Residential Safety


Many burglars will spend no longer than 60 seconds to try breaking into a home. Good locks, good lighting, and good neighbors who watch out for each other, can be big deterrents to burglars.


Check the Locks

Did you know that in almost half of all completed residential burglaries, thieves simply breezed in through unlocked doors or crawled through unlocked windows?

  • Make sure every external door has a sturdy, well-installed dead bolt lock. Key-in-the-knob locks alone are not enough.
  • Sliding glass doors can offer easy access if they are not properly secured. You can secure them by installing commercially available locks or putting a broomstick or dowel in the inside track to jam the door. To prevent the door being lifted off the track, drill a hole through the sliding door frame and the fixed frame. Then insert a pin in the hole.
  • Lock double-hung windows with key locks or “pin” windows by drilling a small hole at a 45 degree angle into the inner and outer frames, then insert a nail that can be removed. Secure basement windows with grilles or grates.
  • Instead of hiding keys around the outside of your home, give an extra key to a neighbor you trust.
  • When you move into a new house or apartment, re-key the locks.


Check the Doors

A lock on a flimsy door is about as effective as locking your car door but leaving the window down.

  • All outside doors should be metal or solid wood.
  • If your doors don’t fit tightly in their frames, install weather stripping around them.
  • Install a peephole or wide-angle viewer in all entry doors so you can see who is outside without opening the door. Door chains break easily and don’t keep out intruders.

Check the Outside

Look at your house from the outside. Make sure you know the following tips:

  • Thieves hate bright lights. Install outside lights and keep them on at night.
  • Keep your yard clean. Prune back shrubbery so it doesn’t hide doors or windows. Cut back tree limbs that a thief could use to climb to an upper-level window.
  • Clearly display your house number so police and other emergency vehicles can find your home quickly.
  • If you travel, create the illusion that you’re at home by getting some timers that will turn lights on and off in different areas of your house throughout the evening. Lights burning 24 hours a day signal an empty house.
  • Leave shades, blinds, and curtains in normal positions. And don’t let your mail pile up. Call the post office to stop delivery or have a neighbor pick it up.
  • Make a list of your valuables – VCRs, stereos, computers, jewelry. Take photos of the items, list their serial numbers and descriptions. Check with law enforcement about engraving your valuables through Operation Identification
  • Ask local law enforcement for a free home security survey.

How to Secure Your Home

Street Lights Good streetlights deter crime. Report broken street lights to your city or county maintenance department.

Exterior Lights Floodlights deter burglars. Arrange them to illuminate all possible points of entry.

Indoor Lights Don’t leave indoor lights on 24 hours a day. Use timers to turn them on and off if you’re not home.

Signs and Decals Put alarm warning stickers or neighborhood watch signs on doors or windows.

Yard Lights Low-voltage lights on timers can light up walkways and driveways and help neighbors to see and report suspicious activities.

Mailbox The mailbox should be large enough to handle all the mail you receive. Put it where neighbors can see it. And if you must put your name on the box, use only your first initial and last name.

Driveway Ask a neighbor to park a car in your driveway or in front of your house when you’re on vacation.

Locks The common lock-within-the-knob offers convenience, but not enough security. A single-cylinder deadbolt lock should be used with solid wood or steel-clad doors. A double-cylinder deadbolt operated by a key from both sides – should be used in doors where there is glass within 40 inches of the lock.

Doors Doors are the most common way of entry for burglars. They should be locked whether you’re inside, in the yard, or away from home. They should be solid-core or steel-clad. Outside hinges should have internal pins to keep them from being lifted out. Doors with windowpanes should be reinforced with unbreakable glass or iron grillwork.

Garage Door Keep garage door closed and locked. The door leading from the garage to the house – a favorite for burglars – should be solid core, with secure hinges and a deadbolt lock. Electric door openers should be unplugged and the door should be padlocked from inside when you’re away from home. Drill a hole in the door and the frame – then slip a padlock through the holes.

Garage Windows Keep windows locked. They also should be covered with shades or blinds and be reinforced with extra locks or bars.

Alarm System There are various types of alarms – motion, spot, perimeter, wireless – each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Before buying one, consider your objectives: What are you trying to protect? How much money do you want to spend? Are there children or pets in the home?

Street Address Make street numbers large and lighted or reflective so police or rescue workers can find your home quickly in an emergency.

Viewer A wide-angle viewer – with 190-degree visibility – or door scope should be installed in the front door.

