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Residential Home Security Tips (CPTED)
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Burglaries and break-ins can be prevented or deterred by following some common crime prevention practices. Time, noise and light are a burglar’s worst enemies. Most break-ins are crimes of opportunity and relatively unsophisticated in nature. Thieves seek the easiest opportunity or point of entry to gain access to a home. You can prevent burglaries by making your home less attractive to criminals by making changes to your environment (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design).  

Door and Frames
  • Exterior doors should be of solid core construction and installed at all exterior dwelling entrances and attached garage entrances.
  • The solid core door should fit snugly into the properly constructed frame to provide adequate strength and security.
  • The frame should be reinforced by blocking or filling at lock height to provide extra strength to help deter the burglary method of spreading.
  • Glass inserts to solid core doors and glass sidelight panels on one or both sides of the door should be considered when target hardening the entry. A burglar can smash and reach inside to cheat the locking mechanism. Reinforcing the frame area adjacent to the window area beside the door and replacing glass with more secure glass, plastic or shatter resistant plastic film adhered to the inside surface will help to increase the level of security.

  • French or Double Doors generally have glass panes, though some can be solid. One of the doors to the set should be braced by the use of flush bolts at both the top and bottom of the edge of the door. This reduces the inward give of the doors and provides better security. A good deadbolt system should also be fitted to the active door for additional security.
  • Sliding Patio Doors have a poor latch locking system and should be reinforced with secondary mechanisms. Without these secondary systems, sliding doors are prone to being lifted out of their tracks with the use of crowbars. Using devices such as commercial jimmy plates, spring locks and safety bars can add a level of security.
  • There are also very cost-effective home remedies:
    • A simple hockey stick cut to fit snugly into the bottom track can prevent sliding.
    • Drilling a small hole through the frame and inserting a nail or metal pin can also prevent sliding.
    • Screws drilled into the top rail can prevent lifting.
  • Steel Security Storm Doors can be installed with secure hardware and constructed as simple wrought iron or designed with glass and screen inserts with weather stripping. This is a more expensive option.

Note: Before making any alterations to your home to improve security, inspect your home and plan for a variety of exits in case of fire.

Hinges and Fasteners
  • Burglar resistant doors should swing inward so that the hinge pins cannot be removed from the outside. If the hinges are the style that can be removed easily, they should be replaced by the non-removable type.
  • Hinge screws should be long enough to reach through to the wall stud beyond the doorframe. If the hinge pins are exposed, you can secure them by inserting a small non-removable screw into the middle of each pin. The use of a small metal peg in the hinge will provide extra security at that point when the door is closed and the hinge pin is removed, the door cannot be slid out from the frame.
  • All fasteners exposed to tampering should be rendered non-removable by using one-way screws, grinding out the slot with a drill or fill the driving recess with “liquid metal”.

Locks are the first line of defense against intruders. No locking mechanism is burglar proof, but good locks can be an effective deterrent.

Primary locks are referred to as key-in-knob locks or cylindrical locks. These locks provide minimum security and are popular, as they are low cost and simple to install.

There are two styles of key-in-knob locks.
  1. The spring latch does not require a key and has a beveled edge bolt that can be cheated simply by inserting a piece of plastic card or metal between the door and frame.
  2.  The dead latch bolt operates the same way as the spring latch, but has a dead-latch plunger that when engaged makes the latch inoperable.

Auxiliary locks refer to secondary locking mechanisms that should be installed with the primary lock to provide more adequate security. Examples of auxiliary lock systems area as follows:

The term deadbolt describes the exact function of the mechanism. The bolt is ‘dead’; that is to say the bolt can not be slipped with a card or tool, but can only be disengaged with a key. The minimum throw of a deadbolt should be 1”. The surrounding collar of the deadbolt should be made of good quality material so that it can not be crushed or have a slip ring that is separate from the deadbolt mechanism and can rotate freely to prevent crushing or twisting. The strike plate should be installed properly with long screws that anchor in to the frame, which increases the security benefit of this locking mechanism. Deadbolts provide good to excellent security depending on the quality.

