Most residential burglars devote little if any time to the advance planning of any specific break-in. Their crimes are, for the most part, crimes of opportunity. They pick what appears to be an easy mark. If their advance checking and closer examination reveal a greater risk than anticipated, they move onto a safer target. The more you can do to keep your home from looking like an easy target, the safer you are. There are also many steps that you can take to minimize your loss and improve your chances of recovery if a break-in does occur.
The first step in improving overall security is to take a hard look at the security measures already in use in your home. To help your with this task, the Tempe Police Department in Arizona has developed a Home Security Survey. Conducting a security survey is important. Go through the test carefully. Look at you house at night as well as in the daytime. Remember, the test points out security weaknesses around you home. Your home cannot be adequately protected until these weaknesses are corrected.
Don’t “welcome” a burglar into your home.
Landscaping and Yard Security
A few alterations to your landscaping can be enough to put off intruders. To avoid getting caught, intruders look for property they can get into and out of quickly. Their ideal target is a house surrounded by large hedges and shrubs, which hamper visibility from the street and neighbors houses.
Bushes, Shrubs and Trees: 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 you have 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 the 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) 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 intruders walking on it can become a psychological deterrent. DO NOT place river rocks or other items near glass windows or doors. You do not want to provide the burglar with his tools!
Plant spiny (thorny) plants along fences and under windows. Such plants will discourage even the most nimble intruder. Protecting with spiny plants is as effective as the use of barbed wire, and a lot more attractive.
Street numbers 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 your house:
* Use numbers made of reflective materials, or black on white, that are 6 inches high.
* Keep numbers new and clean and replace when necessary.
* The numbers should be placed under a light and near the front door or garage entrance.
Your house number should be painted on the curb in front of your driveway:
* Four (4) to six (6) inch high black numbers on a white background is most effective.
* It should be centered at the end of your driveway or just to the house side of your driveway.
* If you live along an alley your house number should be painted (as stated above) on the fence outside your alley gate.
Limited or Direct Access to Yards and Store Rooms
Intruders look for no, or few obstacles blocking quick exits. Fences prevent burglars from carrying away large items if the gates are locked. Gates should be locked at all times, even when you are home!
Ladders and tools should be stored in a garage or storage shed, and these areas should be locked.
Landscaping should also be designed to control access to your property. Proper barriers make the person with criminal intent feel uncomfortable as he or she approaches your home or business.
Exterior and Interior Lighting
It is a known fact, that good lighting is a deterrent to crime. While any lighting will help reduce your risk of becoming of a victim, the proper lights, used correctly will be the most effective deterrent to criminal activity.
Exterior lights are important, especially near doors and in the rear of the house, where intruders do most of their work. All sides of your home should be protected by security lighting that is located high out of reach, and is vandal resistant.
Lighting in carports and garages is critical. For garages, an automatic garage 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 garage interior. In carports, it is best to either leave a light on, have a light on a timer, or have a light connected to a motion sensor or photo electric cell.
The best light to use on the exterior is a motion detector type of fixture. The advantage to this type of light, especially in the backyard, is that the light warns the resident that someone is in their yard. While there is 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 will not be a problem. In the front yard, any type of lighting will be effective, as long the lighting pattern covers the entire front and sides of the house. Sensor lighting will be effective, but is more prone to “false alarms” caused by things like people walking down the sidewalk, or children playing.
When residents go out for an evening, they usually leave on their “burglar beacon”. A burglar beacon is a small light that is left on so they don’t walk into a dark house when they come home. These are lights like the one above the kitchen sink or stove, the hallway light, or a light in the corner of the living room. Unfortunately these lights are a signal for the criminal that no one is home. If you go out for an evening leave a radio and several lights on. When you go on vacation put at least two lights, in different parts of the house, and a radio on timers.
House and Garage Doors
Entry doors should be solid core wood (at least 1 3/4″ thick) or metal wrapped. Your door should fit it’s frame tightly, with no more than 1/8″ clearance between the door and the frame. If the gap is too big, replace the door or bolt a sturdy metal strip to the door edge. You will boost your protection, and save energy too.
Most hollow core doors can be easily broken through. If the door is flimsy or weak, or doesn’t fit securely into the frame, it offers little protection, no matter what locks you use.
Doors with decorative glass panels or windows are easy marks. It takes only seconds to break the glass and unlock the door. If you do not want to replace such doors, install a break-resistant plastic panel, such as Lexan®, or decorative grille over the glass. Attach the grill with special non-removable screws.
For the best protection, install a wrought iron security door over your front door. Wrought iron doors not only provide an extra level of visible security against a break-in, they also allow you to open your front door to strangers, or leave the front door open for ventilation.
