Home Security Handbook
Crime and Violence Prevention Center
This copy has been modified to be used in The Landings Neighborhood Watch website
When was the last time you heard about a house being burglarized? Maybe you
have been hit yourself. Not a good feeling, is it?
You don’t have to be a victim of burglary. While it is one of the most frequently
committed crimes, it’s preventable. Most home burglaries are done by opportunists
who spot an open window, a faulty lock or a house that looks like no one’s
going to be around for a while. In California, nearly one third of all burglaries are
classified as “no-force entries” because the burglars simply walked in through an
unlocked door or climbed in an open window.
You can reduce the chance that this will happen to you. Read this booklet to find
out what you need to do. Most of the suggestions will cost you very little, but
they will contribute immensely to your peace of mind. They will also safeguard
Remember — lock your doors and windows when you leave your home. If you
have an alarm, use it. Don’t become a crime statistic, and please share this book
with your neighbor.
Protecting Against Entry
Many of the locks and other items described in this section are inexpensive and
can be installed yourself. Some, however, may require a professional to install
them. Your local police or sheriff’s department can answer any questions you
True security begins with key control. When you move into a home or apartment
or lose your keys, always have the locks re-keyed. You don’t have to replace the
lock itself, as re-keying of locks will render the previous keys useless. Any
licensed locksmith can change the tumblers in your outside door locks quickly
Do not leave an “emergency” key under the door mat, on top of the door frame or
in any other “hiding spot” so well-known to burglars.
Never attach a name, address, or license tag to your house keys or your
children’s. If keys are lost or stolen, you will have an unwelcome visitor very
Keep car keys and house keys separate. Never leave your house keys with an
attendant when you go to the car wash or parking lot.
Exterior lighting is extremely important in residential security. Each exterior
doorway should be lighted from dusk to dawn so a burglar can’t hide to break in.
Yards and windows should be lighted. Night blind spots can be eliminated by
use of ornamental porch and yard lamp posts.
Yard lights and entrance lights can be equipped with sensors that turn the light
on at dusk and off at dawn or when it detects motion. The motion detectors
seem to work better because when the light turns on there is a change in environment.
Motion detector lights can also be equipped with bell or other warning
sounds. Check the sensors or motion detectors periodically to make sure they
Keep doorways, windows and porches clear when planting bushes and flowers.
Remember that the bushes that provide you with privacy also give a burglar a
place to hide.
Prune large trees. A burglar can climb the lower limbs to the second story. A
well-maintained lawn is a very effective clue that someone is at home and cares.
Plan your landscaping with both privacy and security in mind — planting thorny
bushes and shrubs near windows and along fences may discourage burglars.
Locked gates and well-maintained fences can make break-ins more difficult and
prevent the removal of large items.
Walks and driveways should be easily seen so no landscaping offers concealment
The hinge door is the most common type used in houses and apartments. They
are used for front, porch, garage and basement doors leading into the home. All
exterior hinge doors should be of solid core construction, 1-3/4 inch thick. The
door frame should be of solid construction and be equipped with a proper strike
plate. Hollow core or composition board doors can easily be battered or broken
Outside hinges. Doors with hinges on the outside will provide a burglar
with easy access to your home. The burglar only has to remove the hinges
and lift the door away from its frame. This situation can be corrected in three
Remove the door and remount the hinges on the inside of the frame so that
the door swings inward; or
Install a set of hinges with non-removable hinge pins; or
Install a locking pin below the existing hinge plate. Here is how:
(1) Drill holes below the hinge plate.
(2) Insert a “headless” screw, bolt or nail into the door jamb below the
hinge plate. Leave at least one-half inch of the screw, bolt or nail
extending from the frame.
