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  How To Lock Out Burglars  

You want to secure all doors and windows completely because any burglar will exploit the weakest point of entry. All they need is five minutes to grab many of your valuables and still probably get away before the police arrive, which actually happened to a Consumer Reports editor.  The more preventive steps you take, the more likely it is that burglars will become discouraged enough to move on to some other target.

Many people who think their homes are secure actually have one or more vulnerabilities.  We won't say exactly how burglars can get through because some burglars will inevitably stumble across this report and we don't want them to learn too much.  We'll just say many are equipped with portable power tools and machines that can make special keys.

1.  Unsecured sliding or swing-open windows are easy pickings for burglars.  Even if it is latched, some burglars have ways of easily defeating that latch.  Those windows should be secured by a window security pin which can be a bolt or any metal cylinder.

2.  Non-moving windows are less vulnerable, because burglars don't like making noise as they break the glass, nor do they like leaving a visual clue that someone has broken in. Some burglars still prefer to smash through windows just because it's the simplest way to get in. But the vast majority avoid "double-glazed" (two-pane) windows because breaking them causes much more noise. Double-glazed windows cost hundreds to install, but on the other hand they'll lower your heating bill.

3.  Exterior doors are extremely vulnerable to burglars, especially under the cover of darkness.  Your exterior doors should be steel or solid wood to prevent saw-throughs or axe hacks, especially the back door.  If you're unsure whether a door is solid, swing it back and forth: if it swings as easily as your interior doors, you know it's not solid wood.  The more removed from street view a door is, the more likely it is that a burglar will force his way through it.

4.  Ordinary door locks can usually be defeated by amateur burglars who know how to hack through it.  There is no substitute for a high-security bump-proof door lock costing $150 to $250 installed, which you can get by calling a locksmith in your area.  Without one, some burglars know how to get inside in just ten seconds.  Deadbolt locks are recommended too, but remember:  they can't be locked from outside.  All door locks should be labeled with an "ANSI Grade 1" classification.  Medeco brand locks are often recommended by experts.

5.  Door jambs can make your doorway just as vulnerable because most doors are weakly constructed in that area:  many can be pried open with a crowbar, or even kicked in.  To check this, unscrew a screw from the door frame. If it's at least 2.5 inches, put it back; otherwise replace all screws with stainless steel screws of the same thread type that are 2.5 to 3 inches long.

6.  Sliding glass doors can easily be levered up and out of their tracks with a simple crowbar.  Make yours impossible to lift it out of its track by drilling screws into the track it slides along.  Some burglars have ways to open a simple inside latch from outside.  To prevent that, use a window pin (previously discussed) or equip it with a sliding door lock (available at home improvement stores).  Bracing it shut with a bar or pole is far less secure.

7.  Garage doors are a favorite target for crowbar-wielding burglars: many of them are easy to pry open.  Most modern automatic garage doors are fairly secure from this problem.  Any other type of garage door should be padlocked whenever possible.  If you don't like either of these options, you need a steel door between the garage and the house.  Once the burglar is inside your garage and hidden from view, he won't hesitate to use an axe or even a power tool.

8.   A safe room is a good idea in case someone breaks in.  Keep a separate phone there, and use a good door locks and/or something to brace it shut.

These tips will deter the vast majority of burglars, but they could still get in by breaking glass or prying doors off their frames.  A determined burglar may very well resort to that if he thinks nobody's home for the night. It would cost thousands to establish nearly invulnerable security, which most people would rather spend in other ways.  You'd need to install expensive steel doors, security grates over all glass surfaces, and steel frames around all doors and windows.

(Next Gem: How To Ensure Your Personal Safety)

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