Your garage door should be securely locked at all times (even when you are home). Keeping it locked is just as important as keeping your home locked, especially if the garage is attached to the home. Once inside the garage a burglar can work uninterrupted at getting into the house. Approximately 40% of our non-forced entry residential crime is through open garage doors.
If you install a “doggie door” be sure it is not a way in for burglars as well as the dog. Do not be complacent by the fact that you have a small dog. Burglars come in all sizes!
Locks, Strike Plates and Hinges
The “lock-in-knob offers you privacy and convenience but it does not offer security from intruders. In fact many “lock-in-knob” locks can be opened by using a simple credit card. You may have privacy, but you don’t have security.
All exterior doors require the use of a deadbolt lock. When you turn the key the locking mechanism slides a strong metal bolt from the door into the door’s frame.
When you buy a deadbolt lock, MAKE SURE:
* The bolt extends at least 1″ into the front edge of the door.
* The strike plate is attached through the trim to the door frame with screws at least 3″ long.
* It has a rotation case hardened shroud that prevents it from being twisted off with a pair of pliers or other tools.
The two most common types of deadbolts:
Single Cylinder Deadbolts – Have a thumb turn on the interior side. They are convenient to use and may speed up the exit process in the event of fire. If used near a window they can be opened by breaking the window and reaching through. This type of deadbolt lock does not prevent the burglar from taking your property out through the door.
Double Cylinder Deadbolts – Utilize keys on both sides. This type of lock should be considered if there is glass window within 40″ of the lock. However, this type of lock does present a potential fire escape hazard. This type of deadbolt lock can delay a burglar that wants to use the door to remove your property from your home.
As many as half of all burglaries take place without forced entry. Many times the burglar uses a key. Be sure your keys don’t fall into the wrong hands.
* Never carry identification on your key ring or holder.
* Re-key all locks when you move into a new house or apartment.
* Know who has keys to your home. Do not give keys to maintenance or delivery people. If you must leave a key behind, leave it with a trusted neighbor. Make sure that each member of your family knows where his or her key is.
* Never hide a key outside. Burglars know all the hiding places.
* Do not hang keys on hooks within plain view inside your home.
The strike plate is attached to the door frame with screws. The metal bolt of the deadbolt lock slides into the strike plate to secure the door soundly to the door frame.
A high security strike plate is required to keep the metal bolt from being kicked from the door frame when locked. A high security strike plate should have at least 4 screws that are a minimum of 3 inches long.
Hinges are often installed with the same 3/4″ screws as the common strike plates. Replace these with 2″ to 3″ fully threaded screws so the hinges are anchored to the sub-frame.
In some cases the hinges are installed in such a manner that the hinge pins are exposed to the exterior and an intruder may attempt to remove the pins in an effort to gain entry.
Hinges can be pinned by installing a partially threaded screw into the frame side of the hinge. The unthreaded portion of the screw is left exposed and the head of the screw is cut off. A corresponding hole is drilled into the door and hinge on the opposite side, so when the door is closed the exposed portion of the screw fits in to the door. This will prevent the door from the being lifted out.
Arcadia Doors and Sliding Glass Windows
People often install sturdy locks on their front doors but leave arcadia (sliding glass) doors and sliding glass windows “wide open” to illegal entry. Burglars look for both of these because they are easy to open. Usually, arcadia doors and windows are more secluded than a front door, making a perfect place for burglars to hide and enter. Two factors must be protected against.
Prying the Lock
Most arcadia doors and sliding windows come equipped with a lock that is easily pried open. A supplemental lock must be installed.
Broomsticks (they should fit snug), “Charlie bars” and finger operated locks provide some protection.
Key locking devices are much preferred because they can prevent the burglars from using the door or window to remove stolen property.
There are several types of supplemental locks available. Keyed locks may be keyed alike with other entry lock sets and deadbolts. Check with your locksmith or hardware store and select a sturdy type that most suits your home.
Many arcadia doors and sliding windows can be lifted out of their tracks from the outside.
Two sheet metal screws placed in the track above the removable part of the door or window can prevent it from being removed. Adjust the screws so that the doors or window will just clear underneath them.
Drill a hole and insert a nail through the inside frame and part way through the metal door frame. You can remove the nail but the burglar can’t.
Double Hung Windows
To secure a double hung window, drill a downward sloping hole into the top of the bottom window, and through that into the bottom of the top window. A pin can now be inserted, locking the window shut.
By partly opening the window (less that 4 inches) and making a second set of holes, the window can then be used for ventilation. Remember, open windows and doors, even if secured, should never be left unattended while you are gone or asleep.
