Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Burglary: What One Man Can Build Another Can Break Into

The pyramids prove anything one man can build another can break into. We're able to see the glory of Tutankhamen's burial regalia today because he was buried in a hole in the ground instead of an ostentatious pyramid. The more glorious you make your house look on the outside the more appealing it looks … to crooks.

Here are some tips on reinforcing your doors and windows (and other tricks) to help keep crooks out.

Install double key deadbolt locks on any door with glass in it or within thirty-six inches of a window. Be sure the doors and doorframes you pick are at least as strong as the locks you mount on them.

Putting a double key deadbolt lock at about five feet from floor on a solid core door is an effective defense against having a solid core door kicked in because it's very hard to kick up that high. Be sure to use three inch or longer screws to secure the strike plate just as you would with the double key deadbolt lock at the regular level.

One way to reinforce your doorframe is with the StrikeMaster a long strip of metal that screws through your doorframe into the 2X4's with three or four inch screws.

Or you could go whole hog and mount a safe room door either as the door to your house or for a safe room.

Outward opening exterior doors are more resist kicking in than the same door mounted as an inward opening door provided the hinges and door frame are strong.

Front yard signs and window stickers will discourage most small time burglars. But alarm company contracts are expensive so some companies sell fakes for those who want faux security.

However it does little good to put up fake alarm company stickers on windows if the crook can look in and see there are not relays and wires to an alarm system. You can purchase relays and wires cheaply at Radio Shack, tack'em where they can be seen from the outside and run the wires out of sight.

If you've got the money to spend the Ultimate Lock offers first class protection. Another expensive but quality lock is the Medeco deadbolt lock. Please note that with both these expensive locks it does no good to mount them on a cheap door or weak doorframe.

Another not so cheap lock is the Schlage followed by the Kwikset which is the lock you most probably have on your front door.

When we bought our home and stores one of the first things I did was hire a locksmith to come out and re-key all the locks. Expensive, but worth it to be sure I was the only one able to turn a key and walk into my property.

As long as I was spending the money I had the locksmiths set one combination for all the house door locks and another for the store and warehouse door locks. That way I only had to carry two keys around with me. Like I said expensive: but convenient.

Thankfully Kwikset has recently come out with SmartKey door locks (double deadbolts, deadbolts and knobs) that allow you to key all the locks on your house to one key via what they call a "SmartKey tool.

I've replaced several locks with SmartKey locks and they are still working fine several years later.

A keyless open from the inside only device is The Original Door Stopper® a handy little round palm sized piece of metal that looks good and functions like a lock but needs no key to operate from the inside.

Another open from the inside only lock is a half inch rebar through eye bolts sunk into 2X4's on either side of the door. On an inward opening door the rebar would just slide through the eye bolts. For an outward opening door you'd need to put two more eye bolts in the door itself so the rebar would slide through all four eye bolts.

Obviously this is for a basement door or some other place where looks don't matter. Also, a door secured in this manner can't be opened from the outside unless you are foolish enough to have glass windows in the door or around the doorframe. And sliding the rebar into the eye bolts gets to be a chore if the door is in use all the time. This type of el cheapo locking mechanism is for doors that don't get much use.

If you don't have bars on all your windows it doesn't matter how many locks you've got on the doors.

Paint the bars BLACK so your mind's eye will dismiss the color making it easier to look through them at what's outside. If you've got lots of money and can't stand the thought of bars on your windows you go with Shattergard or a similar product.

Another way to discourage window attacks is to plant cactus, roses or some other thorny plant under windows.

Bottom Line
A lock, no matter what it costs, is only as break-in resistant as the door it is mounted on and the door is only as strong as the hinges/frame it is mounted on.


J writes:

Great advice. While my apartment is blessed with a steel door (with a Medico deadbolt, steel plate over outside lock, through bolted to the door and angle iron to the steel jam to prevent prying along with the rinky-dink lock supplied by the building) as well as internal bars over the windows to fire escapes (easily removed by pulling pins in case of a fire), I still built an alarm system (not central office connected to going to a loud bell with battery backup anchored to ceiling of concrete outside terrace.

System is "normally live", so if wires are cut, bell goes off. Also used 4" tamperproof screws to close four sides of box cover with a tamper switch, so even if the cover is to be removed - short of knowing ahead what tools to bring, such as heavy hammer and cold chisel, and the nature of the system, the bell will ring for a number of minutes). Bell is 10" and will wake the dead which, considering the dense population packing of the building and neighborhood, should act as a deterrent.

Is this system foolproof? Absolutely not (a local bank had its vault broken into from a drycleaner next door and anyone with enough incentive can penetrate the apartment from an adjoining wall to a neighbor, but it's unlikely that the normal burglar would take this route).

The major security concern, in my case, is not physical penetration, but "social engineering". About a year ago, a couple of "detectives" ran the apartment door bell and when my wife wouldn't open the door without calling the precinct first, they went away. Later we found that they robbed an elderly gentleman down the hall who let them into his apartment.

In my opinion, in all security, whether data or physical, there are a couple of important criteria. The obvious one is the security itself (whether a strong physical perimeter, data encryption or whatever), the second is what I call "authentication". All the security in the world won't protect against a violation of trust on a personal level. I brought this up in a conversation with ***** yesterday (though not using the "A" word) in the context of the ability of people lending their ID cards to friends.

While there are some interesting biometric devices (my traveling laptop, despite the fact that there is never any information stored on it, as I use an encrypted VPN to access a remote computer for my work, has its hard disk encrypted using my fingerprint as a key - well actually did a number of my and wife's fingers in case I get sloppy with a hammer).

While it might be overkill for a home, I saw a demonstration of these [CyberLock also available through TEC Solutions] which was very impressive (and they have matching cylinders for most major lock manufacturers)


Wow! Great response J (it sounds like you're almost as paranoid as I am. ;-) The "social engineering" part of your post reminds me that the next step up from burglary (danger to property) is robbery (danger to people) and then there's just plain felons on the run.

Our local news recently ran a story/interview with a woman who'd just come face to face with a fleeing felon. Seems the cops were chasing him through backyards when he tried to smash his way through her back door.

Her strong back door kept him out (good for her) but she got scared and ran out her front door (bad for her) and ran straight into him as he'd given up on her back door and was coming around to the front of her house just as she ran out. They met in front of her garage.

The story detailed exactly what I've been warning my wife about for years as I constantly remind (nag) her to keep all doors locked at all times so I dragged her from her shows in the living room to watch a replay of the story on the bedroom TV with accompanying commentary by yours truly ("See, it really does happen!") as the woman recounted how she'd somehow been able to run back in her front door locking it behind her.

The news story ended with her neighbors recounting how "motorcycle cops and six police cars" pounced on the guy shortly thereafter and my grumbling wife returning to her show.


JRG writes to add:

Cutting solid wood door stop chocks and pounding into door head, jamb in several locations will help secure a door as well. Have read some folks in Sand Box use this when clearing buildings from insurgents, pounding these into doors in rooms already searched.


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