Choose the Right Lock Doors should have high-quality locks that resist being picked, cut or tampered with burglars. The best kind of lock is a double-cylinder deadbolt that requires a key to be opened from either side. But remember, if you’re inside the house and the door is locked, you’ll need a key to get out. So keep one handy in case of emergency.

Best Lock A double-cylinder deadbolt lock with a hardened cylinder guard and a reinforced steel insert offers the best protection for residential homes.

Shed Storage sheds, especially those containing ladders or tools that a burglar might use to break – should be kept locked.

Sliding Glass Doors To prevent a sliding glass door from being lifted out of its tracks, screw three pan-head sheet metal screws into the top of the frame. Adjust the screws to take up any slack between the door and the frame.

To further secure the door, drill a small hole at a downward angle in the overlap between the door and the frame, then insert a steel pin or heavy nail.

Valuables Don’t display your electronic equipment, cameras or computers. Keeping valuables in plain sight only makes it easier for burglars to see what they want to take.

Fences Fences help keep burglars from carrying away large or bulky items. A wire-mesh fence provides visibility that a solid fence doesn’t. If there is a gate, keep it locked.

Vents Vents leading under the house should be reinforced with metal bars.

Trash If you’re away, have a neighbor use your garbage can to make it look like you’re home.

Beware of Dog Sign This can be a deterrent – even if you don’t have a dog.

Landscaping Keep shrubs and plants trimmed away from windows and doors so you don’t give burglars a hiding place.

Skylights Roof lights or entrances should be sealed and reinforced with bars or screens to keep burglars from getting inside.

Windows Burglars like open windows – or ones that open easily. Double-hung windows can be reinforced with just two nails. When both parts of the window are closed, drill a hole at a slightly downward angle in the upper corner of the lower sash, extending into the lower corner of the upper sash. Drill this angled hole on both the left – and right-hand sides of the double-hung window – and then insert the nails.

Awning windows can be forced open if they are not tightly closed. Remove the crank handle to increase security; but keep it handy in case of emergency.

Sliding glass windows can be secured with a snugly fitting dowel in the track, a pin through the frame or keyed locks. Another method, also good for sliding glass doors, is to screw several pan-head sheet metal screws into the top of the frame. Adjust the screws so you can just barely clear the door when sliding it.

Jalousie windows can be secured by installing metal grating on the inside of the window or by gluing glass slats to the metal clips that hold them.

Drapes or shades should be left slightly open. A home or apartment looks deserted if they are drawn and closed.

Good Lock A deadbolt lock with a thumb-turn is the second best kind of lock for a home. This lock requires a key to open from the outside, but can be opened from the inside simply by turning the knob. Remember that if you have glass in or around your door, a burglar could break the glass then just reach inside to unlock the door.

Bad Lock The dead-latch lock provides little or no security and should be replaced. A burglar can easily force this lock open by slipping a credit card or pry bar between the door and frame.


Securing Your Apartment

  • All exterior doors should be checked for adequate security.
  • When moving into a new apartment, have all locks rekeyed.
  • Deadbolt locks should be installed on all exterior doors.
  • Properly secure all sliding glass doors and windows. This should be done even though you may not be on the first floor.
  • Get your neighbors together and demand that adequate security lighting be installed on the grounds, stairwells, laundry rooms and the parking lot.
  • Insist that shrubbery be cut back away from the building and entrances so that they do not offer concealment to a burglar.
  • DO NOT advertise that you are a woman living alone. Use your first initial only on the mailbox and for telephone listings.
  • If you are planning to be away for an extended period of time, inform the office of your plans and where you can be reached. Be sure to stop all deliveries.
  • Lock your doors and windows even when you are at the pool, game room or at a neighbor’s for a few minutes.
  • Make certain that your apartment number is not printed on your assigned parking space.

Home Security Checklist

1. Do your exterior lights illuminate all entrances to your home? Yes No
2. Is the shrubbery kept trimmed back so a burglar can not hide near your windows or doors? Yes No
3. Are garage doors kept closed and locked at all times? Yes No
4. Are exterior doors made of solid core construction (including the door leading from the garage to the house)? Yes No
5. Is there a peephole viewer (180 degree) on the front door? Yes No
6. Are sliding glass doors secured with an auxiliary lock or pined, and are there screws in the track to prevent door removal? Yes No
7. Are exterior doors secured with a security deadbolt lock? Yes No
8. Are windows secured with auxiliary-keyed locks that are master keyed or secured with a pin device? Yes No
9. Do you keep your doors locked at all times? Yes No
10. Have you marked all of your valuable items with your driver’s license and photographed nonmarkable items? Yes No

Deadbolt Locks

A single cylinder deadbolt should be mounted on a solid wood core door when there is no breakable glass within 40 inches of the locking device.