Once this is done, as the door closes, the pin in the jamb will penetrate the
hole in the door and the door will be held in position even if the hinge pins are
Dead bolt locks. The best defense for a good solid core wood door is a
dead bolt lock with one-inch throw bolt. The security dead bolt lock can be
used on any hinge door where the strike plate can be securely fastened to
the door frame. When installing a dead bolt, attach the strike plate (the jamb
fastening that receives the bolt in the locking position) to the door with four to
six, three-inch brass wood screws. The screws should penetrate through
the frame to a structural member.
Dead bolt locks come in double key cylinder and inside thumb-operated
models. If there are no windows in or near the door, the bolt may be operated
from inside by a thumb turn. Both single and double key cylinder dead
bolt locks should meet the following criteria to be a good security device:
The bolt must extend a minimum of one-inch and contain a hardened steel
The dead bolt should contain a cylinder guard to prohibit twisting of the
lock with a wrench or pliers. It must be solid metal — not hollow casting or
The key way should contain a five-pin tumbler system to make it more
difficult to pick.
The connecting screws that hold the lock together must be on the inside
and made of case-hardened steel. No screw heads should be exposed on
The connecting screws must be at least one-fourth inch in diameter and go
into solid metal stock, not screw posts.
Many communities prohibit the use of a double key cylinder dead bolt lock
because it may be hazardous if the door is to be used as an emergency fire
exit. Consult your local law enforcement agency, fire department or locksmith,
regarding its use. If used in your home, a key should be left in the
inside cylinder whenever the home is occupied.
Key-in-the-knob locks. These locks on an outside door are an invitation
to even the most inexperienced burglar. These locks can be forced by
breaking off the knob, and frequently they can be opened by prying or slipping
a piece of plastic between the jamb and the bolt. Do not rely on these
locks. Install a dead-latching plunger type lock to supplement it.
Locks for double doors. Many homes with double doors use half-barrel
slide bolts on the inactive door. These are weak and inadequate and should
not be relied upon. Additional locking devices should be installed. Flush
bolts installed at the top and bottom of the inactive door of a pair of doors
offer additional security since the intruder cannot get at these devices to
tamper with them if the doors are locked. It is important that the bolts have at
least one-inch of throw and that they protrude well into the top frame and
threshold. Additionally, the strike plates should be well secured with at least
three-inch brass wood screws.
Locks for dutch doors. Dutch doors can be secured by adding a dead
bolt lock to both the lower and upper door.
Security for doors with glass
If an exterior door has a glass window or if there is glass within 40 inches of the
lock, you may want to install security screening, window guards or burglary rated
glazing. Use non-removable screws to securely mount screens, bars or window
Sliding glass doors. Sliding glass doors present a major security problem
if they do not have the proper locks and if special steps are not taken to
prevent removal of the door.
A sliding glass door is lifted into position when installed and, therefore, must
be lifted from the track to be removed. To prevent this, insert #8 or #10 sheet
metal screws into the top of the door frame at both ends and the middle.
Adjust these screws so that the door barely clears them when it is operated. If
properly inserted, this will take up the slack between the upper part of the
door and the interior frame.
It is important to note that dowels alone placed in the door track will not
prevent a burglar from removing the sliding door.
The best lock for a sliding glass door is operable by a key from the inside.
The lock bolt should engage the strike sufficiently so that it will not be disengaged
by any amount of movement. When the existing inside pull has to be
changed in order to accommodate a new deadlock, an inside cylinder pull is
recommended as a replacement. A single lock is not recommended because
of the softness of aluminum frames.
A supplemental lock should be installed at the top or bottom, made out of
steel and inserted in the sliding door at a slightly downward angle.
Garage doors should always be closed and locked whenever you are away from
home. Most garages offer burglars a wide selection of tools to use in breaking
into your home. Garages provide ladders for accessing second story windows
and also a convenient, hidden route for entry into your home through the connecting
door. Remember, a securely locked garage will prevent burglars from
the opportunity to steal automobiles, tools, bicycles, lawn mowers and other
Sectional roll-up doors
For overhead sectional roll-up doors, drill a hole of proper size in the door track,
just above one of the guide rollers while the door is in the closed position, and
install a padlock. Many doors are installed with pre-drilled holes that will accommodate
this security feature without having to drill. Or, install eye bolts on the
inside top of the garage door and the door frame. When the garage door is
closed, a padlock can secure the bolts and prevent opening of the door.
