Protecting home from burglaries

skubaMarch 23, 2014

Hi All,
I still need to change all locks since moving in to new home. But before doing that I have been doing some research, trying to figure out how much security I really need, what to get such as fancy deadbolts, alarm system, cameras? I live in a good neighborhood in San Francisco, but not impervious to burglaries. There was one just a couple weeks ago a few blocks from my house. It was a forced entry.

I don't mind spending some money on making it more secure, just want to try to make good decisions. For example, what's the point of putting fancy locks/bolts if doors can easily be pried with a crowbar or kicked in? The side door we have is pretty think, do we need to replace it?

Do you guys think that having a flood light next to the doors will do a lot to prevent break-ins?

Suggestions?

Thanks

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Acadiafun

We have an alarm system. The benefit to this is that we get a deduction on our house insurance. In reality your insurance is what will pay if your house has been burgalized except for jewelry. You may need a seperate insurance rider for that.

A flood light next to the doors is a good idea for the home invader who chooses to strike after dark. But that is your worst case scenario because that type of predator is expecting for the most part that you are home and may deal with you accordingly. He may not like to be in a light for the few seconds it takes to break into your house, and in reality he may just choose to break a window which is so much easier. An alarm system lets you know he is there, will call you, and then if they can't reach you will notify the police. There is alot of time in the in between. For me the alarm notification that my house has been breached will allow me to access my second round of home defense which allows me to protect my family before the police arrive.

In all reality my alarm system is the best detterent against a daytime burglary. My dogs are the best detterent against a night time home invasion because they call too much attention and are a hassle when someone can just choose a house without dogs. They alert me long before the alarms go off.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 12:42AM
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christopherh

Wow. Where I live we don't even lock our doors. I have no idea where the key to my front door is.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 7:30AM
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toxcrusadr

If you have good locks, you can take them to a locksmith shop and have them re-keyed instead of replacing the locks entirely. Might save you some money.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 3:09PM
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Ecl09

Well, I know you are looking for advice about locks and security systems more so than landscaping. But I just read a very interesting article about how to use your landscaping to deter burglaries. I included a link to the article below if you are interested. Again, I know this is a strange concept, but I thought it was sort of clever....I'd still change the locks though:)

Here is a link that might be useful: Landscaping for Home Security

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 4:23PM
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sameboat

Lock yourself out, then try to break in!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 5:03PM
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skuba

Hi Guys, thanks for the tips. The problem with alarm is arming it every time you leave the house and in the evening. Becomes a bigger problem if you have guests often, which we do. Another problem when you have people like the pest-killer guy or a cleaning lady that comes once in a while. Would have to give them the alarm password. And sometimes it's the owners themselves that trigger the alarm. Companies like ADT will charge $100 for a false alarm.

I know I need to start by the locks. But what about reinforcing the door frames? Or even replacing the door if it's too thin?

Thanks again

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 8:20PM
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toxcrusadr

Yes those are good ideas. One thing to look at is the area right around the lock. Burglars can either kick it in or try to pry the frame away from the door sideways.

Kick-in may be prevented by making sure the strike plate for the lock is sturdy, and held in by LONG screws well into the (probably at least 2) vertical 2x4s bordering the opening. Often these screws are too short. Also, a metal plate on the molding on the 'house' side may help keep the frame from busting out when the door is kicked by distributing the load up and down the frame.

If the door has windows, that's an easy way to get in - just punch in a window, reach in and unlock. You can replace the door, get bars, or use a lock that's keyed on both sides (and don't leave the key in the lock!).

Just some ideas.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 6:16PM
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carolssis

Good locks are always a plus. When our front door was kicked in, we discovered that the lock bolt wasn't very long and didn't go into the frame very deep, which would have made it harder to kick open our door. If we had taken off the door trim, we would have known this, but in an older home, it just didn't occur to us to check that. We did take out the locks and re-key them all, right after we moved in. As for an alarm, we got an insurance reduction for installing it. They usually are re-programmable for the security code. If you use a number that's easy to remember, like your anniversary, your dads birthdate, something easy to recall, it makes for faster code entering after coming home. Lights, good locks, alarms, all the easiest things to do. Good luck in your decision.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 9:44AM
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DreamingoftheUP

I looked into home security following the break in of a neighbor's home. It was done during the day at the back of the house, not visible from the street. For the most part, many of the homes are empty during the day as people go to their jobs. This break in wasn't through the door. It was through a bedroom window; the burglars pulled a garbage can below the window so one of them could climb up and break in. He then let the other burglar in through the back door. The key is make it difficult and time consuming to break in. With enough effort and time, a burglar can always break in. However, if you make it difficult, they may as well pick the easier house down the street.

What I found is that for doors, the standard recommendation of using long screws to secure the strike plate is insufficient. The strike must be reinforced with a longer plate and more screws. There are a number of companies that make this product. Door Jamb Armor is one.

The doors themselves are also a weak point. Typical residential steel doors will fold and fiberglass doors will crack. There are a number of European companies that manufacture true security doors for residential use. As far as I know, there's only one company that imports their product, Master Security Doors, which are made in Italy. They are quite pricey but are definitely secure. I was unable to find (checked with contractors and locksmiths) anything comparable from an American company for the residential market. Of course, if you have multiple french doors leading to patios and decks, simply securing a front door won't do much.

