The average American home is burglarized about once every thirty
years, with an average loss near $2,000. More
harmful is the loss of "peace of mind", which can take years to
recover. The FBI reports that most burglaries occur during
daytime hours these days, what with so many homemakers as busy
outside the home as in. Single-family homes are about twice
as likely to be burglarized as apartments.
Burglars often talk among themselves about the latest, cleverest
methods to break into homes -- yours may not be as safe as you
imagine. Unfortunately, few people bother about security
until something awful happens.
We've researched dozens of
articles about home security and boiled it down to the facts
every homeowner should be aware of. There are four layers
of home security to consider improving.
1. How To Scare 'Em Off...
A good alarm system is very effective when installed
correctly, especially if a security firm monitors it. This
is the best way to scare away burglars, and if they still somehow
break in you'll be alerted to their intrusion. A
monitored alarm can cost $20 to $30 per month; often
include an inexpensive alarm system is included at no cost if you
sign a multi-year contract. When you call security
companies, be sure to mention that you're shopping around so
they'll offer their best deals.
Alternatively, self-installed alarms don't require you to
pay for monthly monitoring. Alarms may handle intruder
detection in various ways: dialing the local police,
sounding a siren, flashing your exterior lights, or even emailing
a picture of the intruder to your cell phone (a WiLife system can do that). You can even
get an alarm that calls for help via cellular phoning, in case
the burglar cuts your phone line. If you decide to install
an alarm system, one authoritative yet easy-to-understand page is
How to Install a Home Security System by HowStuffWorks.com.
Studies show that a loyal dog will deter at least 65% of
burglars, especially if your dog likes to bark. But that won't
work during vacations if you board them in a kennel, unless you
get a housesitter instead. Dogs can't call a squad car,
and some burglars have ways of subduing them. Your big
family dog may even see Uncle Burglar as a wonderful new
Burglars are reluctant to hit well-lit homes that provide no
cover to hide from watchful neighbors. Clear away any
vegetation that doesn't beautify your home and may provide
cover for a break-in. Consider purchasing an advanced lighting
system with sensors that detect intrusions and automatically
turn on nearby lights. Such lighting systems are often packaged
with home alarm systems.
2. ...And Fool 'Em Too.
If you can't afford an alarm or a dog, at least try to bluff away
burglars by posting warning signs that you have a security
system. For extra security, post a "beware of dog" sign and toss
some large dog toys into your backyard. You can buy these signs
at most hardware stores.
Keep your curtains closed so burglars can't see when
nobody's home. Keep lights on during the daytime, even
when you're not home. Turn on the same lights you normally turn
on when you're at home. When the windows are open, keep displays
of valuable items away from windows.
When your security is at stake, be secretive. Everyone in
your household should be instructed to never tell
strangers when you'll be gone because word might get around
to burglars. Any stranger you invite into your home might also be
a criminal. It's not unheard of for workmen to be in cahoots with
burglars in exchange for a split of the stolen booty. When you
buy something expensive, don't put the box out with the garbage
in plain view. To burglars, that's an inviting
When you're on vacation or gone for a long time for some other
reason, ask neighbors to spend some time in your home to
make it look "lived in" (e.g. opening and closing drapes and
putting out a garbage can at the normal time). Stop your
mail and newspaper, or ask a neighbor to pick it up every
evening. When you leave home, use two or three timers to
automatically switch lights and even stereos on and off.
Some commercial products are ineffective, such as barking-dog
alarms or the little safes that look just like a book. Most
burglars have caught on to them by now.
3. 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
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.
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.
|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
|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.|
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
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. |
Writing about security was no pleasant task, but we felt it our duty as
consumer advocates to help you prevent the worst from
happening. Armed with these tips, you should now have much
better safety and security.
In the next installment of Best Consumer Tips, we'll
return to a much more positive course with some good news on how
you can supercharge both your finances and your enjoyment
| || || |
1. Consider your home security needs
2. Get home security hardware & install it
3. Review your personal safety habits and needs
Tips To Safeguard Your Personal Safety|
This may seem like a lot of tips to remember. It boils down to simply this:
Never be caught alone and/or vulnerable, especially if you have something somebody wants.