Electric garage door openers
An electric garage door opener should have steel gears and chain activation.
Periodically check the door to make sure it is adjusted to prevent the bottom from
being lifted up. This stops the thief from crawling under the door.
When you move into a new home, reset the code in the opener and the remote
Cane bolts can be installed on the inside of the door. These can only be locked
from the inside. Sliding hasps can also be used on the inside of the door.
Other garage doors
The weakest link in an attached garage is usually the side (rear) door. Doors
with window panes or thin veneer wood or no dead bolt locks should be considered
a primary entry for a burglar. Take measures to make this door as secure
as the front door. In most cases, it is easier to either replace the door or use
plywood on the interior to reinforce the existing wood panel, or to replace the
glass with burglary resistant glazing to prevent entry through the window.
Sliding windows should be secured by the same methods used for the sliding
doors. Both the pan head top screws and the bracing devices are effective on
this type of window, if the slider is on the inside. Several types of auxiliary locks
which offer improved security are also available.
Casement windows (crank type)
These windows are the easiest to secure. Make sure the locking latch works
properly and the crank which opens and closes the window has no excessive
play. Replace any worn hardware. Key lock handles are available, if you desire.
If the window is not normally opened or closed, remove the crank handle.
Double-hung sash-type windows
To secure these windows, drill a hole that angles slightly downward through a top
corner of the bottom window into the bottom of the top window, on both sides.
Then place an eye bolt or eight penny nail into the hole to prevent the window
from being opened.
Auxiliary latches may also be installed. The most effective protection for double-
hung windows is a key-locking security sash lock. If possible, mount the lock
with two-inch wood screws.
It is best to replace louvered windows with another type. Metal grating may also
be used as long as it is secured with large bolts, preventing the bars or grating
from being torn free from their mount.
For the interim period of waiting for the replacement windows or installation of
window bars, you might want to secure the windows:
Remove each individual pane of glass and sand the glass and metal frame
where the two meet; and,
Apply a two-part epoxy resin glue to the sanded area and replace the
piece of glass into the framework.
Basement windows are one of the most common points of entry for burglars.
Special attention should be paid to securing them if they are hidden by bushes or
trees which provide burglars with an ideal place to work unobserved. Such
windows should be replaced with plexiglass or polycarbonate, or reinforced with
decorative security bars.
If you use garage windows for ventilation, install the same security items as
recommended for the windows in your home. Hang curtains or miniblinds to
prevent a potential burglar from checking to see if you’re home or window shopping
An alarm system can contribute to your home’s security. However, do not depend
only upon an alarm to protect you. Be sure to use the proper locking
devices and join or start a Neighborhood Watch program in your area.
There are many types of alarms on the market. Before deciding what type of
system to install, check with your local law enforcement agency to determine if
there is an alarm ordinance in your area.
Entire alarm systems may be leased or purchased from professional state licensed
alarm companies and are also available from electrical and hardware
dealers or home improvement stores. Alarm system installation by a well-established,
professional alarm company in your community will save you money in
service calls and local fines. You may wish to consult with your local Better
Business Bureau to determine which companies are reputable in your community.
You may also call the state licensing agency to verify that a company is
licensed and whether or not any disciplinary actions have been taken against
them. For state licensee information, call (916) 445-7833 or 445-7724.
Get at least three estimates and then decide which alarm company and system is
best for your needs.
Any alarm system should include:
A fail-safe battery backup.
Fire-sensing capability (ionizationsensors are best).
Readout ability to check the working of the system. Test your alarm
periodically if your system has that feature.
