Sunday, February 13, 2011

Home Security: Burglary Prevention

Keep em' out!!
Most criminals who burglarize homes are looking for an easy hit; a house that they can break into quickly, take something of value, and leave without being detected.

Yefim Toybin
February 13, 2001 @ 13:35
Phoenix, Arizona



A day ago, one of my fellows related me a sad and painful story about his house being burglarized while all his family had been at work. The thieves entered the house through one of the windows. As result, huge financial damage and great emotion trauma have been imposed on the family. I felt so bad for them knowing that they are not the first ones in among the people I know have become victims of a common crime in our state.
Since, I have collected some valuable and practical information on the issue over the years, I have decided to devise an article and post it on my blog.
I truly hope that the materials below may not be a panacea from this terrible crime but could help individuals and families to improve home’s security and, thus, prevent their houses and apartments from being burglarized.
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By far, the most common threat to our home is BURGLARY.
According to the FBI, a burglary occurs somewhere in the United States every 15.4 seconds. By definition, the crime of burglary is a non-confrontational property crime that occurs when we are not at home. However, becoming a burglary victim can leave a family feeling vulnerable and violated.

Your home is your castle...or is it? Is your home really safe once you leave for work or school, vocation and etc.? Your home is considered a sanctuary where you should feel safe. Your home is the only environment where you have control over who can get close to you or your family. Protecting your home and family from criminal intrusion should be high on your list of priorities.

The majority of home and apartment burglaries occur during the daytime when most people are away at work or school. The summer months of July and August have the most burglaries with February having the fewest crimes. Burglaries are committed most often by young males under 25 years of age looking for items that are small, expensive, and can easily be converted to cash. Favorite items are cash, jewelry, guns, watches, laptop computers, VCRs, video players, CDs and other small electronic devices are high on the list. Quick cash is needed for living expenses and drugs. Statistics tell us that 70% of the burglars use some amount force to enter a dwelling, but their preference is to gain easy access through an open door or window. Ordinary household tools like screwdrivers, channel-lock pliers, small pry bars, and small hammers are most often used by burglars. Burglars continue to flourish because police can only clear about 13% of all reported burglaries and rarely catch the thief in the act.

Although home burglaries may seem random in occurrence, they actually involve a selection process. The burglar's selection process is simple. Choose an unoccupied home with the easiest access, the greatest amount of cover, and with the best escape routes. What follows is a list of suggestions to minimize your risk by making your home unattractive to potential burglars.

If you have ever been a victim of a house robbery you will know that it is a difficult process for you and your loved ones to go through. You might be able to submit an insurance claim and recover some of the financial losses, but emotionally you will be left with scars that are hard to heal.

Imagine sleeping in your bed at night and suddenly you hear a window break or someone walking around in your house? It can be a frightening experience and no one prepares you for what to do next. Below is a complete guide and some tips on how to improve your home’s security. There are also some of the steps you can take to decrease the likelihood that you or your home is targeted.

Doors and Locks
The first step is to harden the target or make your home more difficult to enter. Remember, the burglar will simply bypass your home if it requires too much effort or requires more skill and tools than they possess. Most burglars enter via the front, back, or garage doors. Experienced burglars know that the garage door is usually the weakest point of entry followed by the back door. The garage and back doors also provide the most cover. Burglars know to look inside your car for keys and other valuables so keep it locked, even when parked inside your garage. When you first move into your house remember to change your locks, even if it is a new house.
• Use a solid core or metal door for all entrance points
• Use a quality, heavy-duty, deadbolt lock with a one-inch throw bolt
• Use a quality, heavy-duty, knob-in-lock set with a dead-latch mechanism
• Consider getting a biometric lock which only allows those who are in the system to use their fingerprints to open the door.
• Use a heavy-duty, four-screw, strike plate with 3-inch screws to penetrate into a wooden door frame
• Use a wide-angle 160° peephole mounted no higher than 58 inches

Sliding-Glass Patio Doors
Sliding glass doors are secured by latches not locks. They are vulnerable to being forced open from the outside because of these inherently defective latch mechanisms. This can be easily be prevented by inserting a wooden dowel or stick into the track thus preventing or limiting movement. Other blocking devices available are metal fold-down blocking devices called "charley bars" and various track-blockers that can be screwed down.• Use a secondary blocking device on all sliding glass doors
• Keep the latch mechanism in good condition and properly adjusted
• Keep sliding door rollers in good condition and properly adjusted
• Use anti-lift devices such as through-the-door pins or upper track screws
• Use highly visible alarm decals, beware of dog decals or block watch decal

Windows

Windows are left unlocked and open at a much higher rate than doors. An open window, visible from the street or alley, may be the sole reason for your home to be selected by a burglar. Ground floor windows are more susceptible to break-ins for obvious reasons. Upper floor windows become attractive if they can be accessed from a stairway, tree, fence, or by climbing on balconies. Windows have latches, not locks and therefore should have secondary blocking devices to prevent sliding them open from the outside. Inexpensive wooden dowels and sticks work well for horizontal sliding windows and through-the-frame pins work well for vertical sliding windows.