A double cylinder deadbolt lock, which is key operated from both the interior and exterior, should be used when there is glass within 40 inches of the locking device CAUTION: the use of a double-cylinder deadbolt lock can be a fire hazard. While occupied a key should be left in the lock and ALL children should be trained in the use of the lock and all other fire prevention methods.

Both of these locking devices should meet the following BASIC criteria:

  • The bolt must extend a minimum of 1″ and be case hardened or contain a hardened insert.
  • The cylinder guard must be tapered or spherical in design to make it difficult to grip with pliers. It must be of solid metal and it is preferred that the guard turn freely.
  • The connecting screws that hold the lock together must both be on the inside. There must be no screwheads on the exterior of the door.
  • The connecting screws must be at least ¼” in diameter and screw into solid metal stock – not screw posts.

Securing Your Windows

Double hung windows can be secured by drilling a hole at a slight downward angle through the first sash but not the second sash. The window can then be pinned to prevent opening. However, there are several commercial key type locks which can be installed and these locks provide a greater degree of security. Also, a simple wooden dowel can be used to prevent the opening of the bottom window.

REMEMBER to master key all keyed locks and to train children in the use of locks.

Awning types of windows are difficult to secure. The removal of the inside operator handle adds some security. However, keep the handle handy in the event of an emergency. These types of windows should be tightly closed to enhance security. Also, the newer awning windows have a locking lug that is activated if the window crank is turned ¾ of a turn after the window is closed.

REMEMBER windows left open while you are away or at night are open invitations to a burglar. Do not help the thief steal your property.

Sliding glass windows can be secured in the same manner as a sliding glass doors. Pins through the frame, screws in the track or keyed locks can all be used. The recommendations made for securing sliding glass doors on the handout titled sliding glass doors also apply to sliding glass windows.

Casement windows provide good security. Keyed locks are also available for this type of window.

Jalousie windows are a very high security risk and should be replaced if at all possible. They can be secured by installing metal grating on the inside of the window area with a quick release feature in the event of fire. At a comparable cost to installing grating, the windows can be replaced with another, which offers better security.

Guidelines for Purchasing an Alarm

  • Is the company a local business?
  • Is the company a member of any local business organizations?
  • Check with your local Consumer Affairs Office to see if there have been any problems with the company.
  • What are the qualifications of the company’s installation staff?
  • Does the company offer 24-hr service in the case of a false alarm?
  • Does your insurance company offer reduced rates for the type of alarm system the company is offering?
  • Is there a warranty or service contract offered with the system?
  • Does the system include a battery backup in the event of power failure?
  • Will the system automatically shut off after 15 minutes?
  • Once activated, will it automatically reset if attacked again?
  • If it will be a hardwire system, will the wires be installed in such a fashion as to be protected from attack?
  • Will the audible sounding device be loud enough to be heard by your neighbors?
  • Will the system have a delay feature for entering and leaving?

Home Invasion

DASTARDLY DELIVERIES For years law enforcement officers have been telling people to keep their doors locked and not to open their door for strangers, yet this advise has been infrequently followed. It would seem that this basic advise was either faulty or inadequate as the number of home invasion crimes across the country are ever increasing, while the ruse used has remained fairly constant.

Reluctantly, credit for the success of the home invader must be acknowledged, as he, unlike his victim, plans his actions. A home invader knows that older persons are deeply concerned about safety issues and yet when confronted by someone claiming to be investigating a potentially dangerous condition, rational thought by the intended victim is abandoned. Flowers, it would seem, tend to cause certain persons to forget the rules, and they join the statistics, as a victim. It is unfortunate that the invader is prepared, and can be almost certain that his victim is not.

What follows is a sampling of possible tricks that the home invader may use, and what you the potential victim, should do to thwart his plan.

THE GAS LEAK TRICK Persons will come to your door and tell you that they are checking for a leak in the area, and that they need to come into your house to check for the leak.

Clue: If there is a leak in your house you’ll know about it. Also, the gas companies are only concerned about leaks that they are responsible for, that is the equipment and lines outside of your home.


