Home Burglary Prevention Tips

Exterior

Lighting

It is a recognized fact that good lighting is a deterrent to crime. Lighting lets the homeowner see the pathway they take from their vehicle to the house. It permits them to see as they stop at the door to use their house keys. Effective lighting also forces the intruder to work in an area where he may be exposed and reported to the police.

Around The House

All sides of the home should be protected by security lighting that is located high out of reach and is vandal resistant. The best possible location for exterior residential lighting is under the eaves of the house. This makes ground-level assault more difficult. Such lighting should ideally be controlled by photo-electric cells that will activate them during times of darkness.

Over Entry Doors

Each door should be equipped with a light that provides quality illumination in the vicinity of the door, including both sides of the door and porch.

Carports And Garages

Lighting in carports and garages is critical. For garages, an automatic garage door opener is the best choice. Almost every garage door opener made today has a light that comes on when the opener is activated, lighting the interior of the garage. In carports, it is recommended either to leave the light on, have the light on a timer, or have a light connected to a motion sensor or photo electric cell.

Light Controls

Security lighting should be automatically controlled by photocell. Unfortunately, many exterior light fixtures are controlled by an interior switch which can be —— and often is —— turned off by an occupant or simply never turned on in the first place. Photocell bases which screw into the bulb socket are available at minimal cost. The bulb is the screwed into the photocell base. From that point on, the light will illuminate automatically as the sun goes down. To insure the light is not accidentally extinguished, a cover can be placed over the inside switch or the switch can simply be removed altogether.

Motion Lighting

Motion detection lighting is strongly encouraged, particularly in areas where lighting may be considered intrusive to neighbors. Costing less than $50.00, such units are often direct replacements for existing fixtures and can be selectively aimed to detect motion of an approaching intruder and cause the light to activate. This does two things: first, the sudden presence of the light startles the intruder, leaving him exposed to view; and second, the light provides a friendly means to light pathways as the homeowner returns in the evening. While there may be a concern that dogs, cats or birds will trigger the sensor and cause the lights to come on, if the resident sets the sensitivity of the sensor correctly, this should not be a problem.

Landscaping And Plant Materials

Bushes, trees and shrubbery can conceal an intruder as he attempts entry into a window or door; or worse yet, as he waits in hiding for the homeowner! A few alterations to the home’s landscaping and plant materials can be enough to discourage intruders. To avoid being seen or caught, intruders look for property they can get into and out of quickly. Their ideal target is a house surrounded by large hedges or shrubs, which serve to hamper visibility from the street and neighbor’s houses.

Trim shrubbery and trees so doors and windows are visible to neighbors and from the street. Trimmed landscaping should not provide concealment for criminals. If the home has a second floor, prune trees so they can’t help a thief climb in second floor windows. Place trellises where they can’t be used as ladders to gain entry to upper floors.

Ground plants (shrubbery and bushes) within four (4) feet of any sidewalks, driveways, doors or gates, should be maintained at a height of not more than two (2) feet.

Ground plants between four (4) feet and eight (8) feet of any sidewalks, driveways, doors or gates, should be maintained at a height of not more than four (4) feet.

Ground plants under windows should be maintained at a height that is below the window sill.

Trees should be trimmed so that the lower branches are more than six (6) feet off the ground.

Place large gauge gravel on the ground near windows. The noise caused by an intruder walking on it can be a psychological barrier. Do not place large rocks or other items near glass windows or doors. These could provide the burglar with his tools!

Plant spiny (thorny) plants along fences and under windows. Such plants will discourage the possible burglar. Protecting with spiny plants can be almost as effective as using barbed wire, and a lot more attractive.

Limiting Access

Intruders look for homes that have few or no obstacles blocking a quick exit. Fences can prevent burglars from carrying away large items if the gates are locked. Fence gates should be locked at all times, even when the owner is at home. Ladders and tools should be stored in a garage or a storage shed, and these facilities should be locked.

House Numbers

House or street numbers on a home should be easily visible from the street. Critical time can be saved by emergency responders when the street address for the house is visible from a distance.

On the House

  • Use numbers made of reflective materials, or black on white, that are 6 inches high.
  • Keep numbers looking new and clean and replace when necessary.
  • The numbers should be placed under a light and near the front door or garage entrance.

Paint the House Number on the Curb

  • Four (4) to six (6) inch high black letters on white background is most effective.
  • The numbers painted on the curb should be centered at the end of the driveway or just to the house side of the driveway.
  • If the house is located along an alley, the house number should be painted on the fence outside the alley gate.

Doors

Doors are usually the burglars first choice of entry into a home. Believe it or not, some residents leave exterior doors unlocked . . . . particularly children who may be the last to leave. In other entries, the burglar simply breaks a door or a side light and reaches around to unlock a door.

The Door

Exterior doors should be of solid core (wood, not composite materials) or steel, 2 3/4″ thick is preferred.