Do you keep extremely valuable property (jewelry, television sets, computers, other electronic equipment, etc.) in your house? Do you often leave your house unattended for more that a few hours (go to work or school for example), or do you want more protection? These are reasons to invest in a quality alarm system.
The FBI has announced that over a ten year period, and average of 1 of every 4 residences throughout the nation will be burglarized.
Many quality alarm systems are available. Before you purchase a security system, your should have in mind what kind of system your want. This will prevent buying more equipment that you actually need. Read as much about different brands and types of systems as you can. Talk to friends and neighbors that have alarm systems. We recommend that you speak to at least three security alarm companies about their product and service prior to purchasing any alarm system. Remember, you get what you pay for in many cases.
Choosing Your System
Common questions asked by people considering an alarm system:
* How do I know the right company to choose when considering the purchase of an alarm system?
* How much protection do I need?
* How much should I expect to pay?
Tips to help when choosing an alarm company
* Ask about insurance…general liability, workman’s compensation, and errors and omissions. You have every right to ask for certificates of insurance for these items. This protects you!, because if the company is not properly protected, the claim or losses falls on you!
* Ask for the company’s city business license, which allows them to do business in your community.
* Ask for local referrals of other customers in your area that have had systems installed like the one being proposed to you.
* Check your contract! Review carefully what you sign, make sure everything is agreed upon in writing. Know what the warranty period is and what is included in the warranty.
* Remember, an adequate design should consider the structure, the lifestyle, the perceived needs and the budget of the occupant.
* Ask is the company has been established for 3-5 years.
* Ask if it is going to be monitored locally or outside of the state of Arizona
* Be sure the company does the entire installation and down not subcontract work out.
Other Home Security Information
Home Inventory List
Keep a “Personal Property Inventory List” in a safe place, possibly with your insurance papers. This helps to recover stolen property in the event of a theft or burglary. Keep a duplicate copy in a safe deposit box or other safe place.
The more complete your inventory list the better. In case of a loss by causes other than theft it may help you establish your loss with your insurance company. As an example, if you have a fire in your residence and lose a couch, an end table and a portion of your carpet in your front room, the accurate listing of when and how much your paid for the items will assist you in establishing your loss.
On the inventory list indicate the room the property was located in. Make the description of the item as complete as possible. Include the manufacturer model number, size, color, and the material the item is made of. This list might include damage marks, repairs, etc. Make sure to list the manufacture’s serial number on the list. Do not confuse the model with the serial number.
Safety Tips at Home
* If you are bothered by obscene calls, hang up immediately and dial *57. This will record the location of the last call to your phone, with the phone company. Then contact the phone company and make a harassing calls complaint.
* Always be observant of your surroundings
* If you live alone don’t use your martial status or fist name on your telephone listing or on your mail box.
* Get to know your neighbors.
* When returning home, or to your car, have your keys in your hand so that you can let yourself in without delay.
* If you think you’re being followed, don’t go home! Go to an open business. If you are still being followed call the police from there.
* Park your car in well lighted areas. Lock the doors and take the keys.
* If you think a prowler is threatening, take no direct action yourself, dial 911 immediately.
Do’s and Don’ts
* Use the security devices you have.
* Leave lights on inside and out when your go out for the evening.
* Have the police and fire department telephone number near your telephone.
* Carry only what is absolutely necessary in your purse.
* Check with the manager before letting repairmen in your apartment.
* Close your drapes in the evening hours.
* Be suspicious of people loitering around your house, apartment complex, or the parking lot.
* Call the police if you see anything suspicious.
* Don’t keep large sums of money in your home.
* Don’t carry large sums of money while you are out
* Don’t let strangers in to “use your telephone.”
* Don’t undress in front of open windows.
* Don’t leave notes on your door.
* Don’t hide a key (leave one with a trusted neighbor).
* Don’t display expensive equipment or items in plain view through your window.
* Don’t use your name or telephone number on your answering machine message. Use a generic message that does not state that your are not home.
* Don’t answer personal questions on telephone surveys.
* Don’t admit “service reps” from utilities unless you have an appointment or can verify their authenticity.
What is Suspicious
* Going Door to Door in Residential Area – Especially suspicious if, after a few houses are visited, one or more of the subjects goes into a back or side yard. More suspicious if another remains in the front when this occurs.
Possible significance: “Casing” for a house to burglarize, burglary in progress, soliciting violation, or a trespass.
* Waiting in Front of a House or Business – Particularly suspicious if owners are absent, or, if it’s a business, and the establishment is closed.