• Secure all accessible windows with secondary blocking devices
• Block accessible windows open no more than 6 inches for ventilation
• Make sure someone cannot reach through an open window and unlock the door
• Make sure someone cannot reach inside the window and remove the blocking device
• Use anti-lift devices to prevent window from being lifted out
• Use crime prevention or alarm decals on ground accessible windows

Lighting
Interior lighting is necessary to show signs of life and activity inside a residence at night. A darken home night-after-night sends the message to burglars that you are away on a trip. Outdoor lighting is one of the best preventatives you can use to deter a thief. It is best to get energy efficient bulbs so you can leave your porch and patio lights on all night. If you do not want to leave the lights on unnecessarily, try getting motion detector lights which only turn on when someone walks by; you will need to be handy for this one or hire an electrician.
• Use interior light timers to establish a pattern of occupancy
• Exterior lighting should allow 100- feet of visibility
• Use good lighting along the pathway and at your door
• Use light timers or photo-cells to turn on/off lights automatically
• Use infra-red motion sensor lights on the rear of single family homes

Alarm Systems
Even if you think you live in a safe neighborhood it is probably a good idea to invest in a security alarm. Alarm systems definitely have a place in a home security plan and are effective, if used properly. The reason why alarms systems deter burglaries is because they increase the potential and fear of being caught and arrested by the police. You will then have to make sure the alarm is monitored by a security store, an alarm company, or by the police directly. Some alarm companies will call you if your alarm is activated and ask you if everything is OK before sending out the police; whereas some other companies will automatically activate the emergency police response. It is a good idea to have a safe word so the police know for sure if you are alright, or if you are being threatened and forced to say that you are safe when in fact you are in danger.
• Alarm systems are effective deterrents with visible signage
• Alarm systems to be properly installed, programmed, and maintained
• Alarm systems need to have an audible horn or bell to be effective
• Make sure your alarm response call list is up to date
• Instruct your neighbor how to respond to an alarm bell

Home Safes
Home safes are designed to keep the smash and grab burglar, nosy kids, dishonest babysitter or housekeeper from gaining access to important documents and personal property. Home safes need to be anchored into the floor or permanent shelving.
• Use the safe everyday so it becomes routine
• Protect the safe code and change it occasionally
• Install it away from the master bedroom or closet

Security Cameras
A security camera is another great deterrent. If you can afford to have a security company install one in your house equipped with video screens that you can view around the house then do not spare any expense. These security cameras can catch robbers in the act and be used as evidence in court even if you are not home.

If cost is an issue, then consider buying a dummy camera and hang it near your front door. Some of them even have a motion light that blinks when someone walks by. These cameras are battery operated and look like the real deal, but only you will know the wire is cut in the back.

Signs
Did you know that just a simple sign can prevent a burglary? Would-be thieves know that it is easier for them to rob a house that does not have an alarm system so when they see the alarm company's sign on the front window or door, they often go to the next house. And even if you do not actually have an alarm, you can still purchase the signs.

Beware of Dog is another sign that is a good deterrent. Who would want to take the risk of being mauled by a Rottweiler or pit bull?

Be a Good Neighbor
Good neighbors should look out for each other. Get to know your neighbors on each side of your home and the three directly across the street.
• Get to know all your adjacent neighbors
• Invite them into your home and establish trust
• Agree to watch out for each other's home
• Do small tasks for each other to improve territoriality
• While on vacation - pick up newspapers, and flyers
• Offer to occasionally park your car in their driveway
• Return the favor and communicate often

Common Sense
If you have taken all of the above preventative measures and someone still manages to enter your home illegally, then be prepared. CALL 911 and hide so you do not put yourself in direct danger. Do practice tests with your family to make sure everyone knows where to go and how to handle the situation.

If you have nowhere to hide or are confronted by the criminal then do not try to protect your valuables; at the end of the day it is your life that is most important. Objects can be replaced but your family cannot.

