Home is where the heart is. There's no place like it. But most of all, it's where we want to be comfortable, safe and secure.
Unfortunately, the crime of burglary is usually a case of an opportunity seen and seized.
You are most at risk if you have:
- Created a "burglar friendly" environment.
- Ever given others a copy of your key.
- Never changed your original locks.
- Standard locks, which do not prevent key duplication or protect against physical attack.
Locks and Keys
The first thing to remember about locks and keys is to keep keys out of circulation. The potential for theft by use of unauthorized keys is staggering. Just think of all the people who have keys, from housekeepers to childcare providers to valet parking attendants. Then, think of all the places where duplicate keys can be made, from hardware stores to shoe repair shops.
- A "Child Safe" deadbolt, or "Captive Double Cylinder," has a removable thumb turn key that provides easy exit for your family in emergencies and, when the thumb turn key is removed, additional burglary protection is available when you are away from home.
- Buy locks with keys that cannot be easily duplicated, such as High Security Locks.
- Change all locks when moving into a new house or apartment.
- Do not have identifying tags on your key ring that provide thieves with personal information, such as your name and address.
- Do not leave spare keys in obvious places like under flower pots or welcome mats.
- Install a double cylinder lock on doors located near windows to prevent thieves from breaking the window and turning the latch.
- Look for specialized keys that require your authorization to make copies and can only be duplicated by a professional locksmith.
- Only give keys to a few trusted people and be wary of giving out keys to your home.
Doors and Windows
When protecting your home from break-ins, check the easiest points of entry – doors and windows.
- Choose solid wood or steel doors because hollow wooden doors can be easily kicked in.
- Install doors with the hinges on the inside of the door, so hinges cannot be removed.
- Do not leave gaps around the door frame that would make doors vulnerable to prying.
- Use vertical bolts on sliding doors so burglars cannot gain entry by lifting them off the track. Reinforce security by placing a metal or solid wood rod on the inside track.
- Wait for the electric garage door to close completely when you come and go, so that someone cannot sneak under as it closes.
- Make sure back doors and the door that connects your garage to your home are solid and secured with high security deadbolt locks.
- Lock your pet door when you are away. Thieves can convince children to crawl through them and open the door.
- Make sure your windows can be securely locked.
- Double-hung windows (the ones that slide up and down) are fairly safe, particularly if they have locks mounted on the sides or in the corners.
Landscaping and Lights
When planning your landscaping, think like thieves and know your enemy.
- Remove trees or branches close to your home that give burglars access to upper levels.
- Make it difficult for them to navigate through your yard and approach entry points. Plant low thorny bushes below your windows.
- Trim your trees and shrubbery; don't give them somewhere to hide.
- Keep your lawn well maintained so that they know that the house is attended to and constantly inhabited.
In addition to keeping your yard neatly trimmed and well cared for, keep it well lighted. Burglars prefer to operate in the dark.
- Install porch lights, and replace burned-out bulbs promptly.
- Install motion sensor lights. They will not only make you feel safer when approaching your home after dark, but they will also deter criminals who don't want to be seen.
- Leave a light on, preferably on each floor, when you go out in the evening.
Notes on the Neighborhood
You can help your neighborhood to stay safe.
- Be aware of the physical details, people and happenings in your neighborhood.
- When moving, call the police and find out the frequency of burglaries in your new neighborhood and how they have occurred so you know how to protect yourself.
- Participate in a Neighborhood Watch program. Post signs to let potential housebreakers know that your neighborhood is aware of their threat and that you are collectively willing to protect yourselves. A united front makes your neighborhood less vulnerable.
- Do not let strangers into your home, even if they offer free inspections of roof, furnace or air conditioners. If you are not sure about a worker, even after asking for identification, call the company.
- Tell your neighbors about suspicious strangers, including a description of the suspect and his procedure.
- Do not go into the house, if you suspect there is a stranger inside. Use the neighbor's phone or your wireless phone to call the police immediately.
When leaving for vacation, take steps to secure your home while you are away.
- Do not be overly communicative about your vacation schedule or even your day-to-day schedule.
- Do not tell people you are not home on the outgoing message of your answering machine.
- Put timers on indoor lights, televisions, and radios; specifically look for timers with random patterns that suggest movement and activity in the house.
- Erase the messages on your answering machine often, so it isn't obvious you're out of town.
- Ask police to check your street often.
- Secure all locks on doors and windows, including garage and pet doors.
- Use new, quality, long-lasting light bulbs.
- Arrange to have your yard maintained, including having your driveway shoveled or lawn mowed.
- Ask a trusted neighbor or friend to pick up your mail and check the inside and outside of your house every day.
- Do not close all shades and curtains; it will be too obvious that you are away.
Be proactive about your home security.
- Do not display valuables to the outside world.
- Conduct a security inspection. Have a friend pretend to be a burglar and look for a way to break in.
- Make a list of trouble spots and do what you can to correct them.
- Dogs really are a deterrent. Not only do they often frighten intruders, but they also warn you.
- Do not provide access to your keys. For example, valet attendants can make copies of standard keys within minutes. They then have access to your address on your registration.
With your business as well as your home, you need to be aware of when you are most at risk of being burglarized. Act accordingly.
The times when you are most at risk are when you:
- Dismissed an employee.
- Keep multiple keys in circulation (maintenance people, employees, etc.).
- Keep a consistent schedule.
- Take long vacations.
- Recently moved your business.
Locks and Doors
Your locks are your first line of defense. Be sure they offer patented key control to guard against unauthorized key duplication and are resistant to picking and drilling.
- Install High Security Locks or electronic access control units on all doors. Remember standard access systems, such as key pads, do not offer high security. Someone can gain instant "key duplication" by watching you enter your code.
- Install solid doors.
- Attach sheet steel to both sides of back and basement doors.
- Select door frames and hinges that cannot be pried open.
- When you are leaving, lock steel bars or door barriers with high security padlocks that have a hardened steel body and shackle to resist drills, hammers, blowtorches, and bolt cutters.
- Secure all windows.
Safes and Lights With careful operation, your safe offers day-to-day protection for your earnings and valuable items.
- Position your safe in clear view and secure it to the floor.
- Give the combination or key only to authorized personnel.
- Change the combination often.
- Twist the dial several times after closing the safe or vault to be sure it is locked.
- Make frequent deposits so a minimal amount of cash is stored at your business.
- Vary your route and schedule for trips to the bank.
Protect your business with proper lighting.
- Install motion sensor lights as well as constant outside lights.
- Eliminate dark places around the building that would make good hiding places.
- Keep some interior lights on even when the business is closed.
- Place inside lights in rear of room so that silhouettes can be seen from the street.
Outdoor Security and Suspicious Idlers
- Be sure fire escapes don't provide easy access.
- Keep a clear view into and out of your establishment by clearing high bushes or trees.
- Ask employees and neighbors to report suspicious persons and happenings.
- Remember the physical features of suspicious persons and write down detailed descriptions.
- Call the police if suspicious idlers continue to loiter.
- Write down the license number of any vehicle involved in a possible crime.
- If you are robbed, remember: it is better to lose your valuables than your life. Yield your possessions and let the robber go. Then call the police. Be alert to every detail that could aid in identifying the criminal.