Most residential alarms emit a loud noise from a bell, siren or tone generator. An
audible alarm on doors and windows can be an effective deterrent to the amateur
burglar. Make sure that your family understands how the alarm operates and
sounds. Notify your neighbors that you have installed an alarm and make sure
that they are aware of the alarm’s sound and that it is loud enough to be heard in
their homes. Family and neighbors should be trained to call your law enforcement
agency when they hear the alarm.
Don’t tip off burglars by telephone
Burglars often try to find out if anyone is home by phoning. If you get several
suspicious “wrong number” calls or “nobody-at-the-other-end” calls, tell the
police. Warn family members, especially children, not to give out information by
phone — especially about who is home, who is out, or how long anyone is
expected to be out.
If you use an answering machine or voice mail service, do not indicate on your
greeting that you will be gone for a specific time. A more appropriate message is
that you screen calls and sometimes you may be home or not.
If your name is in the telephone book, do not place your full name on the mailbox,
door or apartment building roster. Use your first two initials and last name
only. Your name on display only makes it easier for the burglar to look your
phone number up in the phone book.
Make it look as if you’re home
Maintaining an appearance of occupancy even when your home is vacant is
essential to thwarting burglary attempts.
Timers can automatically regulate television, radios, and the interior lighting of a
home to create such a deception. Timers should be used while you are on
vacation, when you are out to dinner or even during the day while you are at
One type of automatic timer has a 24-hour dial and allows you to set an on-andoff
time to coincide with normal light usage in your home. These timers simply
plug into the wall, and the lamp you want to use is plugged into the timer.
For the most realistic deception, several timers should be used to simulate
occupancy. For instance, a television and lamp in the living room might be on
from 6:30 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. At 11:00 p.m., a lamp might go on in the bathroom
until 11:30 p.m. and a bedroom lamp might go on from 11:00 p.m. to
midnight. This would indicate to anyone watching the house that it was occupied.
During the day, leave drapes and shades in their normal position — the way you
have them when at home. (And do not leave easily stolen valuables in sight
close to windows!)
Don’t advertise your vacation plans
Inform one or two people of your vacation plans — a trusted neighbor who can
keep an eye on things while you are gone. Have your neighbor pick up your
newspaper and other deliveries. (Do not inform any delivery people that you will
be on vacation.) If you will be gone for more than a week, arrange to keep your
lawn maintained and for your garbage can to be put out and brought in. Notify
the police/sheriff if you live in a jurisdiction which provides vacation checks.
Don’t reward the burglar who does get in
If, despite your precautions, a burglar does get into your home, do not give him
or her a “bonus” of cash or easily-carried jewelry. Never keep large sums of
cash around the house. Keep valuable jewelry that you do not often wear in a
safe deposit box.
Make sure that police, fire and paramedics can find your home in a time of
emergency. Have your house numbers clearly mounted on a high contrast
background. Each number should be at least four-inches. Have the numbers
illuminated all night. Also, your house number should be painted on the center of
the driveway next to the street. Have it repainted periodically because it can
Does your police or sheriff’s department have a helicopter patrol? If so, on the
rear section of your roof, add your house numbers so that the helicopter patrol
can locate your residence from the air. The numbers should be two feet high and
a contrasting color with the background. A directional arrow and number can
show the increase in house number addresses.
Emergency telephone numbers
Police, fire and paramedic’s emergency telephone numbers should be listed on
or programmed into each phone in your home. Telephone stickers with these
numbers may be available from your police, sheriff or fire departments.
If you discover a burglary has been committed, leave the house undisturbed and
call the police or sheriff’s department from a neighbor’s home. If you interrupt a
burglar or if you see a prowler in or around your home, do not investigate yourself.
. . call 911 immediately from a neighbor’s home.
Call 9-1-1 if an emergency situation threatens human life or property and demands
immediate attention. Do not call 9-1-1 for non emergencies, this causes
delays in the handling of real emergencies.