Many people will try to defend their property by yielding a weapon but think about the consequences; will you really be OK if you shoot an intruder? How will your family be able to cope with the nightmare and potential legal costs if your case goes to court? What happens if the robber is a psychopath or is high on drugs and has no regard for human life? You do not want to take the chance of getting killed for the sake of your jewelry, money and computer. Know your state laws if you do attempt to protect your home.

Additional Advice: Operation Identification
This is a program supported by most police agencies. They recommend that you engrave your drivers’ license, not your social security number, on televisions, stereos, computers, and small electronic appliances. They suggest this so they can identify and locate you if your stolen items are recovered. I suggest that you go way beyond this step

It is recommended that you photograph your valuables in their locations around your home and make a list of the make, model, and serial numbers. This is very important for proof when filing insurance claims. You should keep this list in a safety deposit box or with a relative for safe keeping. Keep receipts of the larger items in case you need to prove the value of the items for insurance purposes. Beyond that, I recommend that you photocopy important documents and the contents of your wallet. You will be thankful that you took these steps in case your home is ever destroyed by fire or flood, is ransacked, or if your wallet is lost or stolen.
• Identify your valuables by engraving your drivers’ license number
• Photograph and record the serial numbers of all valuables
• Photocopy the contents of your wallet and other documents
• Store the copies in a safe deposit box or with a relative
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BONUS:
HOME SECURITY AND SAFETY CHECK LIST

GENERAL SECURITY
1. Have you arranged to have member of a law enforcement agency do a professional survey?
2. Are all trees and shrubs pruned and well maintained to prevent anyone from hiding unseen?
3. Do any trees, down pipes, lattice work provide easy access to upper floors?
4. If you have skylights can they be removed from the outside or easily broken?
5. Any ladders, tools kept outside to assist any potential intruder?
6. Are you guilty of keeping a hidden house key outside the house where it's sure to be found?
7. Is your home well lighted with particular attention to exterior doors?
8. Can your main entrance be seen from the street?
9. Are exterior doors at least 1-3/4 inch thick and made from solid wood or reinforced with metal?
10. Do all exterior doors have heavy duty dead bolts and reinforced door jams?
11. Can anyone gain easy access through a mail slot, dryer vent, or pet entrance?
12. If doors have glass panels can someone break through and defeat the locking mechanism?
13. Have all sliding glass doors been protected from being easily lifted out from their frames?
14. Are all exterior lights and security devices in good working order and protected from breakage?
15. Does the door from the attached garage leading to the house have a dead bolt?
16. Does your overhead door have a working electronic door opener?
17. Does your overhead door have any loose, broken or missing door panels or hardware?
18. Do you keep the overhead doors closed, and your car locked inside the garage?
19. Do all windows have reinforced locking devices that can be secured in the open position?
20. Do all screens and storm windows have reinforced locks?
21. Do ground level windows have guards or grates?
22. Are basement windows glass block or protected by grates or security devices?
23. All irreplaceable items kept in high quality fire resistant safe or in off-site safety deposit box?
24. Do you have a complete and current video tape or pictures of all your valuables off-site?
25. Are all firearms kept secured and apart from ammunition?

FIRE PREVENTION AND SAFETY
1. Is your heating system in proper working order and inspected for dangerous leaks yearly?
2. Is there ample air circulation around appliances that are likely to overheat?
3. Any overloaded circuits, long extension cords runs, too many devices plugged unto one outlet?
4. Fireplaces, chimney free of dangerous build ups that could catch on fire?
5. Protective grate in front of fireplace to prevent sparks, hot logs from rolling into room?
6. Kitchen oven hood and far clear of greasy build-up that could cause a fire?
7. Smoke detectors installed on each level and tested weekly?
8. Smoke detector batteries replaced every 12 months or less?
9. Working fire extinguisher in kitchen, basement, garage, auto?
10. All family members sleep with bedroom door closed to prevent spread of fire, smoke?
11. All family members practice fire drill, know escape route, designated meeting pace to go outside?
12. Children know how to use phone to get help in an emergency?

WHEN AWAY FOR EXTENDED PERIODS
1. Security system armed? Automatic timers for lights, radio turned on? Phones turned down?
2. Arrange for neighbor to watch house, cut, water grass, give house that lived-in look?
3. No change in normal pattern of opening, shutting drapes, dead give-away lighting patterns?
4. Arrange to stop mail, newspaper delivery, yard work performed?
5. Arrange to have local police give "special attention" for area beat car?









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