Possible Significance: Lookout for a burglary in progress inside.
* Forcing Entrance To or Tampering With a Residence, Vehicle, etc. – Suspicious under almost any circumstances.
Possible Significance; Burglary, theft, malicious mischief, or trespass in progress.
* Non-Resident Going Into Back or Side Yard of House – Suspicious under almost any circumstances.
Possible Significance: Possible burglary or trespass in progress.
* Person Running – Especially if something of value is being carried.
Possible Significance: Fleeing the scene of a crime.
* Exhibiting Unusual Mental of Physical Symptoms – Do not approach these people.
Possible Significance: Possibly injured, under the influence of drugs, or otherwise needing medical or psychiatric assistance.
* Carrying Property – Suspicious depending upon the circumstances. For example, if at an unusual hour or in an usual place, and if the property is not wrapped as if just purchased.
Possible Significance: Subject leaving the scene of a robbery, burglary, or theft.
* Excessive Human Traffic To and From a Certain Residence – Not suspicious unless it occurs on a daily or very regular basis, especially during late or unusual hours.
Possible Significance: Vice or narcotics activities, or a “fence” operation.
* Certain Moving Vehicles – Especially if slow moving and without lights, or if the course followed appears aimless or repetitive. This is suspicious in any location, but particularly in the area of schools, parks or playgrounds.
Possible Significance: “Casing” for places to rob or burglarize. Drug pusher or sex offender.
* Certain Parked, or Occupied Vehicles – May contain one or more persons, especially significant if observed at an unusual hour.
Possible Significance: Lookout for a burglary or robbery in progress. True even if occupants appear to be lovers.
* Vehicles Being Loaded With Valuables – Suspicious if parked in front of a closed business or unattended residence, even if the vehicle is a legitimate looking commercial unit, possibly even bearing a sign identifying it as a repair vehicle, moving van, etc.
Possible Significance: Burglary or other theft on progress.
* Abandoned Vehicle – Possible stolen car.
* Vehicle Containing Weapons – Suspicious under almost any circumstances.
Possible Significance: Owner may engage in criminal activity.
* Other Unusual Activity Involving Vehicles – Persons attempting to forcibly enter a locked vehicle, especially at night or in a parking lot.
Possible Significance: Burglary, theft, or malicious mischief in progress.
* Persons Detaching Mechanical Parts or Accessories from a Vehicle – Suspicious especially at night in the street or in a parking lot.
Possible Significance: Theft or malicious mischief in progress.
* Apparent Business Transactions Conducted from a Vehicle – Suspicious especially if around schools or parks, and if juveniles or females.
Possible Significance: Kidnapping, or drug transactions.
* Objects Thrown From a Vehicle – Suspicious especially while traveling at high rate speed.
Possible Significance: Disposal of contraband or garbage dumping.
* Property in Vehicles – Not suspicious unless the property is not normally found in vehicles, especially if observed at unusual hours or if TV sets, stereos, un-mounted tape decks, or auto parts are involved.
Possible Significance: Stolen Property.
Other Unusual Situations
* Property in Homes, Private Garages, Storage Areas, etc. – Suspicious if accumulations are large or otherwise unusual (such a several TV sets in a garage) and if the items are in good condition, but are not in use.
Possible Significance: Stolen property.
* Property Carried by Persons on Foot – Normally not suspicious unless at an usual hour or in an unusual place. Especially questionable if the person is running. May be significant if the property is not wrapped as if just purchased.
Possible Significance: Possible stolen property.
* Property Being Removed From or Being Placed into Vehicles or Buildings – Not suspicious unless unusual hour or places are involved, for instance, from closed businesses or residences whose owners are known to be absent.
Possible Significance: Burglary or theft in progress.
* Open or Broken Doors or Windows – At closed businesses or residences whose owners are temporarily absent.
Possible Significance: Burglary in progress or scene of completed burglary.
* Unusual Noises, etc. – Gunshots, screaming, sounds of combat, abnormally barking dogs, anything suggestive of foul play, danger, or illegal activity.
Call the police immediately!
The Neighborhood Watch Program is the cornerstone of all neighborhood crime prevention programs. To learn more about establishing a Neighborhood Watch on your street, contact the Crime Prevention Unit at 858-6330, or read the Neighborhood Watch web page in the Crime Prevention section of our web site.
Residential Security Survey
Go to our Residential Security Survey, and see how safe your home is. It will only take a few minutes. The results may surprise you! Or you can the Crime Prevention Unit at 480-858-6333 to schedule an appointment.
Assault Prevention and Personal Protection
Avoid becoming a victim! Read the Assault Prevention web page for information.