To secure your car, (1) lock it, (2) take your keys, (3) conceal
your valuables and (4) use a visible anti-theft device. Do
that, and the odds your car will be stolen are tiny.|
Don't let your gas fall below ¼ of a tank.|
Park in well-lighted, heavily traveled areas (avoid underground
garages when possible.)|
Hide keys very well. Don't label them with any identification,
in case they are stolen.|
If a vehicle is involved in a crime, get the license plate number
and write it down to ensure you don't forget it.|
Don't hitchhike or pick up
Tell someone where you'll be and what time you'll return.|
When possible, travel with a friend or a group.|
Avoid any area with minimal foot traffic, especially when
Stay away from anything that could hide an assailant, especially
When walking along a road, face oncoming traffic so you can see
Be aware of anyone who may be following (if so, walk calmly
toward a more populated area.)|
Hide wallets or carry a small hideable purse.|
If confronted by a threatening dog, stand very still and look
away casually to avoid confrontation. Try to "feed" it some
clothing or other item to distract it, then back away
Respecting themselves and others helps prevent crime.|
Never talk to strangers, or go anywhere with someone they don't
Walk and play with friends, not alone.|
Your address, and all phone numbers.|
How to get help in emergencies, e.g. call 911.|
Warn them to never mishandle guns.|
Tell a trusted adult immediately if anyone, no matter who,
touches them in a strange way.|
An adult should watch children at all times, especially when near a roadway or
a body of water.|
Do not associate with people of dubious character, especially
Don't talk about your plans where strangers can overhear you.|
Check who is at the door before opening it, and don't open it for
an unexpected visitor. If it's a deliveryman, ask to see the
package through your peephole first. If they want to use the
phone, offer to make the call for them.|
In case you're attacked, consider carrying an aerosol shriek
alarm or a whistle, yelling "Fire!" repeatedly, fleeing, or
turning him off by acting crazy or saying you have an STD.|
An assailant will be less likely to attack you if you act
self-confident and in control.|
Never give it to telephone solicitors, regardless of the reason they give you.|
At ATMs guard your PIN number and be aware of people nearby,
especially at night.|
For best privacy, don't use your full name on your mailbox,
answering machine or in the phone
A burglar thought up a clever idea: on Christmas Eve, he
would climb down the chimney in a Santa suit with a bag of cheap
toys, leave them there, and steal everything of value. "If
I'm caught, I'll just say I'm St. Nick delivering toys and I'll
get off scot-free!" he chortled.
Joke: The Santa Burglar
As he was tiptoeing through the living room he heard a loud voice
say, "Jesus is watching you!"
Frozen in his tracks, the burglar looked all around and finally
spotted a bird cage in a dark corner and in that cage was a
He asked the parrot, "Was that you?"
"Yes," said the parrot.
The burglar sighed in relief and asked "What's your name?"
"Socrates" said the bird.
"That's a stupid name," sneered the burglar. "What kind of idiot
would name a parrot 'Socrates'?"
The parrot replied, "The same idiot who named the pit bull
Email this joke|
in two clicks!
The Fourth Layer: How To|
Safeguard Your Valuables
|1. Safety Deposit Box.
A safety deposit box at a bank is the safest place to
hide valuables. At home, you'll want a hiding place that
would force a burglar to use his intelligence and expend his
precious time to get to it.|
|2. Home Hiding Places.
Many burglars are very thorough, even looking in the toilet tank
for hidden jewelry! The more difficult your hiding place is for
you to get to, the safer it is from any burglar. The
attic or kitchen are usually the places burglars look
last. Also, guard keys very well to prevent criminals
from ever getting them.|
|3. Keep Records.
Keep records of your valuables for insurance purposes,
including receipts. A videotape tour of your home is easy
to do (taking still photos is also acceptable). Then when you buy
a new item of high value, just add it to the same videotape. The
best practice is to make a copy and keep it in a safe deposit
box, in case of fire.|
| || |
Thought for the Day:
"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right
thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing."
~ Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919), American President
Poll: Help Us Help You!|
The CFA listens! What area do you most want the CFA
to help you with?
1. FBI Burglary Report, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States 2005
2. Burglars On The Job, book by Richard T. Wright & Scott H. Decker, Northeastern University Press, 1996.
3. Protect yourself against home burglary, State Farm Insurance article
4. Security Alarm Systems, State Farm Insurance article
5. The Crime Doctor, website by Security Consultant Chris E McGoey
6. Products To Keep Your Home Safe, ABC News' Good Morning America
7. Burglary of Single-Family Houses Guide No.18 (2002), Deborah Lamm Weisel, Center for Problem Oriented Policing
8. Safety Tips, Santa Monica Police Department
9. Personal Safety Tips, Decatur PD