Hollow core or wood panel doors can be easily broken. Such doors, however, can be reinforced by attaching at least 20 gauge (approximately 1/32″thick) sheet metal on the exterior side of the door. If this method of strengthening the exterior door is used. attach the sheet metal with carriage bolts, spacing no further than 16″ apart, around the perimeter of the door (see figure 3)attach the sheet metal with carriage bolts, spacing no further than 16″ apart, around the perimeter of the door (see figure 3)

If an exterior door is equipped with glass within arm’s length (about 40″) of the door lock, break resistant polycarbonate glazing material (similar to plexiglass) attached to the inside of the door around the sides will provide considerable delay(see figure 4).

Entry doors should fit their frames tightly, with no more than 1/8″ clearance between the door and the frame.

Door frames should be solidly anchored to the rough opening. There are often spaces left between the rough opening stud at a point midway up the door jamb. These spaces create a poor anchorage for hardware making the door easy to kick open. If possible, the door molding should be removed and these spaces should be filled or “shimmed” prior to mounting any new lock strikes. If the door opens inward, the stop strip should actually be part of the wood frame, not applied. The stop strip is a wood strip installed on or milled into the door jamb (it’s the part of the jamb that the door closes on). If the stop has been applied (strip nailed on the jamb), pry it off carefully and coat the surfaces with epoxy cement. Then hammer the stop back in place and further secure it with tapered wood screws installed directly in front of the lock bolts. This will make it difficult for a burglar to pry up the strip and manipulate the lock from the exterior.

Door Viewer

Entry doors should have wide angle (180°) door viewers to permit the occupant to see callers without opening the door. Such door viewers are inexpensive and easy to install (see figure 5).

Exterior

Strike Plates

The strike plate is attached to the door frame. The metal bolt of the door lock slides into the strike plate to secure the door to the door frame. Heavy duty strike plates, installed with long screws (ideally, at least 3″), offer good resistance against force. Strike plates and boxes should be installed with screws long enough to reach the stud behind the jamb.

Replace weak strike plate with High Security Strike Plate.  Fasten with long screws.  This will also strengthen the frame system. Replace weak strike plate on wood frames with High Security Strike Box.

Hinges

If an entry door swings outward, the knuckles of the hinges must be exposed and it may be possible to remove the hinge pins to gain entry. One solution to this problem is to replace hinges that have removable pins with hinges having non-removable pins (available at hardware stores).

Another solution is to remove the two opposing screws (door and frame side) from the top and bottom hinges. Then insert a large finishing nail in the screw hole on the frame side, but do not hammer the nail in all the way; instead leave the head of the nail exposed ¼” to ½” above the surface of the hinge. Close the door slowly and insure the exposed nail meets and extends into the screw hold on the opposite hinge.

Sliding Glass Doors

Sliding glass doors (sometimes referred to as acacia doors) are easy for a burglar to enter if no remedial action is taken. Often, the door panels can simply be lifted out of the tracks. To deal with this problem, open the active door and install a number of wood screws in the track, allowing the screw to project down 3/8″ to 1/2″ or so. Slide the door closed, making sure the extended screws pass freely over the top rail of the door. Now try to lift the door from the track; upward movement should be stopped by the screws before the door can clear the bottom track.

Once the door has been secured from lifting, an auxiliary lock is needed because more than likely, the standard lock supplied with the door is nothing more than a small hook bolt that can easily be forced open. Locking bars (commonly called the “Charlie Bar”) are ideal for this purpose; but a length of dowel —— an old broom or mop handle, for example —— can also be placed in the bottom track to keep the door from being pushed open. The dowel should be cut to a length so it fits snugly in the track between the wall and the door frame. If ventilation is needed, another dowel could be cut a few inches shorter to permit the sliding door to be opened no greater that six (6) inches. There are also a number of commercially produced locking devices for sliding glass doors. Those operated by keys are recommended for better security.

Garage Doors

The failure to close and lock the garage door often presents the most serious security problem in the home. This should always be emphasized to the homeowner. The following are a series of recommendations related to garage door security:

  • The garage door should be locked at all times (even when the occupant is at home);
  • Overhead track operated doors are best secured with electronic door openers. They should be of the type that can be disconnected from inside the garage in the event the home is unoccupied for long periods of time;
  • A good case hardened padlock on which both ends of the shackle engage, should be used to secure the garage door;
  • For garage doors with overhead tracking, drill holes into the track above a roller with a pin or padlock inserted through the slot;
  • For garage doors that are counter-balanced, secure with two case-hardened hasps and padlocks bolted onto both sides of the door;
  • For garage doors that have a double out swing, mount heavy duty slide bolts to the inside of one door at the top and bottom to make it stationary. A case hardened hasp and padlock can then be bolted on to secure the active door to the inactive door;
  • The door leading from the garage into the home should be a solid wood or metal core door and should have a good quality deadbolt lock on it;
  • If a garage door has a “doggie door,” this can be a means of access for a burglar;
  • Homeowners should be cautioned not to leave garage door openers in vehicles parked outside, as they  can obviously be used for easy access into the garage.