Make home security a priority
Originally appeared in Bay Area News Group publications on August 21, 2015
“I believe that everyone chooses how to approach life. If you’re proactive, you focus on preparing. If you’re reactive, you end up focusing on repairing.”
– John C. Maxwell
Home burglaries are a serious problem in the Bay Area. Despite that, too many homeowners do not give much thought to securing their property against break-ins. Folks often become motivated to improve the situation only after they have been burglarized. There are a number of measures you can take now to discourage crooks.
It is estimated that 90 per cent of residential locks can be easily defeated. Years ago, certain brand-name locks were reputed to be extremely secure. This is no longer true. They are still carried by box stores, hardware stores and locksmiths, but many of the well-known home locks are not sufficient.
A top-quality, deadbolt lock is better built, much heavier and more expensive than less effective ones. In our area, they cost hundreds of dollars each, and even more with options such as a removable thumb latch. This does not include installation, which can cost from $35 to over $100 per lock, plus a trip fee to come to your home.
Inferior locks can easily be picked. One method is called “bumping.” For about three dollars, anyone can purchase a bump key online. This is a master key usually used by locksmiths to help people when they have locked themselves out. Videos abound on the ‘net showing exactly how to bump. Bargain locks are also susceptible to a crowbar attack.
A number of top-of-the-line locks are bump-proof and at least one is also crowbar resistant; however, their efficacy varies. This is why it is crucial for you to speak with experienced, trusted locksmiths about the best locks for your situation.
Keys for high-end locks cannot be duplicated by anyone but the owner. This is a major security feature, especially for buyers of homes that have just been on the market. When installed, the locksmith will ensure that there is a strike plate (metal opening the deadbolt goes into) that accommodates four screws and that the screw length is three inches. Check to see if your strike plates meet these criteria.
The best locks are inadequate unless your front door is made of strong enough material. This applies as well to your side and/or rear doors. In older homes, these doors may be flimsy and unsubstantial. They should be replaced with stronger ones or a steel screen door can be added outside them.
If one of your doors contains a “doggy” opening, remember that burglars tend to work in teams and one of them may be small and skinny enough to get in and out through that hole meant for Fido. Old-school, wood French doors may not be stout enough to prevent forced entry. Vintage, sliding glass doors can easily be popped out of their frames, even when locked.
Our housing stock commonly contains what real estate agents call “walls of glass.” Unfortunately, many are single-pane, un-reinforced glass that is easy to break. Often, if there is a security (alarm) system, these sections are not part of it. When wall-to-ceiling, unprotected glass is in areas that cannot be seen from the street, a burglar can create a large enough opening to enter and exit with your valuables without setting off the alarm.
Louvered windows can be simply removed for effortless entry. I see these all the time and wonder why people have not replaced them. Casement (opened with a crank) windows are also a weak point.
Simple, cost-free steps
Keep extra keys hidden, but not under door mats or flower pots. When leaving the house, make sure all doors, windows and skylights are closed and/or locked; close all window coverings. Uncovered windows at street level are an invitation for burglars to check out your stuff and decide what to take. You can easily and inexpensively install locks on all your windows. For fire safety, make sure the key is nearby and visible (from inside, not outside). At the least, this will slow down a burglar.
Leave lights on inside if you will be away when it is dark. For times you will be gone overnight or longer, use timers to automatically turn lights on/off and play music. During vacations, have mail and newspapers promptly picked up by a friend or neighbor.
I recommend to all my buyers that they install or update a home security system to cover at least the most vulnerable parts of the property. Although police may not respond in a timely manner, burglars move fast when the alarm is sounding.
A video security system, in addition to an alarm system, is another deterrent and provides peace of mind. Wherever you are, you can easily check your smart phone or tablet and know your house is safe. When the front door bell rings, you just peek at your smart devices to see who is there.
Alarm companies and camera security suppliers will give you a free sign or charge you only a few dollars for one. Front lawn signs showing that the house is protected by these systems will likely cause a burglar to avoid your place.
In today’s world, home security needs to be one of your priorities. Do the simple things and, if you do not have them, consider investing in alarm and video security systems. Protecting your property now will cost a lot less financially and emotionally than getting burglarized.