to Physical Security
Residential break and enter is occurring at a truly alarming rate, and all
indications are that the situation will not improve within the near future. What can you
do to properly protect your home against the very real threat of break-in ? Fortunately,
there are a significant number of very simple and effective ways to add protection to your
home without going to great expense - none of which are foolproof, of course - but
collectively, all of which will significantly decrease your odds of being one of the
growing number of victims who now wish they had taken preventative measures before they
All too often today, people feel that the solution to any problem is to
throw a lot of high tech equipment at it, and then lean back and relax - thinking they
have solved the problem! My many years of experience as a locksmith and residential
security consultant has taught me that often the simple, inexpensive measures can do as
much or more to discourage burglars than can the expensive and sophisticated electronic
solutions. Today, there are certain minimum steps which must be taken to ensure you don't
get broken into, and these will be outlined in order of importance.
The first step in really attacking this problem is to understand the
profile of the typical housebreaker. There appear to be two distinct types of thieves. The
first is young, most often male, and often relatively inexperienced in his approach to
entering a premises - the simple "street thug". Typically he carries few tools,
and relies more on brute strength, or the carelessness of the homeowner, to gain access.
Burglary to these thieves is a "crime of convenience", often to finance a drug
habit. The second and less common type of thief is what I call the "revolving
door" thief. Typically older, in his twenties, he is somewhat more
"professional". He has been doing this for many years, and has come to view
thievery as his "job". As described to me by an Ottawa police officer, a picture
of his operational lifestyle would be as follows:
"Steal a car, burglarize a home, do this as many times as he can
before getting caught. Once caught, get out on bail, continue to steal until finally
convicted of the first crime. Go to the Ottawa Carleton Regional Detention Centre for
three months of colour TV and ping pong. Get out again and repeat the procedure many times
over, while living well on the proceeds gained from selling hot goods on the black market,
all the while continuing to pursue his 'career' of break and enter".
Regardless of the type of thief involved, there are three things that
typically discourage them - time, noise and light ! By this, I mean they will not normally
spend an inordinate length of time to gain entry; they will make as little noise as
possible in doing so, and will avoid being seen !! So, it falls on you - the homeowner -
to ensure that everything you do measurably increases these risks for them, and in so
doing, decreases the risk for you.
There are three levels of security that can be applied to any residential
situation. Make no mistake, they are all important, and must be considered if you are to
ensure that you have done everything reasonable in your power to guard against break-in.!
The first is what I call "basic security".
You begin by developing a security conscious state of mind. The key here is to become
"intelligently cautious" by habit , and not allow yourself to become
paranoid or paralyzed by fear, as so often happens following a break-in. Remember, at a
time of extreme emotional trauma following a burglary, you are in no position to be making
rational decisions about security hardware !! . Specifically what you should do in advance
Guard your keys well ! Be able to account for all copies, and if there is
any doubt they have been "compromised", simply have the locks rekeyed. This is
not an expensive proposition , and is a "must do " anytime you move into a new
premises. Also, never include your address or phone number on the key ring. This gives
anyone finding your lost keys easy access into your home (The War Amps provide a numbered
certificate to put on your key ring which, when found and mailed to them, will ensure they
are returned to you)
Develop the habit of doing a walk around the inside of your home prior to
leaving to ensure all doors and windows are closed and locked. Then religiously follow
this routine! (One third of break-ins are through unlocked doors and windows)
Ensure that you do not allow newspapers and mail to pile up in front of
the house. This is a dead giveaway for thieves, and, in some high risk neighbourhoods
almost guarantees you will be hit (I suggest going so far as putting your request in
writing to the newspaper to emphasize your seriousness). Have a neighbour diligently
pick up "junk mail" and assorted unsolicited flyers while you are away.
Don't leave messages on your answering machine which tell callers that
you are gone for an extended period of time (Yes, people actually still do this....!!!!)
Do not discard packing containers for such electronic items as computers,
VCR's, televisions, camcorders etc, without first cutting them up. Left on the curb for
garbage pickup, they are an obvious advertisement for thieves, who do watch for them.
Have your driveway shoveled during any absences in the winter, and your
lawn cut during the summer months.
Have a neighbour park his second car in your laneway when you will be
absent. You should have someone check the house every 48 hours, to ensure your
insurance coverage is not voided. Have that person change the position of drapes and
blinds to ensure the house looks "lived in".
Trim any shrubbery that would provide cover for someone attempting to
break into your home. Be particularly vigilant if your yard borders common areas such as
schoolyards, bicycle paths, graveyards or parks - places where youth often congregate or
Lock any gates that provide access into the rear of your home.
Ensure that your garage door is down and locked. Better yet, is to install
an electronic garage door opener, and turn off the power to it when you leave for extended
periods of time. (There are newer models which feature "code hopping" technology
to prevent entry by generating codes via electronic means). The garage can be a source of
expensive articles of all kinds. Here in the Ottawa area awhile back, a ring of
"professional" bicycle thieves were stealing expensive mountain bikes to fence
in Montreal and Toronto. Remember also, that once inside a garage, a thief has all the
time and concealment in the world to work on the inside door to your home. No normal
door - no matter how strongly barricaded- can resist physical assault for long (especially
if you have left tools in the garage that will assist him in breaking in !!!) Another
simple option is to drill a hole through the track where the garage door wheels slide and
clip a long shank padlock through the track on the inside. This ensures the door will not
open from either side (Be sure to turn the power off to your electronic door opener to
prevent the motor from burning out if it should be triggered accidentally by someone
else's door opener)
The key is to ensure you have taken all reasonable steps to ensure your
home maintains that "lived in" look, especially when you are away for extended
periods. Additional steps such as putting strategically placed lights on automatic timers,
leaving radios playing, and installing security lighting are all useful steps.
The next and most important steps to take are in the area of physical security