Protect and Serve

Crime Prevention Tip

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Tips for Protecting Your Home

August 03, 2010

The following are some recommendations for safeguarding your home against burglary.

WARNING: When implementing any of these precautions, be sure not to protect yourself from protection! For example, be careful not to install fencing or locks that could prevent or delay your timely rescue or escape in the event of fire.


Any fencing around your property can be a psychological deterrent to illegal entry. A burglar needs to think he can get away with whatever he takes from your home. Some types of privacy fencing, however, can actually be appealing to a burglar, as it may provide protection from being spotted by witnesses while breaking in. A chain link fence may be the best alternative, as it is difficult to scale, prevents or slows entry or exit, and does not prevent neighbors from detecting a break-in. Similarly, cut high shrubs back, especially near windows, so burglars cannot hide behind them.


A night prowler could be discouraged by a well-lit yard. There are many types of exterior lighting which can be used for security purposes.

To identify the dimly lit areas on your property, walk around your house (at a distance of approximately 40-50 feet) on a dark night and have someone dressed in dark clothing stand near vulnerable entrances or hiding places near your home. Determine where lights would best be positioned to deter a burglar. Do not forget about second story entrances which are accessible from nearby trees or the garage or porch roof.

Light sensors can be installed on most exterior lighting systems that automatically turn the lights on at dusk and off at dawn. Most hardware stores stock lights with motion detectors that are activated by human movement. These devices can sometimes frighten off burglars.


Exterior doors to your home will often be the first manner of entrance tried by a potential burglar. There are several factors involved that lend to the overall security provided by your doorways: the door itself; the strike plates, hinges and latches; the construction of the door frame; and the integrity of the lock.


The greatest security of provided by windowless doors with mail slots or other openings placed as far away from the latch as possible. Metal doors which are 16 gauge or thicker provide a good degree of security. Solid-core wooden doors are okay, although wooden doors can be cut.

Installing wide-angle peepholes in the center of the door increases security by allowing residents of the home to see who is outside without opening the door.


No matter how sturdy the door is, weak fasteners are frequently the main contribution to an in secure exterior doorway. Improperly aligned latches and strike plates, or shorter than adequate screws on hinges, latches and strike plates can make even the sturdiest door pop open with a minimal amount of pressure.

In a wooden door jamb, 3-inch #10 wood screws that extend in to the std behind the jamb should be used to attach the door hinge. The will provide adequate resistance to prying.

Door Frames

Some wooden door jambs are not designed for maximum security and are easily levered far enough away from the door to free the latches. To stiffen flexible door frames, use the flat end of a pry bar to remove the side casing and insert scrap pieces of wood between the stud and the door frame. Be sure not to force in pieces that are too thick and could cause the frame to bow so the door will not shut properly, but just enough to make a snug fit that will prevent prying the frame to free the latches.


Any time you believe that someone else could have a key for unauthorized entry to your home, it is wise to change the locks. This is particularly recommended if you have purchased a new home or if you move into a previously occupied apartment, as you have no idea who the previous residents have given keys to.

There are several types of lock and bolt systems for exterior doors. The following are readily available lock systems for residential use:

  • Key-In-Knob Lock
  • Dead Bolt Locks
  • Double-Cylinder Dead Bolt
  • Thumb-Turn Dead Bolt
  • Rim Lock Dead Bolt
  • Double-Bar Lock
  • Diagonal-Bar Lock
  • Vertical Bolts
  • Chain Lock

NOTE: No matter how strong the lock is, it is only good if it is used!


Electronic burglar alarm systems vary dramatically in price and sophistication. The basic principal, however, remains the same -- to sound an alarm when a point of entry has been intruded. The alarm, in most cases, will scare away the intruder, or alert residents or neighbors that a crime may be in progress.

Below are various types of alarm systems:

  • Door-Chain Alarm
  • Locking Door Alarm
  • Window Buzzer
  • Ultrasonic Motion Detector

Another popular type of alarm system is the family dog. The pet does not necessarily have to be a trained attack dog to scare away a would-be burglar. Remember, the burglar does not want to be detected in his act, and in many cases a barking dog will discourage a burglar from continuing his attempted entry into your home.


In the event that a burglar does successfully enter your home and steal your belongings, you should be prepared to assist the police in recovering and returning your property, and prepared to assist yourself in recouping your losses. Prepare a list of all your possessions, and take down the approximate date of purchase, value, and serial numbers. Those objects of extraordinary value or those that are difficult to describe in writing or have no serial numbers (such as jewelry or artwork) should be photographed.

Once you have completed your list, discuss your list of possessions with your insurance agent to be sure that you are adequately covered for theft or fire damage. Keep a copy of your list in a safe place (preferably a safety deposit box at your bank). DO NOT leave the list in an easy place for a burglar to find.

Be sure to mark your property in inconspicuous places, preferably on places that cannot be removed. A common and frequently recommended code to use is your Social Security Number.

If your marked property is stolen and subsequently recovered, using your Social Security Number as your identification code can assist the police in tracing you down and returning your property.

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