  • Ask for Identification, the name of their company and who their supervisor is.
  • Look up the number of the company, DO NOT use any number that the man or woman may provide.
  • When you discover that there is no such company or the company denied knowledge: CALL THE POLICE.

THE ELECTRIC COMPANY REPAIRMAN The electric company and their repair persons do not look for electrical problems inside of Privately owned property. If you have an electrical problem in your home, you must call an electrician and you will know that he is coming and what company you called.

Clue: If someone knocks at your door claiming to he from the electric company and needs to get in, and you did not call for repairs, something is wrong.


  • Ask to see their identification card then call the Electric Company repair number in your phone book.
  • If the Electric Company denies knowledge of the person or his actions: CALL THE POLICE!!!

THE UNEXPECTED DELIVERY If you have a delivery person at your door, and you have not ordered anything and there is no logical reason for the delivery (i.e., Mothers Day, your birthday or a mail ordered item), then you should stop and think before you do anything. Almost all delivery people want to leave the package at your door and continue on their way with other deliveries.

Clue: Only those persons delivering large or heavy objects must enter your home. If any other delivery person insists that they have to enter your house, stop and think.


  • Ask them for identification or at least their name.
  • Ask what company they are from and look the company up in the phone book, do not use a number they provide.
  • If there is no such company or the company denies knowledge: CALL THE POLICE!!!

Burglars Do More Than Steal

Burglars can commit rapes, robberies, and assaults if they are surprised by someone coming home or pick a home that is occupied.

  • If something looks questionable – a slit screen, a broken window, or an open door – don’t go in. Call the police from a neighbor’s house or a public phone.
  • At night, if you think you hear someone breaking in, leave safely if you can, then call police. If you can’t leave, lock yourself in a room with a phone and call police. If an intruder is in your room, pretend you are asleep.
  • Guns are responsible for many accidental deaths in the home every year. Think carefully before buying a gun. If you do own one, learn how to store it and use it safely.

Day to Day Safety Tips

  • Make certain ALL doors and windows are locked before leaving (including garage).
  • Do not leave keys hidden near exterior doors, under doormats, flower pots, inside the mailbox or other obvious places.
  • Never leave notes which can inform a burglar that your house is unoccupied.
  • While away, have lights and a radio or television on a timer to give the appearance that the dwelling is occupied.
  • Keep tools, ladders, etc., in places inaccessible to potential burglars.
  • Lock the doors to your home when working in the yard or a secluded part of your house. Keep your keys with you at all times.
  • Don’t open your door to strangers. Ask for identification of people such as salesmen, repairmen, solicitors, etc.
  • Be cautious about providing any information regarding yourself or your neighbors over the phone or in person.
  • Avoid leaving valuables (coin collections, jewelry, large amounts of cash) at home.
  • When moving to a new residence, hire a reliable locksmith to re-key all exterior doors. If possible, have the locksmith make the key to fit all locks.
  • Keep emergency numbers near your phone for quick access.

Safety Tips While on Vacation

  • Inform your neighbors when you leave and when you plan to return so they can be extra alert for suspicious persons. Leave a key with a trusted neighbor so your house may be periodically inspected. Ask them to vary the position of your shades and blinds. If possible, arrange for a friend or relative to “house-sit” for you while you are gone.
  • Have a neighbor pick up your mail daily. Do not discontinue newspaper deliveries. Have a neighbor collect them for you as well as any advertising circulars you may receive.
  • Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway, occasionally place garbage in your garbage can and dispose of any debris that accumulates on your property. If possible, have a neighbor mow your lawn or shovel your sidewalk when needed.
  • Set the bell on your telephone on low so that it can’t be heard from the street. If you have call-forwarding, forward your phone to a residence of a friend or family member (with their permission of course!).
  • Use automatic timers to turn lights on at dusk and off at your bedtime. Vary the lights to be turned on and have a radio or TV on a timer. Never leave lights or the radio on constantly. Tune your radio to a talk show so that human voices are heard.
  • Don’t publicize your vacation plans.
  • Keep your garage door closed and locked so no one can see if your car is gone.
  • If possible, tell a neighbor where you can be reached in an emergency.
  • If you return and find a door or window has been forced or broken while you were absent, do not enter. The criminal may still be inside. Go to a neighbor and call 9-1-1.
  • If you have a phone answering machine, do not leave specific information about your absence. Keep the message vague.