Note: The use of double cylinder deadbolts (keyed to both sides of the lock) is against the City Code since every exit door shall permit the door to be readily opened from the inside with not more than one releasing operation and without requiring keys, special devices or specialized knowledge of the door mechanism.
  • Interlocking Bolt Rim Lock. Unlike the horizontal bolt of a standard deadbolt, the interlocking bolt rim lock has two vertically moving deadbolts that lock into a frame-mounted striker that increases the resistance to an attack from a crowbar. These locks are suitable for wooden frames or where there are sidelights. These locks provide good to excellent security, depending on the quality.
  • Rim Deadbolt Lock. Surface mounted on the interior of the door, these locks are easy to install but are poor security if installed with simple screws. They provide better security if installed with carriage bolts. These systems are found on some older homes and should be updated.
  • Pushbutton Rim Locks. Keyless locks operated by pressing the correct combination on the numbered entry pad. Popular in commercial applications but can be used for residential applications. However, the security code should be changed regularly so the number pads do not wear out from overuse.
  • Digitally Coded Deadbolt System with Keypad or Electronic Remote. These are relatively new systems that can be expensive to purchase, but can be fitted to existing openings. They operate in the same manner as the traditional deadbolt system, but the locking mechanism can be activated without keys from a distance with an electronic remote or by entering the security code on the attached keypad. These systems can be of great benefit to seniors or people with disabilities.
  • Auxiliary lock mechanism reinforcement system. To add to the already increased security offered by a good quality deadbolt lock, the addition of a steel reinforcement device to both the door and frame greatly increases strength. This system is cost effective and simple to install. (i.e., “Bolt Buddy”).

Note: When an auxiliary lock is installed to improve the security of a door, there remains a weakness at that point in the frame if force is applied to the door. A strike plate is always installed to the frame as the mechanism in which the bolt is housed. The standard strike plate is fastened with ¾” screws which are inadequate. It is recommended that an extended strike plate be installed with 2-½” to 3” screws that will add a substantial degree of strength to the frame. A high security box-type or wrap around style strike plate with 2-½” to 3” screws would increase this degree of strength substantially.

Window Windows are generally a weak link when it comes to residential security. They can be pried or broken with a tool, lifted from their tracks and the panes removed. There are numerous ways to increase the security of windows. Conduct this simple survey of your existing windows by asking the following questions:
  • How effective is the window design?
  • What are the weak points?
  • What is the access from the ground, garage, porch, roof, tree, fire escape, ledge or balcony, etc…?
  • Is the glass shatter resistant?
  • What is the state of repair of the sash and frame?
  • Are the locking mechanisms functional and are they engaged?
  • Are the sight lines to the windows open or closed to view?
  • Is the surrounding area well lit at night?

Here are some of the different types of window sets currently in use:
  • Vertical sliding (double hung) windows
  • Horizontal sliding windows
  • Casement windows
  • Awning windows
  • Louvered windows
  • Sashless or semi-sashed windows

Here are some methods of adding security to window sets:
  • Any window that is not to be used as a fire exit can simply be secured by nailing or screwing it permanently closed or adding grill work.
  • Vertical sliding (double hung) or horizontally sliding windows can be pinned with a nail or metal pin that can be removed. Any keyless latches can be secured by drilling a hole through the latch and inserting a removable pin or replacing the existing latch with a keyed latch set.
  • Casement and awning windows can be secured simply by replacing keyless latches with keyed latches or keyed slide bolt. Install a pin system through the latch mechanism that can be removed when required.
  • Sashless or semi-sashed windows can be blocked closed with a piece of wood fit snugly into the bottom track to prevent sliding and a small screw drilled into the top track to prevent it from being lifted.
  • Fixed picture windows, vision panels (including small paned) and skylights are inoperative, providing good security. Most thieves have no interest in breaking these windows as they take time and cause too much noise.
  • Basement windows can also be secured by using grillwork, guards and bar mechanisms. They can be installed with one-way screws, pins or padlocks. Ensure that at least one window has a means of operation so that it can be opened for possible escape and that all basement windows in bedroom areas are operable for safety reasons.
  • Other methods of adding security to the glazing (glass area) of a window would include shatter resistant films (3M Scotch Shield) which strengthen the glass area. Glass areas can also be covered or even replaced with Lucite (high impact acrylic sheeting) that can survive attack without being broken unless very extreme force is used (which will usually take too much time and cause too much noise).

Note: Before making any alterations to your home to improve security, inspect your home and plan for a variety of exits in case of fire.

