You’ve heard the term “casing the joint” which is slang for checking out a building, bank, home before robbing it. Criminals and petty thieves will do this to mitigate their risk, junkies and kids who are up to no good won’t. As long as you have some basic safety measures in place the “spur of the moment” criminals will keep walking but the professionals need more deterrents.
After attending a local neighborhood watch safety meeting and chatting with local law enforcement, they shared these tips for protecting your home.
Barriers to Burglary
Burglary is a crime of opportunity. Make their work risky and difficult, and you stand a
good chance of stopping them before they get in.
Your first line of defense
To a burglar visibility means vulnerability. They hide behind fences and shrubbery. The
key is to keep trespassers out while keeping your property visible. Use picket or chain
link fences. Keep hedges clipped down around waist level.
On the outside looking in
Burglars try the doors and windows first. If burglars have difficulty here, chances are
they will move on to another property.
• Locks. The strongest are deadbolt locks with a minimum 1″ throw bolt containing a
hardened, saw-resistant steel insert. Attach the strike plate to the door frame with 4″
screws. The double cylinder deadbolt lock requires a key from both sides, preventing
a burglar from breaking glass in the door and turning the knob from the inside. Make
sure the cylinder of the lock has a steel guard — a ring around the key section. The
cylinder guard should be tapered, or it should rotate around the key section to prevent
Remember, though, a double cylinder dead- bolt can also block your exit in an emergency. Check with your local law enforcement agency or building inspector to see if
these locks are permitted in your area.
• Hinges. Doors that swing out have hinges on the outside. A burglar can easily
remove the hinge pins and lift the door out. To foil this, remove the center screw from
each side of the hinge and insert a metal pin or headless screw on one side. When the
door is closed, the end of the pin will fit into the opposite hole. Thus, even if the pins
are removed, the door will remain bolted to the frame.
• Padlocks. Overhead doors, receiving doors, garage doors — all are typically secured
with padlocks and hasps. Look for sturdy padlocks that don’t release the key until the
padlock is closed. The padlock should be case-hardened with a 3/8″ shackle to resist
repeated smashing. Remember, a padlock is only as good as the hasps on which it is
mounted; so bolt hasps securely to a metal plate, and make sure the bolts are concealed when the padlock is closed.
• Door construction. Burglars can kick in a weak door. Replace hollow core doors with
solid core doors, or strengthen the existing ones with metal sheets. Replace weak
door frames, or reinforce them with steel or concrete. Protect glass in the door with
steel bars or mesh; or place a polycarbonate sheet over the glass on the inside.
Protect windows by putting grates, grill work, or bars over them; or cover the glass on the
inside with a clear polycarbonate sheet. The sheet should extend 1-1/2″ beyond the
perimeter of the glass and be bolted to the door. Space the bolts approximately every 3
inches. Unbreakable safety glass is also available, but it is more expensive.
Skylights, ventilation ducts, and fire escapes tempt burglars because these openings
usually are not visible from the street. Protect skylights and ducts with metal grates and
iron bars. The first stair of a fire escape should be too high for the average adult to reach
from the ground. The door or window leading to the escape should be equipped with
emergency exit features: window guards should be removable or hinged to allow for an
emergency exit. Keys to locked windows or door should be kept nearby.
Key control. Because any lock gives way to a key, practice good key control.
• Label keys with a code indicating back door, receiving door, display case, etc.
• Engrave “Do Not Duplicate” on all keys.
• Restrict key-access to your most trusted employees; maintain a log to record removal
• Consider having locks re-keyed when an employee leaves your business.
Join neighboring businesses to hire a uniformed guard from a reputable security company. Check references. The security staff should be familiar with your employees, your
store hours and your shoplifting/internal theft policies.
Light is a great crime deterrent. In fact, some states have minimum standards for exterior
lighting. Light up all dark areas, especially doors and windows. If your business is in a
poorly lit commercial area, join with other merchants to petition local government for more
lights or pool funds and underwrite the cost yourselves.
Before you invest in an alarm system, weigh the cost against your need. How valuable is
your merchandise? How great is your risk? After installing an alarm, let burglars know
by putting warning signs in windows and entrances.
Every alarm system should include:
• a fail-safe battery backup
• fire-sensing capability
• a feedback device to check the system
For an expert appraisal of your security needs, ask for a premise security survey by your
local law enforcement agency, or check with a reputable security consultant.
Mark your property with your California driver’s license number (preceded by the letters
“CA”). Then put Operation I.D. decals (obtained from your local law enforcement agency)
on all windows and doors to warn burglars that your property can be traced.
Keep a complete, up-to-date inventory of your merchandise and property: office machinery, personal belongings, etc. Put a copy in your safe deposit box or at a location away
from the business site.
Locks and alarms can’t prevent a burglary unless they’re in use. Establish a routine for
“closing up shop,” locking doors and windows, setting up alarms.If a burglar breaks in
Your best protection against an intruder is visibility: Well-lit open spaces, low counters,
and large, uncluttered display windows — these precautions keep the burglar in the
Put your safe and cash register up front so that the burglar’s activity will be visible from
the outside. Empty your cash drawers and leave them open so a burglar won’t be
tempted to break them open. Anchor safes in concrete, and make sure they have
combination locks. Put locks on all interior doors and hook them into your alarm system.
(Always check fire regulations before installing such locks.)
If you suspect a burglary:
• Don’t go in — the burglar may still be inside.
• Don’t open for business — your employees and customers may unwittingly alter
• Call police immediately.