wall behind the door frame. This coupled with the 1" bolt of the deadbolt makes for a door and frame which are more resistant to kicking.

Another type of lock that is harder yet to pry open are certain rim locks. They actually lock themselves to the frame with bolts that drop into an interlock on the frame. They are also deadbolts and can be opened from the outside with a key.

There are several approaches to preventing the burglar from reaching in and unlock the door, after breaking out the window in the door. An easy alternative is to install a "double cylinder" dead-bolt. This requires a key, inside and outside, to operate the lock. You lock the door and remove the key. If a burglar breaks the window and reaches inside, he can't turn the lock. But you must be cautious. What if there is a fire in your home? Could you or your children get out through a door locked this way?

Another approach is to cover the glass with bars. But make sure the bars are close enough together to really prevent some one reaching in. Many commercial bars are too wide apart to stop this. Bars can also prevent your escape in case of fire if improperly designed.

Finally, you can eliminate the window in the door. Cover it up, say with plywood, or replace the door with a solid one and then install a peep hole.

WindowWindows are the next most common point of entry into your home. By far the biggest problem is remembering to lock all of your windows. It only takes one unlocked window to provide an easy way in. And by locked we don't mean the window is open and the screen or storm window is locked. Neither are designed to keep people out of your home; although they may slow them down. It is the main window that can best prevent entry if it is properly prepared.

Understand that in a home burglary, the burglar will seldom break out the whole window in order to climb through it. Occasionally a window will be broken in order to reach in and unlock it. But if the bad guy is willing to do that he will usually do it to a window in the door instead.

Windows are often pried open. Standard window locks are not always strong enough to prevent this, the prying breaks the lock. You can protect your windows from all of these common entry methods by "pinning" your windows. Drill a hole in the window's inside track at a 30 to 45 degree angle and drop a nail in the hole so the head sticks out. This will stop the window when it is opened. Place the old so the window can not open more than 12". Do the same on the other side of the window. Do this to all of your windows that open up and down. Now without having to look, all of your windows are always locked. They can be opened high enough for ventilation without unlocking them. If you must open the window all the way, say in case of a fire, you simply life the nails out of the track and open it. That is why you drill the holes. The two nails will resist prying because the window will partially open before the pry bar can gain any leverage.

A burglar would be forced do what he doesn't want to do: break the whole thing out to get to the two nails. For aluminum windows that open side to side there are "blocks" available at most hardware and department stores that are held in place by a thumb screw.

For added protection, organize a Neighborhood Watch Group on your block. Call the Crime Prevention Office of the Police Department at 242- 7000 if you have more questions about home security.