Protecting Your Property
Mark and record your property – Operation Identification
The experience of many communities vividly confirms that you and your community
can reduce the risk of burglary by simply marking your possessions. Some
towns have had up to a 25 percent decline in burglaries after instituting such a
program. The program is usually known as “Operation Identification.”
An inexpensive electric etching pencil or engraver — often available on loan from
your local law enforcement agency — is used to engrave your personal property
with your driver’s license number. (Do not use your social security number.
Federal law forbids the use of social security numbers to trace an individual.)
Engrave your valuables with this information: “Stolen from CA ___ (insert your
driver’s license number here).” CA stands for California. This allows law enforcement
to trace the number. Inscribe on furniture, appliances, television,
stereo components, guns, cameras, lawn equipment, tools, musical instruments,
personal computers, etc. These words can be placed on the base or rear portion
of the item without marring the appearance of the item. Electric engraving
pencils are as easy to write with as a ball point pen and are a worthwhile investment.
Some small items, such as jewelry which cannot be marked, should be photographed.
Larger items can be videotaped. Place your driver’s license photo next
to the item for easy ownership identification.
Extremely valuable jewelry should be appraised by a reputable appraiser. Place
a description and listing of the items on the back of the photograph. In fact, you
may wish to photo- graph or videotape each room in your house.
Once you have marked your property, record it on an inventory list. A sample
inventory form appears in the back of this handbook. Put one copy of the list and
photographs or videotape in your safe deposit box, fire-proof box, freezer portion
of your refrigerator, or otherwise out of reach of a burglar.
Also, save receipts with the model and serial numbers of your more valuable
items and keep them with the inventory list. If you have a burglary loss — or a
fire, storm or any other kind of loss — the list will help you remember what you
had and the receipts will help you establish proof of their value for filing an
Update your inventory at least once a year to make sure newly-bought items are
There is evidence that burglars avoid both homes and communities where
Operation Identification is used. So after identifying your property, let a would-be
burglar know that the property is marked. Many local law enforcement agencies
can provide decals to warn potential burglars that the home is a participant in
Insure against theft
A homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy provides basic economic protection
against burglary and other types of theft. Policies designed for mobile
homeowners and condominium owners serve the same purpose. If you do not
already have such a policy, it is suggested you purchase one without delay.
(Some insurance companies provide premium discounts if you take certain home
security precautions, i.e., install dead bolt locks, participate in Operation Identification,
A typical homeowner’s policy insures you against loss by burglary for up to 50
percent. Say, for example, your home is insured for $100,000. You have
$50,000 in protection on the contents of your home, whether from burglary or
another loss. If you rent, your burglary protection is the full amount stated in the
Policies and insurance companies differ in their provisions. Many insurance
companies offer “full replacement” compensation for stolen property, while others
will pay for the loss on the basis of the property’s replacement cost minus depreciation.
There may also be a deductible applied to this coverage.
Valuable items — collections, furs, quality cameras, expensive jewelry — should
be protected by an endorsement (sometimes called a floater) on your policy.
This adds coverage on items beyond the limits that apply to certain kinds of
Any questions you have about theft coverage should be directed to your insurance
Protecting Your Neighborhood
Neighbors watching out for each other
Start or join Neighborhood Watch
This is a crime prevention program that uses people, in cooperation with law
enforcement, to reduce crime in their own neighborhoods. Neighborhood Watch
involves neighbors getting to know each other, taking the time to watch out for
each other and working together in a program of mutual assistance.
By cooperating with each other and the police, people can help fight crime in
their community in the most effective way — before it begins! Neighborhood
Watch can help you substantially reduce residential burglaries and other crimes.
By participating, you will learn:
What are effective crime prevention techniques for houses, apartments
and neighborhood safety.
How you can be a good neighbor by becoming law enforcement’s “eyes
and ears” and helping them do their job of investigating and arresting