Protecting your home against crime

Although the U.S. Department of Justice cites a 20-year decline (since 1973) in the rate of property crimes nationally, law-enforcement experts still urge residents to take home security precautions rather than rely on optimistic statistics to keep family and property safe. Burglary and theft are crimes of opportunity, so the more difficult you make getting into your home, the more likely it is that a burglar will go elsewhere. Keep in mind that burglars don’t want to be seen while breaking in, so they are most likely to select a means of entry that is hidden from view: a rear entrance, a window shrouded by shrubs or trees, or a side door not visible from the street. While trees and fences offer homeowners a sense of privacy, they also give burglars the shield they need to gain illegal entry.

Remember too that the fastest way into a house is through the door, so this is where most burglars start. Securing doors and windows with theft-resistant locks and keeping doors and windows locked are the most important things you can do to prevent theft.

Protecting Your Home

It’s a good idea to take periodic tours of your home to check for areas vulnerable to entry.


Front door should have a high-quality entry lockset and dead-bolt, as well as a heavy-duty security chain.

Exterior doors should be solid hardwood or metal.

Hinges installed on the inside, with nonremovable pins, prevent the door from being removed.

Apartment dwellers should consider installing multipoint locks that insert bolts into all four sides of the door simultaneously.

Back and side doors should be equipped with high-quality dead-bolt locks.

Glass windows or panels on doors should be reinforced with grilles or Plexiglas.

Sliding glass doors must be fitted with special locks, a dowel, or a pin that prevents easy entry.

If your property has a side gate, lock it to prevent burglars from carrying away bulky items.


Windows on the first level are best supplied with keyed locking devices or pins that lock the window shut or allow the window to be locked into a position with no more than 6 inches of open space. (Any window used as an emergency fire exit should not require a key but should be equipped with removable grilles or bars.)

Second-story windows should have key-operated locks installed.

A window accessible by a fire escape, balcony, or roof requires an extra security device, such as a gate or grill that is removable in the event of a fire.

Always lock or bolt skylights to secure them.

Install bolt locks on the top and bottom sashes of French windows to prevent the windows from being pushed in.

Secure leaded or stained-glass windows or panels that are vulnerable to breakage with grilles, gates, Plexiglas, or exterior shutters.

Garages and Sheds

Equip outbuilding doors with heavy-duty door locks or padlocks and hasps; choose case-hardened padlocks with a 3/8-inch shackle resistant to being forced; install padlock plates with bolts rather than screws and make sure the bolts are inaccessible when the padlock is closed.

Porches, patios, side entrances, and areas around outbuildings should be illuminated.

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