There are security screen doors, but the ones sold in big box stores are usually not the best. Also, since they have glass which can be broken, you'd have to get them with a double lock, which isn't allowed per code in some towns.

For windows, there's a little better choice. Beware of the plastic film companies. You can go to their websites and they'll show you videos of windows treated with their products that withstand baseball attacks and even small explosions. What's left unsaid until you dig into it is that those windows are commercial installations with wide, metal sash to which thick film can be fastened. For residential use, there isn't enough area to which it can be fastened and the typical wood or vinyl sash is not strong enough. All these companies can offer for residential use is a film that will protect your furnishings from the sun and "may" slow down an intruder.

There are two other options: first is security screens. These can be regular screens woven with stainless steel wire or even better is a flat, thin steel panel which is punctured with small holes to give a screen effect. They do obstruct the view somewhat but are less noticeable the farther away you stand while looking out.

The other window option is rolling shutters. These are quite popular in Europe. The key, of course, is not getting flimsy plastic ones which are only good as sun shades but getting something heftier that could deter a burglar. Here is an example.

I should also mention security bars, but they have some drawbacks. First, it looks like you are in jail and secondly, they are not up to code in some towns because of closing a means of escape during a fire.

This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Fri, Mar 28, 14 at 22:19

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 10:13PM
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cole_robbie

Get a good dog. I like German Shepherds. I looked up the link to one for you.

Here is a link that might be useful: The best security system you will ever have

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 10:27PM
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christopherh

Although we don't need our chow chow for protection or a break in, they're pretty menacing to some people. They were originally bred as war dogs.

Even a cocker spaniel can do a lot of damage to an intruder.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 7:19AM
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DreamingoftheUP

If you have a fenced-in yard, the first thing everyone should have, before even getting a dog, is a "Beware of the Dog" sign.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 8:53AM
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jackfre

I have placed a couple "game cameras" around the exterior of the house. A determined thief will get in given time. I just want to know who it is so I can prevent a recurrence with the same meathead.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 11:30PM
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peegee

Don't know if it's true now or ever was, but Annie, I was told years ago to never put up a "beware" sign as legally, it indicates you know your pet is a menace, should someone get hurt...of course, since I don't actually have a dog now, there could be no problem.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 3:55PM
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lucillle

I have dogs, I do not need to put up a beware sign, five dogs barking at the same time (4 are large) might make anyone think twice. I have other stuff as well to deter entrance. I do not think it is necessary for the vast number of burglary preventions to do more than make it difficult to get into your home quickly and quietly, once you have a couple methods in place, would be burglars will just look for easier pickings.

I read the crime reports occasionally in the neighborhood and am surprised that there are reports of theft with no evidence of forced entry, meaning the people just left their door unlocked.

Out in the country or in quiet areas that is fine, but not where I live.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 4:08PM
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kudzu9

I've had a monitored alarm system for 35 years and had maybe 3 false alarms. You learn to be responsible with the system and it's not a problem. Most alarm systems can have more than one password code so you can give a temporary one to housecleaners or service people, for example, and revoke it at any time without changing your main one.

I've never had an alarm company that charged for false alarms...but many police departments do if you're careless and start having more than one false alarm every 6-12 months or so.

One advantage in an alarm system is that the inside alarm horn is really loud and nerve-wracking. Burglars do not want to hang around and listen to it and they don't know when police will show up, so they want to get out. A crook might grab your laptop, but is unlikely to hang around long enough to ransack your house. In addition, it's nice to have an alarm system in case of a fire. And most insurance companies give discounts in your premiums for having one.

You can't entirely prevent home break-ins, but you can make your house a less attractive target than your neighbors by having an alarm and posting signs of it at obvious points of entry.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 4:46PM
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StoneTech

Just post a sign...."Protected by Smith & Wesson."

Alternatively, Put a couple of dog dishes outside the door with names on them like "Brutus" and "Goliath."

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 3:42PM
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pprioroh

There used to be a TV show on, can't remember the name, where two "ex" thieves would case a house, then introduce themselves to the homeowners and get permission to "break into" the house.

It was shocking to me how easy it was to absolutely destroy and clean out almost every home they went into within 5-10 minutes (TOTAL).

Most thieves are after targets of opportunity. Make your house less tempting than the next and they'll usually go there. By the time someone is breaking in your front door, it's probably too late.

Having said that, many MANY times on that show, a window was left open or a door unlocked, or a easy jump from ground to a second story porch with an unlocked door or bedroom window. Many times it's about human behavior more than design choices.

Turning an alarm on and off is very hard to remember to do reliably, but if you do it, that's probably the best option. Almost no thief will stay in a home with the alarm shrieking - they will run fast.

Dogs barking - laughable. Those guys just tossed steak or food to almost every dog in the house they broke into, including some big aggressive breeds. not once did they ever have a problem.

Lighting after hours is important, any place a potential thief can hide while he's breaking in (behind shrubs, in dark back entry, etc) is an advantage. Any time he's forced to stand in a well lit well exposed area, it's less likely.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 8:51PM
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pprioroh

Found the show: "It takes a thief"

You can probably netflix or hulu it, worth it but it will freak you out a bit how easily they can ruin your life.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Takes_a_Thief_(2005_TV_series)

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 8:27PM
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