Light timers
Light timers installed in areas throughout the home and set to go on and off at different times during the evening can give the appearance that a residence is occupied. The same timers can also be set to operate radios. When a home is left in either total darkness or completely lit up for extended periods of time, it can give the impression that the home is unoccupied. Most timers are inexpensive and can be purchased at most hardware and department stores.

Chain Locks
Chain locks are not recommended as they can give a false sense of security. Once the door is set slightly ajar with the chain engaged, allowing the homeowner to take a look at who might be at the door, the door can be grabbed or pushed open and entry gained. Most chain locks are installed with short screws and weak chains. The strength of any door only works when it is closed. Other items can be used to better reinforce the door to provide an extra hard point and keeps the door in the closed position. A through-door viewer should be installed in conjunction with any hardware to provide a view to the outside..

Door viewers
Through-door viewers provide a view to the outside. This is a great feature for solid core doors without any glazed portions so that you can see who is there before allowing access. There are several styles on the market and each provides different peripheral views from 160 to 180 degrees. The ideal viewer will provide a large image with a 204-180-degree view so that there is no ‘blind spot’ left or right at the wall. The newest form of viewer is comprised of a prism construction that will not allow any view to the inside from outside and a large inside viewer that can be observed several steps back from the door.

Door wedges
Door wedges or stops can provide additional reinforcement to the door when engaged. Such devices can be as simple as rubber wedges pinned into predrilled holes in the floor, to commercial devices that function in the same manner. It should be noted, however, that if these items are used, then all residents and visitors should be made aware of their operation in case of fire.

Address Numbers
Householder identification is often neglected as a result of a lack of understanding. Address numbers are required by City Code, and are necessary for Police, Fire and Ambulance personnel to locate your residence in case of an emergency.

Vacations should be considered as a security concern. You should take certain steps to help prevent making your home a target while you are away. Make sure that you leave your home in the care of someone you trust and let them know where you can be reached in case of emergency. Instruct them on the following:
  • Keep the mailbox clear
  • Keep the grass cut and yard clean in summer
  • Keep the walkways and driveway clear of snow in the winter
  • Keep ladders or climbing devices locked away out of sight or they might be used to gain entry
  • Use light timers for your lights and radio to give the impression that someone is home.
  • Cancel all deliveries, newspapers and your mail.
  • Make sure that all your valuables are stored properly or put into a safety deposit box.

Garages present a unique problem to residential security. They generally have inadequate locks that can easily be pried off. The overhead doors should be reinforced with ½” plywood sheeting if constructed of thin wood panels and fitted with either a sliding bolt lock system or pinned at the track for better security. The single pedestrian entryway door should be of solid core construction and reinforced the same as the entry to your home. If the garage is the attached style, special care should be taken to ensure that it is always secure. Once inside, the culprit(s) can secure the garage and attempt to gain entry to the home in complete seclusion.

If you have an electric garage door opener, change the internal code from time to time or purchase a new system that has an automatically changing encrypted access code that cannot be intercepted by a device. If you leave for vacation, the electric opener should be disconnected from the power supply.

Alarm systems
An alarm system is intended to detect a burglary, but will not necessarily prevent one. A system is only as good as its user and should be installed along with good physical security reinforcement such as deadbolt locks, adequate lighting, secure basement windows and strong exterior doors.

Alarm companies offer a variety of alarm systems with numerous features. Obtain recommendations from friends with alarm systems or your insurance agent before choosing a system. You should also determine:
  • How long the alarm company has been in business
  • The number of service facilities the company has
  • If the company holds adequate liability insurance
  • Whether or not their employees bonded

Obtain detailed quotes and system information from at least three alarm companies before making a final selection. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau for company information.

Of all the alarm systems available, there are two methods of installation to consider that are of concern to the police:
  • An audible alarm that rings only locally and is not monitored
  • An alarm monitored by a private company
Bear in mind that it is possible for potential thieves to circumvent some monitored alarm systems by cutting the telephone wires before they enter the house. Speak to your alarm company representative about obtaining an alternate alarm system which does not use telephone wires to send its signal to the alarm company, or consider installing a telephone line shield which goes around the telephone wire and is bolted to the house. This metal shield protects the telephone line from being cut.

Note: False alarms waste valuable police resources and reduce the integrity of the alarm system. It is the user’s responsibility to ensure correct operation of the system. All monitored alarm systems are serviced by an intermediate private company prior to any notification of Police.